Madison Bumgarner had only thrown 81 pitches when he exited Wednesday's loss to the Marlins in the bottom of the seventh inning with the scored tied 1-1.
After giving up an infield single to Marlins catcher Jorge Alfaro to lead off the inning, Giants manager Bruce Bochy elected to pull Bumgarner and replace him with Mark Melancon, who had gone six consecutive appearances without allowing a run.
That streak ended shortly thereafter, when Melancon gave up a run-scoring double to Neil Walker, followed by a sacrifice fly to Garrett Cooper.
Melancon then got out of the inning by inducing a groundout, but the damage had been done. The Giants trailed 3-1, and would go on to lose 4-2 for their seventh consecutive defeat.
Given Bumgarner's relatively low pitch count and the fact he had only given up six hits in six-plus innings, it was somewhat of a surprise to see him get the hook at what proved to be a critical juncture in the game. But, as Bochy explained following the loss, Bumgarner had told him earlier in the evening that he was without his best stuff.
"We had talked, and every day is different when you pitch, but he was gassed from the third inning on," Bochy said of Bumgarner is his post-game press conference. "I let him start [the seventh], but I told him, 'I got you covered.'
"I went up to him and I could tell he was feeling it, and sure enough he was."
Bochy mentioned that the Miami heat and humidity could have played a role in Bumgarner being "gassed," but didn't put too much stock in that. He was pleased with the way his ace battled, particularly given his reduced performance level.
But therein lies a big concern for the Giants. Bumgarner is far and away their best trade chip, and with the season taking a rapid downturn, they'll undoubtedly be 'sellers' when the trade deadline comes around.
Bumgarner being "gassed" in late May, though, is the last thing a potential trade partner wants to hear.
After Wednesday's loss, the Giants now sit a season-worst 12 games below .500, and they've given no reason to believe a major turnaround is on the way. The further south this season goes, the greater impetus San Francisco will feel to get something of value in return for Bumgarner to jumpstart a rebuild, but the degree to which that return is valuable will be tied to his performance up until the time he is traded, if he ultimately is.
Bumgarner's next start for the Giants will come in June. The trade deadline is in July. He may not have many starts left in a Giants uniform, and if that's the case, they better hope he's not "gassed" for however many there are left.