From the moment “Fire on the Mountain” blared through the speakers at AT&T Park, it was business as usual for Madison Bumgarner on Tuesday night.
The ace punched out eight Milwaukee Brewers and the Giants lineup mustered just enough support to win the 10th straight game the lefty took the mound.
“It’s really fun to watch a really elite pitcher do his thing,” manager Bruce Bochy said after Bumgarner allowed two earned runs on four hits in the Giants 3-2 win.
With his gem against the Brewers, Bumgarner became the first Giants hurler in half a century to allow two earned runs or fewer in 11 consecutive outings. The last was the the Hall of Famer Juan Marichal who accomplished the feat with a string of starts from September 1965 to May 1966.
As Bumgarner sees it, this run isn’t even the best groove he can remember being in.
“The playoffs in 14 were pretty good too,” Bumgarner said. “Numbers-wise this may be a little better, but that was the best I’ve ever felt.”
Much of the talk surrounding Bumgarner in recent weeks has involved his efforts to land a place in this summer’s Home Run Derby. His historic stretch demonstrates that he also deserves a place in the National League Cy Young award conversation.
To this point, Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Jake Arrieta of the Chicago Cubs have monopolized the discussion.
With his 1.52 ERA and 122 strikeouts — both tops in the majors — Kershaw occupies a stratosphere that is all his own.
As the ace of baseball’s trendiest (and winningest) club, Arrieta has emerged as Kershaw’s most-talked about challenger.
But with each brilliant outing, Bumgarner’s numbers look like those posted by the Cubs’ beared righty.
This season, Bumgarner has struck out more batters (107) than Arrieta (90), and his ERA (1.91) is right behind the Cub’s (1.86).
On Tuesday night, Bumgarner only made a pair of mistakes.
The first came in the top of the fifth when he served up a slider that never slid to Jonathan Lucory.
“I was going backdoor. I think I just went for it one too many times,” Bumgarner explained after the catcher deposited the 87-mph offering into the left field bleachers. “He’s a really good hitter.”
The second came an inning later when he allowed back-to-back two-out hits to Jonathan Villar and Hernan Perez.
After Villar lashed his double to left, Perez delivered his RBI single. The hit from the Brewers right fielder marked the first time in 29 at-bats an opponent had notched a hit against Bumgarner with runners in scoring position.
Perez’s knock tied the contest, but fittingly it was Bumgarner who was at the plate when the Giants went ahead for good.
The rally began in the bottom of the seventh with Angel Pagan, who wasn’t even supposed to be playing, singled to right field.
“He was adamant that he was good,” Bochy explained after Pagan talked his way off the disabled list and into Tuesday’s lineup even though he was initially slated to be activated in the final game of the series.
Gregor Blanco singled to center, bringing Bumgarner to the plate. Cognizant of Bumgarner’s power, Brewers reliever Will Smith uncorked a pair of wild pitches. The second allowed Pagan to race home.
“If you make a mistake, he can do some damage,” Bochy said. “And that’s what a threat does for you. A dangerous hitter makes a pitcher be a little careful and sometimes that can bring some good things — like a wild pitch.”
Bumgarner was less certain about how much credit he deserved.
“I think we more or less caught a break,” Bumgarner said, “But if you want to look at it that way [that] sounds good to me.”