NEW YORK — Hunter Pence hit a 98 mph fastball over the right field fence. Buster Posey put a pitch over the left field fence. Madison Bumgarner pitched six shutout innings. Four bases were stolen.
Yes, the Giants did a lot of things right on Sunday, and yet there might not have been a bigger play than a groundout to second.
With one out, runners on the corners, and Noah Syndergaard -- one of the toughest pitchers in the National League -- on the mound, Posey took off on a 3-2 pitch. Brandon Belt managed to pull the 98 mph pitch to the right side, and because Posey was running the Mets couldn’t turn a double play. That, in turn, allowed Matt Duffy’s run to count, and it set in motion a chain of events that led to a 6-1 sweep-avoiding win at Citi Field. Pence followed with a two-run homer to right and Bumgarner and the bullpen carried the lead home.
“You have to do the little things,” Bumgarner said. “Obviously some games you can get by without that and things go your way, but if you want to be a winning team you have to do the little things.”
That’s especially true against the game’s best pitchers, as Bumgarner has faced Clayton Kershaw twice, Zack Greinke, and now Syndergaard in his six starts. The Giants knew that Syndergaard, for all his strengths — the 100 mph fastball, the 95 mph slider, the 90 mph changeup and on and on — was vulnerable with runners on base. Twenty-four of 26 runners have been successful in Syndergaard’s two years in the big leagues and the Giants padded that number. Duffy stole two bases, Brandon Crawford took one, and Kelby Tomlinson added a fourth off Antonio Bastardo.
“We felt with our guys that this would be a game we could take some risks and steal some bases,” Bochy said.
[INSTANT REPLAY: Bumgarner, Giants top Mets, avoid sweep]
Duffy twice scored after stealing second. The first one came after he had knocked a two-strike curveball into center in the fourth, starting the game-winning rally. Posey kept a solid approach and singled to right, and that’s when he took off to avoid a double play.
“That was critical,” Bochy said.
Bumgarner took advantage of the run support, retiring seven of the next eight Mets on a day when he felt much closer to his old self. He said he’s still not 100 percent right with his mechanics, but his velocity ticked up a bit Sunday. Bumgarner said he’s “real close” to being where he wants to be.
This “not quite right” version of Bumgarner has still managed a 3.03 ERA and three wins, and Sunday’s was a big one.
“Guys put some tough at-bats on him and got his pitch count up a little, but you can’t ask for much more than six shutout innings,” Posey said. He smiled after he said those words.
“I mean, you can …” he added.
Thanks to the little things, the Giants didn’t have to.
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--- The Giants are saying positive things about Angel Pagan’s hamstring strain, but they can’t go much longer with two guys hurting, even when they do call a player up Monday. At some point they may need to DL a guy to get him right, but it sounds like they’ll hold the line through the Reds series.
--- Speaking of the DL, George Kontos threw a 30-pitch bullpen session and felt good. He’ll throw 35 pitches off the mound Tuesday and could throw a live BP session Friday or so. Kontos is getting close to returning.
--- The old #HappyFlight puts guys in a good mood. Posey said the Mets are “hopefully a team we’ll see later in the year” and Mets writers perked up. He looked at the crowd and added, “I don’t know when we play them again.” A couple guys told him it’s August. “So we will see them later in the year,” Posey said.
Later, a local reporter asked Bumgarner what it was like pitching with a 3-1 lead.
“What lead?” he said, a curious look on his face. “Three to one? Three to nothing.”
Bumgarner was then asked about the rain. He said it wasn’t until 12:30 that he learned a 1:10 start was still happening.
“I was about 20 minutes late in my pre-game routine,” Bumgarner said. “It’s a good thing I’m not a big routine guy.”