The Giants lost yet again, but at least Bumgarner took a positive step

The Giants lost yet again, but at least Bumgarner took a positive step

DENVER — The Giants have lost 14 of their past 18 games, and there was nothing new to be gleaned from what happened at Coors Field on Saturday. It was a familiar feeling, so let’s take a short trip to Scottsdale and start with some good news. 

Madison Bumgarner threw about 40 pitches in a simulated game at the club’s facility there, and he came out of it feeling fine. Bruce Bochy did not have many details, but he said Bumgarner would likely repeat the drill in a couple of days, and then probably throw a third simulated game before being cleared for a rehab assignment. 

The Giants have been pretty tight-lipped about Bumgarner’s rehab schedule, and the pitcher himself has only given two extensive interviews since crashing a dirt bike here on April 20. But it does seem that Bumgarner has been slightly ahead of schedule at every checkpoint — he was supposed to throw 30 pitches Saturday — and he does have the look of a man who will try to return in July, not early August as planned. 

Whenever Bumgarner returns, he will be boarding a sinking ship. The Giants fell 5-1 on a windy, muggy day at Coors Field, making the kind of mistakes that have become so normal in this season that could end with 100 losses. Two-strike pitches across the plate. Bloops that drop in the outfield. Defensive miscommunication. Poor at-bats with runners on base. This one had it all. 

The biggest moment came in the sixth, when Bud Black forced Bochy’s hand. He intentionally walked Gorkys Hernandez with two outs and a runner on second, and Bochy had a quick conversation with Matt Cain. 

“I knew I was getting close (to the end),” said Cain. “He asked me and I told him the truth.”

Bochy sent Brandon Belt up to hit for Cain, who was charged with two runs in five innings in his best road start in two months. Belt struck out, extending his slump to 18 hitless at-bats. 

“I’m sure the pitch he would like to have back is the check-swing on 2-0. It was (going to be) 3-0 and maybe he gets a walk,” Bochy said. “He ended up striking out. That is a big swing.”

The Giants have now dropped eight straight to the Rockies, the leaders of the National League West. It is Colorado’s longest ever winning streak against an NL West opponent. Ty Blach — a pinch-hitter and pinch-runner already in this series — will try and prevent the sweep, but no matter what, the Giants will not come out of here with good vibes. 

They’re 18 games under .500. At this point, the only question is how many of the current Giants will be shipped out before Bumgarner returns. 

Hunter Pence to hit leadoff for final four Giants games

Hunter Pence to hit leadoff for final four Giants games

SAN FRANCISCO — In the seventh inning Tuesday, the Giants turned it back to 2014. Left fielder Gregor Blanco lined a double into the left field corner and second baseman Joe Panik scored easily. Right fielder Hunter Pence chugged home from first, scoring the go-ahead run. 

Manager Bruce Bochy is looking to keep the throwback vibes going. 

After a 5-4 walk-off win over the Padres, Bochy said Pence will start the final four games of the season in the leadoff spot. This is a nod to a man who has meant more to a franchise than most, but it’s not simply about nostalgia. 

Right now, Pence, relegated to backup duty for most of his final season in San Francisco, might be Bochy’s hottest hitter. He had two hits Monday and scored three runs Tuesday, one coming on a homer to left. 

“I know he’s excited about being out there every day,” Bochy said. “He’s going to be leading off every game. He’s excited about being out there every day as we wrap up.”

More than anything, it seems like a cloud has been lifted for the fan favorite. He kept quiet about his future plans for most of September, but in recent days he has admitted that he hopes to play next season. He will try to play winter ball in an effort to prepare for another run somewhere, and he now seems to be taking it all in as his five-year contract approaches the finish line. 

“It’s a joy for me deep down inside to take this field for as many years as I have, and these last few games,” Pence said. 

It’s been a joy for his teammates this week, too. The dugout erupted when Pence hit his homer, and Blanco emphatically clapped at second as Pence hit the plate and jumped to his feat, screaming. Madison Bumgarner, who had the walk-off hit, credited both for the way they’re finishing this season. 

“It says a lot about the character of those two guys,” he said. “It’s tough this time of year to come and play as hard as you ordinarily would.”

That will never be in question with Pence. Bochy would have sent him out there the final four games anyway in recognition of all he has done, but it’s a nice boost that he’s playing so well. It’ll make it that much easier to write his name atop the lineup four more times, including in games that will matter for the Dodgers, and Pence seemed grateful for the opportunity. 

“I’ve been fortunate to have one game in the Major Leagues, much less as many as I’ve had,” he said.

Stiff-arm by Madison Bumgarner thwarts celebration after walk-off

Stiff-arm by Madison Bumgarner thwarts celebration after walk-off

SAN FRANCISCO — As Madison Bumgarner’s single rocketed into left, giving the Giants pitcher a walk-off in extra innings, right fielder Hunter Pence took off on a dead sprint. He was headed for the big left-hander, but not simply to celebrate. Pence has been around long enough to know that the other Giants needed to be careful about what they might try to pull in a celebration.

Infielder Alen Hanson was unable to be saved. 

Hanson grabbed a Gatorade jug and headed for the night’s hero. Bumgarner calmly put his right arm up and deflected the attempt. Somehow, Hanson emerged with a jersey that had turned red. 

“He started dumping it on me and I told him not to do it,” Bumgarner said. “So he poured it on himself.”

Yes, Madison Bumgarner is still the alpha in the room, and for good reason. The Giants ran out of position players even with a September roster stocked with extras, so they turned to their ace. He calmly drove in Gorkys Hernandez in the 12th, giving the Giants a 5-4 win over the Padres. The moment should have been out of place. For Bumgarner, it wasn’t. This has come to be expected, and Pence said he had a good feeling as Bumgarner grabbed a bat. 

Bumgarner simply shrugged it all off. He nearly snuck out of AT&T Park before reporters caught him in a hallway. Asked about the game-winner, he paused. 

“Wet,” he said. “Wet.”

Well, it wasn’t all that wet. Bumgarner’s right hand made sure of that. What, he doesn’t like Gatorade? 

“Not, like, on me. Not particularly, no,” he said. 

A few minutes later, Bumgarner was back on his way to the players’ parking lot. His next appearance here will come Friday against a Dodgers team that may need every win the rest of the way to clinch the NL West crown. Bumgarner was originally supposed to end his season on Wednesday, but the Giants pushed him back. This season will not end the way they hoped, but there’s still a chance for a measure of redemption. Knocking the Dodgers out would bring some joy to a downtrodden fan base, and Bumgarner is the sharpest weapon Bruce Bochy has. 

“Even though it’s not necessarily the kind of meaningful baseball we want, it’s still a meaningful game,” Bumgarner said. “Any time you play the Dodgers it’s competitive. I’m not trying to look at it as anything but pitching and doing your job. I’m not trying to add anything extra to it.”

There will be something extra, though. Giants-Dodgers with a division title on the line is great. Giants-Dodgers with a chance for one team to play the ultimate spoiler is still pretty damn exciting, so perhaps there’s another reason why Pence played bodyguard. 

The Giants want Bumgarner in peak form on Friday, so this celebration was short-lived. Bumgarner made sure of that. Asked how Bumgarner managed to avoid all that liquid flying around, Pence smiled.

“He was telling everyone he was going to kill them,” he said.