SAN FRANCISCO — Every year, we get a new way to look at the numbers of baseball. For instance, thanks to new MLB.com technology, you could look at Madison Bumgarner’s homer Thursday and see that a pitch that came in at 91 mph left Bumgarner’s bat at 105 mph. You could find out in just a few minutes that Bumgarner’s blast off Clayton Kershaw went 415 feet, or that it was the first homer allowed by Kershaw in 411 plate appearances.
There are dozens of numbers that mattered in this three-game series at AT&T Park, but ultimately the sweep boiled down to pretty simple math …
Madison Bumgarner 1, Los Angeles Dodgers 0.
Bumgarner hit a homer in a 4-0 win Thursday and kept the scoreless streak going for a Giants staff that has seven home shutouts this month. The Dodgers left 29 men on base while getting blanked in three straight games at AT&T Park, something they also pulled off in 2012.
The Giants, losers of eight straight earlier in the season, now sit just 1 1/2 games out of first.
“We’re behind, so we need to win games,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “It’s a great series for us. Bum had a couple tough acts to follow (after Tim Hudson and Tim Lincecum). We kind of kid around with the pitchers sometimes that if you want to win the game, throw a shutout and hit a homer. He was trying to do that.”
A high pitch count kept Bumgarner from approaching the shutout, but he got every bit of the homer, blasting the fastball deep to left. During a TV interview that ran in the buildup to Bumgarner-Kershaw III, the reigning National League MVP joked that the best part of these duels comes when one of the aces is at the plate. There was no laughter in Kershaw's eyes when Bumgarner rounded the bases in the third inning, just a look of disbelief.
Bumgarner has tried to downplay the magnitude of these games against Kershaw, but he acknowledged that the homer meant a bit more because of who threw the pitch.
“He’s the best pitcher in baseball,” Bumgarner said. “To be able to do that and run into one, it’s pretty special. You know runs are going to be at a premium.”
The Dodgers this week would have killed for “at a premium.” When he put the bat down, Bumgarner picked up where Hudson and Lincecum left off, leading the Giants to a sixth straight win by getting into the seventh. He threw 40 pitches in the first two innings and was at 70 after four, but Bumgarner got enough big outs that he kept the Dodgers off the board until Bochy sent him out for the seventh.
At that point, manager and ace were in agreement: Bumgarner would face Joc Pederson and then hand the ball to a bullpen that has been lights out this month. Bumgarner is as competitive as it gets, but he didn’t mind turning the lead over to George Kontos (1.23 ERA), Javier Lopez (1.69), Sergio Romo (3.29) and Santiago Casilla (1.56).
How much faith does he have in the bullpen?
“As much as you could possibly have,” he said quickly. “Our guys know how to pitch. We don’t have a lot of flamethrowers but everyone we run out there knows how to pitch and knows how to win.”
As they have done in all six wins over the Dodgers here this season, the relievers choked the life out of the LA lineup. And as they have done so well during this surge, the Giants hitters added insurance. Put it all together and you have the Giants’ longest home winning streak over the Dodgers since 1972.
“We’re playing good right now,” Bumgarner said. “Everything is going our way. We want to keep it going as long as we can.”
--- Brandon Belt said his right wrist is fine after he got hit by a Kershaw pitch in the fourth. It turns out Belt had all the same thoughts as fans who remembered him getting hit in Los Angeles last year and breaking his thumb.
"I think everybody remembered what happened last year, I know I did," he said. "I was having flashbacks. It doesn't feel good, but it doesn't feel too bad."
--- Belt was in the bathroom when Bumgarner homered. He heard the crowd roar.
"He's shooting for the fence every time he goes up there," Belt said. "He's going to connect every now and then. It's awesome. You love having a pitching who can help his own case. He got us on the board and I guess that's all the pitching staff needed today."
--- Something I've never seen here: A pretty big number of Giants fans joined the Dodgers fans who stood and cheered for Kershaw as he walked off in the eighth. I'm sure some of it was "glad you're out of there!" cheering, but a lot of it seemed genuine. There are the Puigs of the world who will always get booed here, but it's pretty cool when the fan base acknowledges how good a Dodger is in all aspects, and acknowledges that beating him is a great part of this rivalry.
--- Today was the third time an opposing NL West manager brought in a lefty reliever to face Brandon Crawford (Chip Hale did it twice). Today was the third time Crawford got an RBI hit. I mean ... guys, he crushes lefties.
--- Unless something screwy happens tomorrow night in Denver, Yusmeiro Petit will start one of the doubleheader games on Saturday. Bochy said the bullpen is in good shape after this series.