PHOENIX – The Giants’ bedrock rotation developed plenty of sinkholes in April, but at least one member remained solid.
With seven shutout innings in Tuesday’s 2-1 victory at Arizona, Madison Bumgarner finished April with a 3-0 record, a 1.55 ERA and an extraordinary 0.86 WHHIP (walks, hits and hit batters per inning.)
The other four starters combined for a 5.02 ERA and 1.66 WHHIP – and 21 of the 24 home runs surrendered by the Giants rotation.
It’s always valuable to have a reliable presence in the rotation. That stability is even more important when it’s in short supply.
“I agree with that,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said.
Bumgarner could have five wins, as the manager pointed out. He is winless in his last two starts, both against Arizona, despite holding the Diamondbacks to one run over 14 1/3 innings.
What has gone right for Bumgarner this month?
“A little bit of everything,” he said. “Command has been there, the mechanics felt good, I feel pretty much the same every time out, I’m throwing to both sides of the plate with offspeed stuff, the defense is picking me up, they’ve been hitting and scoring runs and keeping me out of the loss column…
“That’s pretty much it.”
He was quick to point out that there will be times when he’s struggling and the other starters take turns picking him up. But right now, Bumgarner is the guy you want on the mound. He’s their 23-year-old bedrock.
For all the thrills of Pablo Sandoval’s two-run homer in the ninth, the game still required three outs from the closer. Otherwise it goes from a momentous victory to a cruel tease.
Sergio Romo hasn’t been the kind of reliever to give back momentum this season. For all the questions about his durability, he heads into May tied with the Pirates’ Jason Grilli for the major league lead with 10 saves.
He is 10 for 11, and he’s doing it with a minimum of torture. Paul Goldschmidt struck out looking, Cody Ross popped out and Miguel Montero grounded out to second base.
“That’s not an easy save, facing the heart of their order,” said Bochy, who was a bit floored when told it was Romo’s 10th save in the team’s 27th game.
“Wow, that’s a lot,” the manager said. “I didn’t see him having 10 saves (in April.) It gives you gray hairs. But he’s been doing a great job.”
Romo has been able to handle the workload because he’s been extremely efficient. He needed just 11 pitches to get three outs Tuesday, and that’s right on the average of his pitches per appearance.
He’s thrown 177 in 15 games -- 11.8 pitches per outing.
So much for Romo “getting first shot” at the closer role, as Bochy put it in February. It’s his job, end of story.
“I’ve been fortunate,” said Bochy, who has managed Trevor Hoffman, Rod Beck and Brian Wilson, among others. “I’ve always had guys who want to be out there in those situations.”
I have never before seen two pitchers on the same team achieve their first major league victory on consecutive nights.
On Monday, Jean Machi got wheeled into the shower in a laundry cart and sprayed with beer. A night later, he was a participant as Sandy Rosario, who threw three pitches at exactly the right time in the eighth inning, received his celebratory dousing.
Sure, it’s kind of ridiculous that Rosario gets the win when Bumgarner dominated for 102 pitches. But the 27-year-old from the Dominican has put in the work, that’s for sure. He was making his 69th appearance in his fourth major league season. (It was his Giants debut, too.)
And Machi, 31, spent 12 years in the minor leagues before making his debut at the end of last season.
So they deserved every drop, both of them.
A few stats to drop on you:
-Bumgarner is the first Giants pitcher to start the season with six outings of two runs or fewer since Kevin Correia from Aug. 14 to Sept. 22, 2007.
-Romo now owns a scoreless streak of 19 innings against the Diamondbacks, spanning 26 appearances.
-Sandoval has hit 80 regular-season home runs in his career. Of those, 11 have come in the ninth inning or later.
Good news for Andres Torres! The Dodgers are scheduled to start three left-handers in this weekend’s series at AT&T Park. One of those is Clayton Kershaw, of course. The Giants are never lucky enough to miss him in a series.
It’s Kershaw vs. Barry Zito on Friday, Ted Lilly against Ryan Vogelsong on Saturday and Hyun-Jin Ryu against Matt Cain on Sunday.
Lilly just received an injection to treat back tightness, so he’s more questionable than probable. It could be rookie right-hander Matt Magill, instead.
The Dodgers used nine different starters in April. (The Giants used seven all last season, and two of them, Yusmeiro Petit and Eric Hacker, started just one game apiece.) Now Carl Crawford is dealing with a gimpy hamstring, too.
As we all know, Dodgers could arrive in a medevac and they'd get no pity in San Francisco. It’s going to be rocking at AT&T Park. During the regular season, there’s never any more energy in the crowd than for a weekend rivalry series.