SAN DIEGO — Madison Bumgarner is a perfectionist on the mound, but even he likely didn’t scrip a return like the one he had around 6 p.m. Saturday night.
Bumgarner struck out the side in his first MLB inning since April 19, showing right from the jump that he’s the same guy. The rest of his night included some rockier moments, and the Giants ultimately lost, but they at least could walk away knowing that their ace is fine.
The team? Not so much. But Bumgarner is fine.
“It’s good to have him back,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “Overall, I thought he did a real nice job.”
Bochy did not attend any of Bumgarner’s rehab starts, although he watched video. In that sense, seeing Bumgarner stand a few feet away and sling cutters in on hands was a bit of a relief. He always felt his lefty would be fine after a dirt bike accident, but this night confirmed it.
“To see him back in action, he looked the same,” Bochy said. “His delivery and everything looked good. The command was really good tonight.”
Unfortunately for Bochy, his Giants looked the same, too. They failed to take advantage of Jhoulys Chacin’s early wobbles, scoring just two runs in the first and one in the sixth. They went down in a manner that was equally surprising and not. Hector Sanchez, the longtime backup to Buster Posey, crushed a Steven Okert pitch into the night to walk the Giants off and clinch a 5-3 win for his new team.
Bumgarner felt some of the sting of that. On this night, he was sharp enough that he could have gone just about the distance. But Bumgarner’s pitch count was right around 100, and he was pulled after getting through seven on 102 pitches. Bumgarner was charged with three earned on four hits, including two homers.
“I felt pretty good the whole time,” he said. “We were making pitches pretty much from the first inning on. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to go much over 100 (pitches). They weren’t going to let me, anyway. Going out for seven, I’ll take that anytime.”
Bumgarner gave up two homers, both on two-strike curveballs. It took him some time during the rehab process to get his breaking pitches squared away, but he said this night wasn’t about rust.
“They weren’t bad pitches,” he said. “Looking back, they were the wrong pitches.”
Okert made the wrong pitch, too. With the winning run on second and an open base, he threw a fat slider that Sanchez hit into the Western Metal Supply Co. building. The catcher hit .240 with 10 homers in five years with the Giants. In two seasons facing them, he is 6 for 12 with three homers and eight RBI. Sanchez has four homers this season and two have come in the ninth inning against the Giants. A third came against Sergio Romo, his former teammate.
You can add that to the long list of things that have gone wrong in this 2017 season. The list of things that have gone right is short, but the Giants can at least sleep easier knowing that Bumgarner will carry his usual heavy load every five days the rest of the season.
Bumgarner was not ready to look that far down the line. He didn’t think big picture Saturday. He said he was happy to be back, but when asked about the remaining schedule, he shrugged. What does he want to accomplish?
“Win tomorrow,” he said.