OAKLAND — For the first time since April 16, 2015, Madison Bumgarner did not complete five innings. He did not get hurt. He did not really get rocked, either. He just lost the strike zone during a strange sequence that even he couldn’t really explain after having a couple hours to think about it.
Bumgarner walked five of the final seven batters he faced, including four of five in the fifth inning, and Bruce Bochy had no choice but to come out and get his ace. The Giants would go on to lose 4-3 in the 11th inning, but they probably didn’t even expect to be around that long given how the fifth unfolded.
Bumgarner had walked two batters with the bases loaded in all his starts prior to this one. He walked back-to-back A’s with the bases loaded in the fifth. Sam Dyson got him out of the jam, but enough damage had been done that the Giants weren’t able to put this one away in nine innings, despite allowing just two hits to that point.
Asked if he felt as off as he looked, Bumgarner paused.
“Yes and no, I guess,” he said. “The first four innings I was cruising, pretty much. In the fifth I just couldn’t find the zone. I was trying to throw strikes. I wasn’t trying to pitch to corners… It was a weird situation to just kind of lose your feel for a minute.”
Bumgarner is maniacal about his mechanics, and he said he already had ruled out any issue there. His velocity was fine, so there was little reason for bigger-picture concern. It was just an odd stretch.
“That’s unlike Bum,” Bochy said. “But it happens occasionally.”
A night like this had never happened to Bumgarner before. He walked a career-high six batters. Bumgarner wasn’t particularly sharp from the start, missing his spots repeatedly even on pitches that were called strikes. Several others leaked from corners to the heart of the plate, but he escaped disaster until the fifth.
A walk of Matt Olson and Matt Chapman's bloop single to right put the A’s in business. Bumgarner loaded the bases by walking Chad Pinder. The bullpen didn’t stir, but a few moments later there was action. Bumgarner went 3-2 on Josh Phegley and just missed with a fastball inside. Dyson started to warm up. Bumgarner then went 3-2 on Marcus Semien and missed with a cutter outside that never scared the plate. Dyson took over from there.
“I just lost the feel there there in the fifth,” Bumgarner said. “I just couldn’t throw strikes. That’s it.”
That meant he couldn’t stick around as long as he normally does. Bumgarner had completed five innings in a franchise-record 89 consecutive starts. That was the longest active streak in the big leagues. He reacted harshly a few weeks back when a reporter mentioned records. This time, he admitted this particular run meant something, if only because of what it represents.
“The whole idea is going deep into games,” he said.
For once, Bumgarner wasn’t able to do so.