OAKLAND — When the going gets tough, the Giants know they can always turn to Madison Bumgarner for a lift. Given the way his team has played through the first three games against the A’s, manager Bruce Bochy is asking his ace to do more than just lead the way.
Bochy is opting for the full Madison Bumgarner experience Thursday. After a 7-1 loss, he confirmed that Bumgarner will hit for himself Thursday at the Coliseum, with the Giants becoming the first National League team in four decades to give up the designated hitter spot.
Bumgarner, who is lobbying to participate in the home run derby, took batting practice on Wednesday, an indication that the Giants were leaning this way even before an ugly loss. After the usual onslaught of shots deep into the seats, Giants coaches chuckled as they considered the possibilities. They were torn, with one noting that it’s not a great sign to send to your bench bats and another countering that Bumgarner, even if he is a pitcher, provides needed pop.
As one of Bumgarner’s teammates watched the ace hit, he wondered aloud if this decision could put the Giants in a tough spot. The Giants will lose the DH for the whole game.
“Bumgarner will probably tell you it doesn’t matter because he’s going nine,” he joked.
Bumgarner had an amused look on his face after his BP session was over. Earlier, he had asked a clubhouse employee to run back and get his bat so he could take a few swings. His final one drove a ball deep into the seats, a few feet from hitting the suite level. Was that a sign that Bumgarner would hit Thursday?
“I’m not the one who makes the lineup,” he said, smiling.
Bochy is, and while Bumgarner is batting just .175, he still brings a presence to the plate. He has two homers, and the Phillies clearly pitched around him Saturday, when Bumgarner drew a walk with two on and two outs.
Bumgarner will be the first starting pitcher to bat in place of the DH since Tampa Bay’s Andy Sonnanstrine in 2009. That feat only happened because Joe Maddon had a mistake on his lineup card when it was turned in.
Bochy is looking for a spark after three ugly games, and the hope is that Bumgarner can do what he always does in National League parks, both on the mound and at the plate. The manager cautioned, however, that the Giants can’t just come in Thursday thinking Bumgarner will carry them.
“We’ve got to catch the ball and score runs,” Bochy said. “That’s what we’ve got to do. We’ve got to clean it up.”