WASHINGTON D.C. -- About two hours before Sunday's game, Giants manager Bruce Bochy sat in his office and talked about the need to get his relievers additional rest. Twenty feet to his right, Madison Bumgarner sat in front of his locker, his eyes already smoldering as he locked in for a start he hoped would turn around a brutal second half.
Bumgarner lived up to his own expectations and those of his manager. He allowed two hits while pitching his fourth complete game of the season. He also reached base twice.
"I knew he would pitch well today -- that's just who he is," Bochy said. "There was no question he would bounce back. He did all he could to win that game for us.”
The thing is … the Giants lost. Again. For the 15th time in 21 games in a second half that still doesn’t include a series win. For the second time this season, Bumgarner lost a game 1-0 while going the distance. He has more complete-game losses this season (two) than the rest of National League starters combined.
The Giants are 0-5 with Bumgarner on the mound in the second half and he’s taken three losses while pitching well. Bumgarner’s teammates know they’re wasting a good thing.
“He does everything in his power to help us out and we haven’t done our jobs and gotten him enough runs,” leadoff hitter Denard Span said. “Four of his last five starts, we’ve dropped the ball and come up short.”
Brandon Belt, who was robbed of a potential game-winning hit, said the lineup “didn’t do enough for him.”
“It’d be nice to go get him a couple runs early and let him go out and do his thing and win the ballgame,” Belt said. “It just didn’t work out.”
Bumgarner allowed just one run, a Wilson Ramos homer to right-center that didn’t look like it would clear the fence as it left the bat. Ramos was heard cursing as he left the box, but the ball kept carrying and found the jet stream at Nationals Park. That was all the Nationals would need on this day.
The Giants had their chances against Tanner Roark, but left nine on base and went 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position. The one hit didn’t drive in a run, and the Giants regretted the way it played out. With Buster Posey on second and two outs in the fourth, Joe Panik lined a single to center. Third base coach Robert Kelly held Posey at third and Ben Revere’s throw to the plate floated up the line toward first.
Kelly said he saw Revere get to the ball quickly, and he obviously couldn't know the throw would be a poor one. But looking back on it, he regretted the decision. Gregor Blanco, who was due up next, is 4-for-34 in the second half. He grounded out.
“If I probably had to do it again, I would send him with two outs,” Kelly said.
Revere was in the middle of a game-changing play in the top of the seventh. With two on and two down, Belt smashed a liner to the deepest part of the yard. Revere isn’t hitting much this season but defense is his calling card and he made a basket catch 404 feet from the plate. Belt slammed his helmet down in frustration.
“I thought it had a better chance of falling than being a catch,” he said. “Sometimes they make a good play. That’s an outstanding play. You’ve got to give it to him. I couldn’t do much more than that. I hit the ball 400 feet.”
Per MLB.com’s Daren Willman, similar batted balls result in a homer 42 percent of the time. Belt was on the wrong side of that math, and it hurt even more when Ramos hit his homer a couple minutes later.
Bochy couldn’t hide his disappointment as he spoke of Bumgarner’s effort. “He pitched his heart out,” he said. Bumgarner has gotten used to this, and he handled it the only way he knows how.
“I can only control what I can control and worry about that,” he said. “The only thing I can do is put the team in a good spot and hope things go our way. They haven’t since the break. I can’t worry about that, or it digs a deeper hole.”