SAN FRANCISCO -- The loudest ovation on a night when Madison Bumgarner faced Buster Posey and Brandon Crawford did not go to a man in a baseball jersey. It was reserved for Matt Cain, who sat in the owner's box near the Giants dugout in a rare appearance at Oracle Park.
Cain got a standing ovation from the 27,503 in attendance and finally gave in, rising and waving as the ballpark roared. The funny thing about it is Cain would have fit right in on the field.
It was Throwback Thursday at Oracle Park, with Bumgarner facing his old friends and Johnny Cueto coming off the IL to make his first career appearance out of the bullpen. Cain played with them all, and he's actually a year younger than Scott Kazmir, who started for the Giants.
Cain and Bumgarner, visitors for the night, helped lead the Giants to three World Series rings, but they've never seen anything quite like this at Oracle Park. The Giants, an afterthought coming into the season, won their 105th game when LaMonte Wade Jr. walked off the Diamondbacks, getting to within one of the franchise record.
Bumgarner has watched the march from afar all season long. He's constantly catching up on other teams when he's not at the ballpark, and he admitted Thursday night that he's still watching a lot of Giants games. He smiled and shook his head when asked about what his old friends have accomplished.
"It's pretty crazy. It's pretty incredible to see," he said. "I know people have counted them out all year and a lot of people can't understand it and make sense of it, but I've been on that side when people are saying the same thing, and I know how dangerous the Giants are when they get in the postseason. I've obviously seen that a time or two. There's something about that uniform, I don't know."
Bumgarner wears Sedona red now, but on Thursday he was one of the stars at Oracle Park. The performance -- four earned in five innings -- wasn't his sharpest, but he got a loud standing ovation when he walked up to the plate with the bases loaded in the top of the first.
"This place, I've said it a bunch, it obviously means a lot to me and my family," he said. "I don't take that for granted. I enjoyed that and I'm very thankful for that."
Bumgarner pitched in front of cardboard cutouts at Oracle Park last year and faced the Giants at Chase Field in August, but this was his first time pitching in front of fans who still absolutely adore him, and his first time facing Posey outside of a few semi-intense live BP sessions in spring training over the years.
Before Posey's first at-bat, Bumgarner actually got an at-bat. It was a nightmare top of the first for the Giants, and when Bumgarner walked up, he lightly tapped Posey on the shoulder and got a tap back. Bumgarner said the two didn't have to say anything to each other, noting that they talk a lot. Posey stepped out in front of the plate to let the fans and Bumgarner have their moment.
Posey came to the plate in the bottom of the first and grounded out to first. He hit a sacrifice fly in the third and then an RBI double in the fifth.
"I think when you have as much history with somebody as I do with him you try not to overthink it too much," Posey said. "Obviously I know what his tendencies are to certain hitters and he knows that as well. You can kind of get yourself spinning a little bit if you keep going down that path. I just tried to simplify it and see the ball and put a good swing on it."
While those two sort of played to a draw, Crawford, another of Bumgarner's close friends, got bragging rights. He hit a solo homer off Bumgarner to tie the game in the fourth. The blast came on a 3-0 count, but Bumgarner said he wasn't surprised Crawford swung.
"I tried to make it a good one, but he's good, there's no way around that," Bumgarner said. "He's good and he's always been good, but he's having a great year this year."
The production will land Crawford high on MVP ballots, but first he and Posey will lead the Giants into October. Posey has been in the postseason four times, but never without Bumgarner. His good friend will be watching, though.
"It's cool for those guys," Bumgarner said of the Giants' success. "I'm glad to see them have success and I wish them all the best, too."