SAN FRANCISCO — Madison Bumgarner’s answers were short and clipped, and really, that told you more than a long session in front of cameras ever would have.
Bumgarner learned from Matt Cain, who had so many tough-luck losses early in his career that Caining has a special meaning at AT&T Park. It’s now Bumgarner who is the ace who occasionally has to try and explain a loss that was anything but his fault, and he has learned to be patient, to put forth optimism, to sometimes take the blame and to never shift it on the lineup or teammates.
On Friday, after giving up one earned in eight innings of a 2-0 loss, most of Bumgarner’s answers were short enough to fit in a six-second Vine. He spoke volumes, though.
“We can’t afford any losses,” he said, a grim look on his face.
They certainly couldn’t afford this one. The Giants lost a game to the Dodgers and a game to the Cubs, falling 8 1/2 back in the West and nine out in the Wild Card race. There are 15 games left.
“We lost,” Bumgarner said, “So that’s not ideal for us.”
They also lost another player, continuing the theme of the season. This time it was Brandon Belt who was pulled early because he had trouble concentrating three days after taking a knee to the head as he slid back into second base. Belt said on Tuesday that he was fine, that he was just dealing with a stiff neck, and given his past history with concussions he certainly knew what to look out for. Belt, who lost much of his 2014 season to a concussion, has become the de facto clubhouse expert on the matter, and Gregor Blanco and Nori Aoki both went to question Belt this year when they felt symptoms.
Both are out with concussions right now, and Belt — though he has passed one round of tests — may join them. He was being tested again on Friday. Manager Bruce Bochy said Belt had trouble focusing during the game, and he was removed in the top of the ninth. A lack of focus was the same symptom that first got to Belt last year.
“He’s passed all the tests (but) he had trouble concentrating,” Bochy said. “We’ve got to find out what’s going on.”
Belt was clear as could be on Tuesday, and on Wednesday trainers kept a close eye on him and came away convinced that he was fine. “He came back the next day and felt great,” Bochy said. But concussions can be tricky, and while Belt was said to just be dealing with neck pain earlier this week, it’s noteworthy that Blanco also originally complained of neck discomfort before eventually getting diagnosed with a concussion.
Belt is expected to miss at least one game, and given the deficit in the standings, he could join Blanco and Aoki in missing considerable time. There’s no point in pushing injured players at this point, and Friday’s loss drove that point home emphatically. Bumgarner pitched eight strong but the Giants had just two hits against Rubby De La Rosa.
“He’s done that before on us,” Bochy said. “He’s got good stuff. He’s got velocity, movement, a hard slider. We just couldn’t get a hit there off him. Offensively, we just couldn’t generate anything there.”
Bochy won’t say the Giants are done, and the players in the clubhouse wouldn’t, either. This group has had some historic comebacks, but this one would be something else altogether. Bochy summed up the task as succinctly as Bumgarner later did.
“I don’t think we can lose another game, to be honest,” Bochy said.