SAN DIEGO — In his second-to-last start of the regular season, Madison Bumgarner took a no-hitter into the fourth inning. It didn’t surprise him.
“That’s the best I’ve felt all year, by far,” Bumgarner said. “The best stuff. The best command. It was just kind of a weird one.”
It was indeed. Bumgarner’s firm repertoire and sharp command didn’t lead to good results. His night almost didn’t even end with a win for the Giants. Bumgarner helped the lineup produce a 6-0 lead and then he gave five of the runs back. The bullpen coughed up the remaining run before an extra-innings rally clinched a 9-6 victory over the Padres.
Before and after Bumgarner’s departure, a parade of Giants came through with big plays and small ones. It all added up, and Bumgarner appreciated it.
“I don’t want to sit here and name them off because I know I’m going to leave them out,” Bumgarner said of impactful teammates.
We can do it for him. Eduardo Nuñez made a spectacular catch behind the plate to keep the early momentum going. Kelby Tomlinson got yet another clutch two-strike hit to help drive in the go-ahead run. Denard Span added a two-run shot that padded the lead. Sergio Romo clinched his third save on a night when the Giants blew their 30th.
The biggest contribution, though, might have come from a player whose name did not jump off the box score. Hunter Strickland came in after the Giants had given the sixth run back and recorded five outs, three on strikeouts. Manager Bruce Bochy said he “calmed” the game.
“He gave us what we needed, he really did,” Bochy said.
Strickland celebrated his 28th birthday in a way near and dear to his heart: He pumped a relentless stream of fastballs. Fifteen of Strickland’s 19 pitches were fastballs, with an average four-seam velocity of 98.8 mph.
“I felt good,” he said. “It’s just going in there and trying to stick with what’s working. Just attack.”
The Giants did that early, piling up six runs in the first four innings. But Bumgarner gave up three homers before departing after six. The sixth run came on a single up the middle in the seventh.
At that point, the game looked extremely familiar. It would be another night when the Giants blew a save and the lineup fell flat for the final four or five frames, and it would allow the Dodgers -- who were watching a couple hundred miles up the freeway -- to celebrate a division title.
It did not, however, play out that way. Strickland, Will Smith and Romo took care of the late outs. Angel Pagan, Tomlinson and Span took care of the late offense.
The win kept the Dodgers from popping champagne for at least one more day. More importantly, it moved the Giants back into a tie with the Mets atop the wild card standings. Both teams are a half-game ahead of the Cardinals.
“You’re proud of your guys,” Bochy said. “You give up a six-run lead and they come back to tie. That’s tough to take, especially in our situation.”
--- Bochy said Johnny Cueto might throw a bullpen session on Tuesday, which means he certainly won't be able to start Tuesday or Wednesday as hoped.