MILWAUKEE — Madison Bumgarner spent most of Sunday evening lying on the couch of a private jet chartered to carry Giants starters to Milwaukee after mechanical problems delayed the team flight. He downed one water bottle after another, mixing in over-the-counter flu medicine, too.
It all helped calm Bumgarner’s fever, but after Monday’s season opener you could still see the weariness in his eyes and hear it in his voice. The ace was asked to rate his health, to give a clue of where he was when he took the mound at Miller Park. It certainly wasn’t 100 percent.
“I don’t know … 100,” Bumgarner said. “I ain’t going to use that as an excuse.”
His manager was, though. Bumgarner walked five and struggled to get through five innings against the Brewers. His command was off all afternoon, and his velocity dipped late.
“I think, without question, the flu bug caught up to him,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “I was worried about him. It was obvious that it was tough sledding. He’s not going to say anything and still won’t, but he found a way to get through it. He gave us five.”
Bumgarner’s fifth inning was his best: Strikeout, strikeout, strikeout. The rest of this one was ugly at times. He walked in a run for just the second time in his career, and the five free passes tied a career-high. The flu certainly came into play, but Bumgarner also is coming off a spring that included mechanical issues and a lack of feel on the mound at times.
“It was probably a little bit of everything (today),” he said. “I just never really felt like I could get dialed in. I felt like my finishes weren’t very good, but we still found a way to get through it.”
Bumgarner will have time to adjust, and he picked up a win thanks to a crackling offense, which was rather appropriate. He has been Cained quite a few times since becoming the staff’s ace, and on this day he was happy to sit back and watch the position players put the game out of reach. The day ended up being a fulfilling one.
“It was kind of tough all the way around,” he said. “Obviously everything wasn’t together and going the way I wanted it to, but sometimes a day like today is more rewarding than when you go out there with your best stuff.”
--- Here's my story on the lineup, and what days like today can do for the health of a group that was watched carefully all spring.
--- Denard Span became the first Giant with at least five RBI in his debut since the stat became official in 1920. He also got a kick out of the fact that he matched Barry Bonds' five RBI on Opening Day in 2002. "That's a first," he said of being connected to Bonds.
--- If you listened to my last podcast (available here!) you heard a conversation about the outfield arms. The Brewers ran on both Span and Angel Pagan today, and while Pagan did get an assist, the ball bounced four times before it got to Buster Posey. Teams will continue to run on the Giants, and there's really not much they can do about it.
--- The Brewers shifted pretty aggressively, and it cost Brandon Crawford a hit. He’s a good bunter, so he seems a likely bet to lay a few down if this is a trend. Brandon Belt faked a bunt on the first pitch he was thrown. It’s something he worked on a lot this spring.
--- Matt Duffy’s homer was was a majestic one and left the bat at an angle of 39 degrees. Last year’s best was 40.3 degrees by Nori Aoki.
--- Finally, a tip of the cap to replay assistant/BP pitcher Chad Chop, who noted that beat writers were incorrect when they tweeted that Span, Panik and Posey hit the first back-to-back-to-back homers since 2006. Late in spring training, Chop went up against strength coach Carl Kochan in a home run derby. He homered -- and these were absolute bombs -- on the first three pitches he saw. I guess that counts?