Giants will give up the DH, let Bumgarner hit on Thursday


Giants will give up the DH, let Bumgarner hit on Thursday

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.”

Again faced with extras, Sam Coonrod and relievers make it look easy


Again faced with extras, Sam Coonrod and relievers make it look easy

SAN FRANCISCO -- As Sam Coonrod jogged to the mound for his fifth big league appearance, one that very likely was the most high-stress outing of his life, Javier Baez inched closer to the plate. Kris Bryant stepped into the on-deck circle. Anthony Rizzo grabbed his bat and climbed the steps of the dugout. 

That's about as imposing as it gets in the National League. And Coonrod didn't care one bit. 

"I tried not to worry about that," the Giants' rookie right-hander said quietly a few minutes later. "I try not to pay attention to it."

Coonrod's journey to the big leagues has been a long one, and at times it has been stalled by injuries, including Tommy John surgery just as he seemed ready to break through. But along the way he has learned a few important things. Ryan Vogelsong, now an instructor in the organization, taught Coonrod to focus on his catcher, not the guys in the opposing lineup. Someone at some point -- possibly many someones -- taught Coonrod to come up and simply trust Buster Posey.

"Buster knows a lot better than I know," Coonrod said.

Posey put the signs down and Coonrod opened eyes while obeying. He struck out Baez on a 97 mph fastball, got Bryant swinging through 99 mph, and induced a harmless grounder from Rizzo. When Pablo Sandoval went deep in the bottom of the 13th, Coonrod had his first big league win, one that filled him with raw emotions that were still evident after the win. 

The win was the 17th in 20 games, and the bullpen has carried the heaviest load in recent days. The Giants have won in extra-innings five times in the last eight games. They have played 15 extra frames on this homestand alone, and it's a daily shuffle to find fresh arms. 

Will Smith couldn't be used Monday. Sam Dyson and Trevor Gott were in that situation Tuesday. So Smith threw two innings and Mark Melancon threw two more. Coonrod was going to go a second inning and then turn the ball over to Drew Pomeranz, who aired it out in two innings Monday. Bochy really, really did not want to use Pomeranz, and he didn't have to. Coonrod made it look easy. 

"He was good, wasn't he?" Bochy said. "He was really good. In that situation, high-leverage, and the way he handled himself -- the stuff he had was really impressive. You look at what this young kid did. That's the first time he's been in that situation."

This type of usage will not be sustainable for the Giants, especially if they deal from that bullpen depth. That remains an open question before next week's deadline, but for now the relievers aren't focused on who might go. They show up every day, play catch, take inventory of what hurts, and put up zeros until a hitter can send everyone home. 

"It's incredible," Madison Bumgarner said. "We've got a lot of good arms to throw at you and put on you there. They've shown that. They've shown how they've pitched under high stress situations. We feel like anybody you run out there is going to get the job done, and they have."

Madison Bumgarner trade isn’t what Pablo Sandoval wants to see Giants do

Madison Bumgarner trade isn’t what Pablo Sandoval wants to see Giants do

If that was Madison Bumgarner's final home start in a Giants uniform, Pablo Sandoval made sure it’d be a memorable one.

In the bottom of the 13th inning Tuesday night at Oracle Park, Sandoval sent the home fans happy when he drilled a walk-off home run to the opposite field off Cubs reliever Brad Brach.

Earlier in the game, Bumgarner continued his recent hot stretch, limiting Chicago to three runs and six hits over seven innings before giving way to San Francisco's bullpen, which proceeded to pitch six innings of one-run ball.

Immediately after Sandoval rounded the bases and was hounded by his teammates at home plate, he spoke with NBC Sports Bay Area's Amy Gutierrez about the left-hander who started it all off.

"He's special. He's special. He's one of the guys you don't want to give up," Sandoval said of Bumgarner. "He's such a talented guy up there. Every time he gets on the mound, you want to win for him and do everything you can to support him. 

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"He's one of the greatest pitchers ever. ... He's one of the greatest guys."

Tuesday's start was Bumgarner's final one at Oracle Park before the July 31 MLB trade deadline, and teams surely will inquire about the Giants’ ace. If Sandoval gets his way, it won't be MadBum’s last.