SAN DIEGO – Could you blame Giants manager Bruce Bochy for wanting Madison Bumgarner on his NL All-Star squad?
One stat can summarize how indispensable the young left-hander has become: Since June 14, the Giants are 5-1 in Bumgarner’s starts and 2-18 with anyone else on the mound.
Bumgarner has performed the stopper role so many times for the Giants, he should have his own truck and get paid double for house calls on Sundays. He ended his first half by stepping up yet again in a 4-2 victory over the San Diego Padres Thursday night at Petco Park.
The problem, of course, is that there are so many clogged bats in the Giants lineup. They managed to get a few flowing – including Pablo Sandoval, whose solo home run in the fourth inning was his first since May 19, snapping a streak of 101 at-bats without going deep.
What the Giants need more than anything, though, is hits with runners in scoring position. They entered 9 for 80 (.113) over their last 13 games in those situations.
They got them when they needed them in the eighth inning – just in time to make a winner of Bumgarner. Gregor Blanco hit a tiebreaking double and Buster Posey hit a two-out, RBI single as the Giants snapped a four-game losing streak.
The Giants entered having lost 14 of 16 and the Padres had lost 11 of 12. So someone’s dusty clubhouse stereo was going to get some action.
Starting pitching report
The Giants had the right pitcher on the mound. Amazingly, Bumgarner (10-5) stopped a four-game losing streak for a third consecutive outing.
Maybe that’s why it seemed like a bigger deal than it otherwise would in the first inning, when the Padres put together a two-run rally. Chris Denorfia and Chase Headley hit one-out singles to put runners at the corners, Carlos Quentin hit an RBI double and Kyle Blanks plated another run with a fielder’s choice.
But Bumgarner retired 15 consecutive after Blanks, and 20 of his last 21. He completed seven innings for the sixth consecutive start – no small contribution for a club that has burned through its bullpen all season.
With Jeremy Affeldt struggling and George Kontos suspended, Bochy turned to Sandy Rosario in a setup role to pitch the eighth.
Sergio Romo, who is likely to be named to the NL All-Star team to replace a Sunday starter, converted his 21st save in 24 chances.
At the plate
The Giants managed four hits with runners in scoring position – the first time they’ve done that since June 18.
By the sixth inning, every starter save Bumgarner had a hit. Sandoval’s was the biggest of the bunch. His shot off Jason Marquis wouldn’t have been a home run last year at Petco Park, but at 390 feet to right-center, it wasn’t a cheapie, either.
Sandoval wore a look of pure relief in the dugout, and no wonder. Not only did he break a long home run drought, but he had gone 16 games since scoring his last run on June 7.
Sandoval also scored the tying run after drawing a one-out walk in the sixth. Hunter Pence blooped a single, Brandon Belt walked to load the bases and Kensuke Tanaka singled through the left side to tie the game.
Brandon Crawford tapped into a forceout at the plate, though, and Bumgarner struck out to minimize the chance. Belt struck out to strand the bases loaded in the seventh, too.
But Tanaka started the winning rally in the eighth. He singled through the left side, notched his first big league stolen base, then took third on Crawford’s ground out. After pinch hitter Tony Abreu was hit by a pitch, Blanco hit a ground-rule double that hopped off the track.
Once again, the Giants minimized the inning as Abreu inexplicably broke for home as Marco Scutaro’s ground ball was practically in shortstop Everth Cabrera’s glove. Abreu was tagged out after a brief rundown. Posey provided the insurance, though, with a single that scored Blanco.
Sandoval struck out in his final two at-bats, clanking himself on the helmet with his bat after chasing a high fastball in the seventh.
The world’s fastest squirrel did not make an appearance. Children bawled in disappointment. (OK, maybe some beat writers, too.)
The Padres announced 31,976 paid. Padres fans probably expected to see the Giants win. Giants fans probably expected to see the Padres win. Someone’s expectations were bound to be exceeded.
The Giants and Padres continue their four-game series Friday night. Chad Gaudin (2-1, 2.44 ERA) , who has been in the news lately for all the wrong reasons, will start against Sean O’Sullivan. The right-hander will be making his Padres and 2013 debut. First pitch is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. PDT.