SAN FRANCISCO — On his way out of the park Saturday night, Denard Span pulled on some vintage white Jordans.
“You’ve got to,” he said, smiling. “At least until they get me some Bumgarners.”
Madison Bumgarner set his sights much lower than a shoe deal Saturday. How ‘bout a simple win with the team ace on the mound? For the first time in the second half, the Giants finally pulled it off.
The 6-2 victory over the Orioles was impressive in a number of ways, and it should be noted that what Bumgarner did was in no way easy. The Orioles might be the toughest current matchup for a left-handed pitcher, with an ongoing stream of right-handed power bats, but Bumgarner silenced them for seven innings.
The thing is, that’s what he does. His performance was nothing new, but the ‘W’ by his name was the first since July 10, through no fault of his own. The Giants have failed to back him up with runs, and Bumgarner was coming off a complete-game 1-0 loss to the Nationals. On this night, the big hits finally came. Span had a pair of two-out, two-run singles. Brandon Belt added a two-run shot that looked significantly larger once the Orioles threatened in the ninth.
“He’s been so good for us,” Joe Panik said of Bumgarner. “He deserved some run support. It was definitely a good night.”
[INSTANT REPLAY: Span, Bumgarner propel Giants past Orioles]
Panik was a big part of it. He was 6-for-46 since coming off the DL, but he smoked two doubles to set up Span and added a single.
“When you come back you’re trying to find your way, and the past couple of games — the last one in Miami and the first one here — I felt it was coming,” Panik said. “Today, everything clicked. I felt I got my legs under me with my swing. When it clicks, it clicks. Hopefully I can ride the wave.”
Panik’s slump dropped him all the way to eighth in the lineup, but Bochy shouldered part of the blame, admitting after Saturday’s game that the Giants cut Panik’s rehab assignment too short. Panik didn’t want to use that as an excuse, pointing out that he felt he was ready to help the team. On Saturday, he finally came through in a huge way.
“It’s just a matter of putting it together, and now is the best time to do it,” he said.
If Saturday was a true indicator of what is to come, the timing couldn’t have been better. The Giants are at the front end of a tough homestand and a three-game series with the Dodgers looms. Saturday’s win allowed the Giants to remain a game ahead in the National League West, and they’re hoping the lineup can keep them there. This felt like a big step in the right direction.
“We’ve left a lot of runners on in the last month or so,” Span said. “It felt good to connect and get some in and get momentum on our side, especially with Bum on the mound. He didn’t need much.”
Bumgarner allowed just three hits and struck out eight. He is firmly in the lead pack for the NL Cy Young, with an ERA that was lowered to 2.11. The fact that he has just 11 wins shows how poor the run support has been at times, but Bumgarner said he hasn’t let that bother him. He continued to preach a day-to-day approach, and Sunday is a big one.
Johnny Cueto will try to clinch a second straight series win. The Giants haven’t won back-to-back Bumgarner-Cueto starts since beating the A’s and Diamondbacks on June 30 and July 1.
“Just come in tomorrow ready to go,” Bumgarner said. “Focus on tomorrow.”
After making it look easy against one of the game’s best lineups, Bumgarner made it sound easy. Maybe it is?
“As long as we score more runs than the other team,” Bumgarner said, “We’ll be all right.”