SAN FRANCISCO -- The story coming into Thursday night's game was Madison Bumgarner facing Buster Posey -- and pitching in front of Giants fans -- for the first time since he signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Once that fun ended, it became yet another close, must-win game for the Giants, who could see the Los Angeles Dodgers pulling away from the San Diego Padres on the out-of-town scoreboard.
They did, and once again it was Late Night LaMonte coming through in the biggest moment. LaMonte Wade Jr.'s single to right gave the Giants as 5-4 win over the Diamondbacks and dropped their magic number to win the NL West to two.
Wilmer Flores put the winning run aboard with a one-out double off the left field wall with one out in the ninth. He was replaced by pinch-runner Steven Duggar, who watched Donovan Solano get intentionally walked and Curt Casali draw a lengthy walk. That set up Wade, who bounced a single off first baseman Christian Walker's glove to set off the celebration.
This one threatened to go off the rails early, with the Diamondbacks scoring three runs in the top of the first inning on some sloppy pitching and defense. Starting pitcher Scott Kazmir had to come out with a leg injury, but the Giants bullpen held tough, as it has so many times this season.
Three of the four runs off Bumgarner came from Buster Posey and Brandon Crawford, and the teams headed to the late innings tied. Manager Gabe Kapler called on Tyler Rogers for his second two-inning appearance of the season, which set up the walk-off.
The Giants finished 17-2 against the Diamondbacks this season, including 9-0 at home. They won 17 games against a single opponent for the first time since 1961, when they beat the Cubs 17 times.
This was technically Bumgarner's second time pitching at Oracle Park as a visitor, but last year's appearance came in front of cardboard cutouts, so it wasn't that big a deal. He was shown the love Thursday, getting a standing ovation before his first at-bat -- which happened to come with the bases loaded in the top of the first.
Bumgarner's night actually didn't go that well. He went five innings, allowing four earned runs on eight hits. Bumgarner walked none and struck out four. At the plate, he walked and struck out twice.
Bumgarner's highly-anticipated matchup with Posey was kind of a draw. Posey grounded out to the mound with a runner on in the first but hit an RBI double in the fifth. In between, he had a sacrifice fly with runners on the corners and no outs in the third.
Everyone has always paired the Brandons together and Bumgarner and Posey together, but the Bumgarners are also close with the Crawford family. Crawford got some bragging rights on his longtime friend in the bottom of the fourth.
Crawford swung away 3-0 and hit a homer to left, his 24th, to tie the game. Bumgarner knew it was gone right away and he quickly glanced back at Crawford as he left the box, as if to ask, "Really? You're swinging 3-0?"
The homer was just the fifth in Crawford's career on a 3-0 count, although he certainly has been much more aggressive this season. According to Inside Edge, Crawford has swung at 10 3-0 pitches this year after doing it just 18 times in the previous 10 seasons.
First Time For Everything
Johnny Cueto had made 329 big league appearances over 14 seasons entering Thursday night's game. All of them came as a starter. But Cueto was activated off the IL and put in the bullpen before the game, and an early injury to Kazmir got him an immediate taste of relief life.
Kazmir came up lame while covering first in the first inning, forcing Kervin Castro into the game and turning the rest of the night over to the bullpen. Cueto took over in the third and pitched pretty well, allowing one run in 2 1/3 innings while striking out three. He helped stabilize things and gave the Giants a chance to catch up.
Cueto said before the game that he was a little nervous about coming out of the bullpen and thought it might be an uncomfortable adjustment, but he was willing to try it and it might get him on the postseason roster. The Giants don't need a fifth starter in October, but they'll need some length out of their bullpen, and the rest of this week figures to be an audition of sorts for Cueto.