DENVER –- Count off the last four National League pitchers of the month and you can’t help but appreciate the intrigue.
Madison Bumgarner in May. Clayton Kershaw in June. Kershaw in July. And now, Bumgarner again in August.
“That’s pretty amazing,” said Bumgarner, who was voted the recipient in August after going 4-1 with a 1.57 ERA and three complete games in six starts. “It’s hard to see how anyone can beat him out the way he’s pitching. I’m thankful for the recognition, and not just for me. We all put in the hard work.”
The only way it’d get better is if Bumgarner and Kershaw were lined up to face each other with the NL West at stake. But even though both pitchers are on track to appear in each of the two rivalry series remaining on the schedule this month, they wouldn’t be aligned to pitch on the same day.
Bumgarner became the first Giants pitcher to win the monthy award twice in one season. Tim Lincecum didn’t do it in either of his Cy Young seasons.
It was an automatic choice. Bumgarner led the NL with 56 strikeouts and issued just three walks while holding opponents to a .164 average. He took a perfect game into the eighth inning Aug. 26 against the Colorado Rockies at AT&T Park, finishing with a one-hit shutout while striking out 13.
Last year, he finished with a tantalizing 199 strikeouts. He stands at exactly 199 entering his start Saturday at Detroit against former Cy Young winner David Price.
Will he relish that first strikeout?
“A little bit,” Bumgarner said, smiling. “That’s not why we’re here but it’d be a good accomplishment, I guess.”
He’d be just the fourth lefty in Giants history to record 200 strikeouts in a season, joining Jonathan Sanchez, Ray Sadecki and Rube Marquard. And if he can win four of his last five starts, he’d be the Giants’ first 20-game winner since Bill Swift and John Burkett in 1993.
There are other goals that mean more to him, though. He wants to do more than just break a tie with Kershaw in September.
“We’ve got a chance to play for a division title,” Bumgarner said. “We’re not out of it by any means. It should be fun.”