AT&T Park — Madison Bumgarner was already in the sky, somewhere between San Francisco and Arizona, headed to the San Francisco Giants’ Scottsdale headquarters, as his teammates closed out April with 6-5 walk-off win over the San Diego Padres on Tuesday night.
Thanks to pinch hitter Nick Hundley’s two-run single in the bottom of the ninth, the Giants carry a 15-14 record — and an optimistic attitude — into May, as Bumgarner takes the next step in his recovery from a fractured pinky. It’s not much, but it’s far better than a year ago, when, on the same date, the Giants were 9-17 and already sunk.
“We’re not looking at the standings,” Hundley said after he capped off a three-run ninth with a line-drive two-run single to left center. “We’re worried about piling up wins and, obviously, with this team, there’s a lot of expectations in this room … Being over .500 is not one of them. That’s good at this stage — and especially with how we started — but we have a lot of things we need to accomplish this year and this is just one win closer to that.”
Manager Bruce Bochy is not in the business of mediocrity. He has three rings to prove it. Even the Major Leagues’ longest-tenured manager, though, can’t complain about where his team stands a month into the season, especially given the list of injuries his Giants are navigating.
Back on April 11, when the Giants began a stretch that saw them lose five of six, the injury situation reached a low point. Between Johnny Cueto, Mark Melancon and Jeff Samardzija, the Giants had three of their top four earners on the 10-day disabled list. Factor in Bumgarner — injured during spring training — and the top three starters were all DL’d. The team had $72.8 million worth of pitching sitting in the training room.
When apprised of that figure, Bochy raised his eyebrows before pointing out that the pitchers aren’t the only ones who have been less than 100 percent.
“We’re not content with being .500,” Bochy began. “But I think you look at all that’s happened with injuries — including on the position player side — [Hunter] Pence going on the DL, now [Joe] Panik. Really, it’s been pretty good. Our play has definitely picked up.”
The Giants had captured three series in a row before nearly capping the month with a loss to the Padres on Monday, thanks to one of Bochy’s unexpected fill-ins — rookie right-hander Reyes Moronta.
Moronta had surrendered just one run in his first 12 games, but let in three — courtesy of an error, a sacrifice fly and a broken-bat single — in the sixth on Monday night.
“He walked that first batter and that led to that big inning,” Bochy said. “It’s always a little bit of a downer when you have a 3-0 lead and can’t hold onto it. But the guys fought hard and that’s what you’ve got to do for nine innings and they did that.”
Moronta’s rough outing spoiled Samardzija’s chance of securing his second win. Samardzija — who himself began the year on the DL with a right pectoral strain — allowed a pair of runs on five hits, striking out five and throwing 89 pitches in five innings.
“It does great things for the morale of the team to come back,” Samardzija said. “It does great things for the future. When you’re in those situations, you know you can do it again.”
With Samardzija’s contract off the ledger, the current list of the wounded features eight Giants who are set to earn $58.1 million this season. That’s about 29 percent of the $200.5 million payroll.
“I’ve always said, it’s probably a little easier replacing the position players,” said Bochy, who saw his replacement second baseman Alen Hanson (Joe Panik is out for at least six weeks with thumb surgery) unable to make a tough play at second on a grounder by Freddy Galvis in that three-run sixth. “The starters, they’re the toughest. The pitching’s been pretty good despite not having Melancon, Will Smith or our top three starters. They’ve all been on the DL.”
The rise of pitchers like Hunter Strickland, Ty Blach, Chris Stratton, Pierce Johnson and Moronta (at least before Monday night) has helped to soften the blow.
Smith is slated to rejoin the bullpen on Wednesday. Bumgarner will get checked by the doctor once he arrives in Arizona. If he clears that hurdle, he’ll begin throwing this week. For now, he’s on track to join the rotation by early June. In the interim, Bochy has been pleased with how the substitutes have acquitted themselves.
“That’s what I’m happy about,” Bochy said, “the fact that we’ve hung in there.”