SAN DIEGO — The line jumps off the page, showing Madison Bumgarner at his best.
Nine innings, five hits, one run, no walks, 11 strikeouts, one hit of his own, one altercation with an opposing hitter.
“He’s big, bad Madison Bumgarner,” shortstop Brandon Crawford said.
This was him, all of him. The command, the pure stuff, the fire, and the annoyance at a hitter, Wil Myers, who took a big swing and came up empty. Bumgarner struck out Myers to end the third, and when the first baseman took a huge, twirling cut and spun back toward his dugout, Bumgarner stared him down. Myers asked why Bumgarner was looking at him, and soon the benches and bullpens were cleared.
Hours later, after a 5-1 win that was the sixth straight for the Giants, Bumgarner was asked how the incident started. Was he upset that Myers swung so hard?
“Wouldn’t you like to know?” he said, smiling.
Well, yes. What happened?
“Nothing, I just wanted to get mad for a minute,” Bumgarner replied.
This was not Bumgarner’s first disagreement with a hitter, or even his fifth. It won’t be his last. The Giants know this is just part of Bumgarner's game. Madison Being Madison, if you will.
“He’s got an edge to him,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “He’s so competitive and he plays with a lot of intensity. That’s who he is. He’s a guy that lives with every pitch and every moment of the game, and occasionally he’s a guy that gets excited at times.”
While those moments tend to rankle outsiders — Padres fans booed Bumgarner in his next three at-bats — the Giants know that their ace needs that edge. The mentality that led to the disagreement with Myers is the same one that had Bumgarner barking at himself when the first two batters of the game made hard contact. Both batted balls were outs, but that didn’t matter to Bumgarner. He was annoyed that two of his first four pitches were not as he wanted them.
Bumgarner is a perfectionist, and for two months he has been searching for better mechanics. He said there are about “10 different things different than the way I want” on the mound right now, and he’s working hard between starts to get it right. To anyone but Bumgarner, it’s hard to figure out what — if anything — is wrong. After Tuesday’s complete game he has a 2.45 ERA and two double-digit strikeout games in his past three starts. Asked if he had found the mechanics he wants, Bumgarner shook his head.
“No. I’m about to just give it up and stick to what I’m doing,” he said. “That seems to be working better. You can’t be mad at the results, that’s for sure.”
Bumgarner felt particularly out of sync in the sixth, when the Padres put two on and Bumgarner and catcher Buster Posey met a couple of times to go over pitches. Because former Giants catcher Hector Sanchez is now a Padre, the Giants changed up some of their signs and sequences. Bumgarner crossed Posey up several times, including on a curve to Derek Norris that helped get him out of that jam.
That exchange, even though it worked, will go in Bumgarner’s back pocket on his search for perfection. He said he continues to work between starts to find the mechanics he wants, but the work isn’t as strenuous as before. Being 5-2 with the lowest ERA of your career and the highest strikeout rate will do that for you.
The fifth win came in large part thanks to Crawford, who drove in five runs, one short of his career high. His three-run homer broke the game open and a sacrifice fly and double tacked on. Bumgarner needed only the early homer, as he took a shutout into the ninth on just 97 pitches. He didn’t get a blank sheet, but ended up with his 11th career complete game and 27th career double-digit strikeout performance.
Oh, he seemed to find peace with Myers, too.
Bumgarner walked in the ninth and Myers held him on at first, and as the two North Carolina natives chatted, Myers broke into a wide grin. He later told Padres beat reporters that he wasn’t sure why Bumgarner got mad at him in the first place. After striking out, Myers said, he looked up at the scoreboard to see what the velocity of the pitch was. That’s when he saw Bumgarner staring back at him.
“It wasn’t a big deal,” Myers said. “It was a misunderstanding on both ends.”
Bumgarner was ready to move on, too. With an exception or two, he doesn’t hold a grudge after these on-field interactions. He couldn’t contain his laughter as he tried to sell reporters a story about him and Myers disagreeing on where to dine together. He has gotten used to answering these questions a couple times a year, and he never gives much away. His teammates don’t either. They simply sit back and enjoy the fire.
“Does it get old?” Crawford said. “No. That’s just him.”