Madison Bumgarner Did What Aces Do


After a tumultuous 10-game road trip, the San Francisco Giants were in a tough place. They lost seven of those games, including all four against the Chicago Cubs, and were trying to avoid an all-out landslide less than halfway through an August schedule that resembles a murderer’s row of opponents.

The bullpen needed a break after being worked hard in those 10 games. The Giants’ relievers combined to throw 34.2 innings on the trip, out of a possible 88 innings, good for 40 percent of the total innings.

The Giants needed someone to step up. They needed someone to take the reins and get things back under control. They needed their ace, and luckily for them, he was on the mound on Tuesday to open a quick two-game series with the Houston Astros.

Madison Bumgarner is the Giants’ ace, and on Tuesday, he did exactly what aces do. With the Giants’ rotation in a state of disarray, and the bullpen is a state of exhaustion after the road trip, Bumgarner performed a “Big League Stop Job”, as Giants’ broadcaster, and former pitcher Mike Krukow would say.

In the first game after the Cubs’ lineup tortured Giants’ pitching to the point that Jake Peavy getting through the fifth inning was a miniature miracle, Madison Bumgarner gave everyone a day off. Bumgarner thoroughly dominated the Astros, allowing just five hits and one run, while striking out 12. He chopped down Astros’ hitters like they were unsightly trees on his farm.

When Bumgarner struck out Conger to end the seventh inning, it was just the 34th time in 112 games that the Giants have had a starter get through seven innings, the 18th-best total in baseball. When Bumgarner forced Jose Altuve to ground out to shortstop Brandon Crawford to end the eighth inning, it was just the ninth time this season that a Giants’ starter had finished eight innings, 13th-best in baseball. Bumgarner personally has done it five of those nine times.

When a soft line drive off of Evan Gattis‘ bat ended up in Brandon Crawford’s glove for the final out of the ninth, Bumgarner finished the fourth complete game of the Giants’ season. This was Bumgarner’s second complete game, but the first in which he went nine innings (Chris Heston has finished nine innings twice). Bumgarner’s first complete game was an eight-inning loss against the Seattle Mariners on June 17th.

Over his nine-inning, 12-strikeout performance, Bumgarner set a couple of franchise records. After allowing two straight singles to open the game, Bumgarner followed by striking out the next seven batters he faced. That streak tied the San Francisco-era franchise record, previously only held by Juan Marichal in 1964 and Jonathan Sanchez in 2010.

Bumgarner didn’t walk any batters, and by doing so, he completed his eighth career 10-plus strikeout performance without allowing a walk. According to “Ace of MLB Stats” on Twitter, that’s the most in Giants’ franchise history, and as many as Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain, combined.

This game wasn’t as big as others that Bumgarner has been in. He was the go-to guy in last year’s Wildcard win-or-go-home game against the Pittsburgh Pirates. He threw a complete game shutout and struck out 10 to set the Giants on the path to their third World Series championship in five years.

He pitched five innings of near-perfect relief in World Series game seven last year, closing out a one-run win and saving the game and the series.

Despite the lights not shining as bright on Tuesday, Bumgarner did what big-time pitchers do. He went out there and he shut down his opponent on a night when the Giants desperately needed him to. Instead of having just one day off, the bullpen was allotted an extra rest day because Bumgarner told everyone that he’s got this.

The bullpen was starting to break down, and needed time to gather themselves. Then, just like in the story manager Bruce Bochy tells during this commercial, Bumgarner stepped up and told everyone “Well, I’ll fix it”.

Next: Giants Facing Toughest Schedule of Season