— Ryan Gorcey (@RyanGorcey) July 7, 2019
ORACLE PARK — Madison Bumgarner looked more annoyed than pained as he walked off the Oracle Park mound.
It was the third inning of the San Francisco Giants’ 8-4 win over the St. Louis Cardinals, and Bumgarner — who had taken a line drive off his pitching elbow in the first — was being pulled. He knew it was probably the right decision. That didn’t mean he agreed with it.
The franchise cornerstone is one of the most valuable trade pieces on a club looking to sell, and with the trade deadline looming, Saturday’s start may very well be one of Bumgarner’s final home outings as a Giant. San Francisco had to protect both his future and the club’s. An 11-hit offensive barrage made that a bit easier to do. A set of negative X-rays didn’t hurt.
“We got a break,” said manager Bruce Bochy. “He should be fine to go after the [All-Star] break.”
After a leadoff single by Tommy Edman, Bumgarner took a 98.3-mph Jose Martinez liner off his triceps, just above his left elbow. Bochy and trainer Dave Groeschner checked on him, but Bumgarner threw three warmup pitches and stayed in.
“You know Madison and how tough he is,” Bochy said. “He didn’t wave us off, so I knew it got him pretty good there.”
When asked if he felt like he dodged a bullet, sustaining only a contusion, Bumgarner said, jokingly: “I feel like I jumped right in front of one.”
He then proceded to strike out Paul DeJong for his 1,705th career strikeout, moving past Tim Lincecum for the second-most strikeouts by a Giant since the team moved west in 1958. Bumgarner finished the inning by fanning Dexter Fowler on a 92-mph fastball, walked off the field and soaked in the standing, cheering fans behind the dugout.
Bumgarner threw a nine-pitch second and hit for himself, but after a confab in the dugout with Groeschner, Bochy and catcher Buster Posey, he went out for the third knowing he wasn’t going to throw another pitch. He had to go out and be removed so the Giants could give Sam Dyson enough warm-up pitches.
“I knew it wasn’t broke … I said I thought it was fine, then threw, and I felt fine,” said Bumgarner, who hit with a compression sleeve, and had another on after the game. “It didn’t tighten up or anything. It looked bad, but it felt fine. Curt [Young] and the training staff were just uncomfortable with all the swelling there.”
By leaving a less-than-100% Bumgarner in, the Giants would have risked further injury, not to mention diminishing his trade value had swelling or tightness impacted his delivery. Contending teams would value Bumgarner’s 2.11 ERA in 16 postseason appearances and three World Series rings, but wouldn’t pay a premium for damaged goods.
If he can start right after the All-Star break — Bumgarner said he could go in five days if need be — he’d show that he’s still the pitcher who, before two seasons shortened by freak accidents (including a finger-breaking liner in spring training last year), had made at least 31 starts and won at least 13 games for six straight seasons. Leading the current staff with 111 2/3 innings and 19 starts — even with a career-worst 4.03 ERA — doesn’t hurt, either.
Bumgarner didn’t go into the All-Star break on a losing note thanks to the Giants’ fifth double-digit hit game in their last nine. A fourth-inning, pinch-hit grand slam by Austin Slater (his first career pinch-hit homer and first grand slam at any level) opened things up, and a three-run seventh featuring an RBI triple by Alex Dickerson and a Pablo Sandoval two-run homer all but iced the win.
What lies beyond the break for Bumgarner, though, is uncertain. He was penciled in to start on July 13 in Milwaukee, and still may. If he gets pushed to the July 14, he could have as many as two more starts at Oracle — where he owns the fourth-best career ERA (2.74) of any Giants pitcher — before the July 31 trade deadline. If he gets pushed to July 15, he could have only one — July 20 — if he’s not moved before that.
As Bumgarner reluctantly walked off the field in the third, the Oracle Park crowd of 32,487 gave him a standing ovation.
“It’s pretty special to play here,” he said.