Giants

Madison Bumgarner loses feel for strike zone in 'weird situation'

Madison Bumgarner loses feel for strike zone in 'weird situation'

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. 

Mayor London Breed clears way for Giants' June return to Oracle Park

Mayor London Breed clears way for Giants' June return to Oracle Park

The Giants expect the construction of their new bullpens to be finished in the next week or so. It might not be much longer before players are allowed to throw off the mounds. 

San Francisco mayor London Breed outlined new reopening rules on Thursday afternoon, and there was good news for professional sports teams. As part of a phase that will go into effect before June 15, professional sports teams can practice in the city of San Francisco with an approved plan. The city is targeting June 15 for the next phase, which states in part, "Professional sports games, tournaments and other entertainment venues allowed with no spectators with approved plans."

The players and owners are still far apart in negotiations, but if they can strike a deal that gets baseball back in July -- the target is to get games back by the July 4 holiday -- the Giants will be cleared to come home. Internally, they are still discussing the next steps and what a Spring Training 2.0 might look like. They're trying to decide between training at Scottsdale Stadium and doing so at Oracle Park, and the current lean is said to be returning to San Francisco.

It's not quite that easy, of course. The Giants would have to make significant changes to the structure at Oracle Park, expanding clubhouse space and finding new areas within the ballpark's footprint to train while following social distancing rules. They're hashing all of that now, and while they were never all that concerned about the restrictions in San Francisco, it certainly is a sigh of relief that the city is officially moving forward with reopening plans. 

[RELATED: Field to Table: How to make Oracle Park-style garlic fries]

The Giants have quietly reopened one of their other facilities in the meantime. Players who remained in the Scottsdale area have been allowed to work out at the ballpark there, although social distancing is practiced and there are limits on how many people can be in the building at one time. The vast majority of the team remains spread out across the country. 

[GIANTS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

How Giants fans' support impressed Mike Yastrzemski, Mauricio Dubon

How Giants fans' support impressed Mike Yastrzemski, Mauricio Dubon

Mike Yastrzemski and Mauricio Dubon entered this season as two of the more popular Giants, but a year ago at this time they were in extremely different situations. Yastrzemski was just getting his feet wet in his first week in the big leagues. Dubon was playing in Triple-A for the Milwaukee Brewers. 

They both got shots to grab a starting role later in the 2019 season with the Giants, and both did enough that they were going to be in Gabe Kapler's Opening Day lineup, possibly right at the top. Life changed quickly for Yastrzemski and Dubon, and on this week's episode of "Chalk Talk at Home," they talked about how far they've come. Both said interactions with the Giants fan base stood out early in their big league careers. 

"I struck out my first at-bat and they were still cheering for me walking back," Yastrzemski  "You don't get that too often, where it's a big market, big city with a huge history of winning, and usually fans demand excellence. The fans are so great out there that they're just exited for somebody to get an opportunity to come help the team and they're going to support you."

Dubon came along three months later, but he already knew all about Oracle Park's supportive fan. He grew up as one after moving to Honduras to Sacramento as a teenager. Still, Dubon found himself surprised by early interactions. 

"I was just trying to play baseball and the next thing I know I'm walking down the streets going to the field and a lot of people are honking in the car and saying hi to me, and I had no idea how they recognized me," he said. "It's pretty amazing how the Giants fans are."

Last year's rookie breakouts are training in Nashville and Miami, respectively, and both hope to be back at Oracle Park soon. MLB is angling for a July return, although there are plenty of hurdles. Whenever the sport resumes, it'll do so without fans, which might not be the adjustment you would expect.

Yastrzemski said he's able to get so focused at the plate that he never hears any noise anyway. The outfield may get weird, though. 

"You're used to having to like try and scream at the guy next to you to try and get his attention," he said. "You can whisper now."

[RELATED: Learn how to make Oracle Park's garlic fries]

Yastrzemski said it's going to be interesting to see how guys react, because some really feed off the energy coming from the seats. Dubon certainly qualifies as one of those players, and he said the empty stadium "is going to be weird."

"I'm a guy that feeds off that," he said. "I've just got to get used to it, I've just got to get used to not having anybody. I played in rookie ball here in Florida with literally nobody and it's going to be pretty much like that with the best players in the world."

[GIANTS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]