LOS ANGELES — We’ll start with the positive, because the alternative is so stunning that you almost need to build up to it.
Madison Bumgarner had his pitch count removed in his third start back and responded by throwing 112 pitches, and showing signs of his old self. Bumgarner took the loss in a 3-1 clunker at Dodger Stadium, but all involved felt he took a big step forward in his six innings.
“Each time out I’ve felt better and better,” Bumgarner said. “That’s the only think you can ask for. I don’t know how long (until I’m in midseason form) but I’ll try to get there as fast as I can.”
Catcher Buster Posey said Bumgarner’s fastball was “jumping” more than in his previous two starts.
“He’s only going to get stronger as he goes on,” Posey said.
Manager Bruce Bochy said Bumgarner is already plenty strong.
“I thought it was a good day for him,” he said. “Everything was crisper. He’s getting real close … [T]onight was real close to Madison and where he’s going to be.”
As for the rest of this one, well the production wasn’t close to enough. Bumgarner gave up a solo homer to Matt Kemp and a two-run shot to Enrique Hernandez and that easily held up. The Giants had no hits through four, wasted a golden opportunity in the seventh, and couldn’t take advantage of a wild Kenley Jansen in the ninth.
Here’s the stunning negative. In their last 11 games at Dodger Stadium, their run totals are: 1, 2, 2, 2, 1, 1, 1, 0, 0, 2, 1.
Asked to explain that amazing stretch of futility here, Posey paused for a long moment and then said he had no explanation. Bochy noted that the Dodgers play excellent defense — Posey was robbed of two hits by outfielders Saturday — and pitch well.
“It’s their pitching,” he said. “They have really good pitching. You saw a well-pitched game (tonight) and a guy who has been throwing the ball well yesterday. They’re a team that has really good pitching and really this isn’t a ballpark conducive to scoring lots of runs.”
All that said, going 11 consecutive games in a park without even reaching three runs is amazing, no matter who you are facing. For a while Saturday, it looked like Bumgarner might pull it out anyway. But Hernandez jumped on a hanging curveball in his third at-bat and hit his fourth career homer against Bumgarner.
The lefty was well aware of the numbers — Hernandez is 15-for-33 off him — and said he has changed his approach in recent matchups. After Hernandez repeatedly pounded his fastball, he saw a steady diet of curveballs. Seven of the eight pitches he saw the first two times up Saturday were curveballs. The eighth curveball was the difference.
“It’s no secret that I’ve thrown Hernandez a ton of curveballs the last few times and he made the adjustment,” Bumgarner said. “It wasn’t the best spot, either. He for sure made the adjustment. Sometimes you’ve got to tip your cap. That’s the cat and mouse game, the game within the game.”