— Ryan Gorcey (@RyanGorcey) June 21, 2019
LOS ANGELES — Giants manager Bruce Bochy almost winced as he considered what Dodgers infielder Max Muncy had done.
A week after hitting a first-inning solo homer into McCovey Cove off of Bumgarner, sparking the latest chapter of animosity in the century-old, continent-spanning rivalry, Muncy was wearing a “Go get it out of the ocean” t-shirt. The apparel — referencing his and Bumgarner’s on-field exchange — was, perhaps, a mistake.
“The t-shirts, hey, that’s poking the bear,” Bochy said. “You poke the bear enough, you can’t be upset if he bites back, either. Some things are best to just let it go.”
In what could be Bumgarner’s final start at Dodger Stadium — a ballpark in which he’s pitched his best, away from San Francisco — Muncy fueled what’s been Bumgarner’s biggest contribution to the rivalry in recent years.
When Muncy admired his first-inning home run on June 9, Bumgarner followed him around the bases and barked at him to stop looking and run. After the game, he said that, while there are many who want to “just let the kids play,” he should be afforded the same courtesy.
“I thought Bum said it well [after the initial home run] — sure, they want to let the kids play, but he’s going to be himself, and he’s fiery,” Bochy said. “He plays with a lot of fire. That’s what led us to a championship in 2014, helped us get three rings.”
While many rivalries are largely fan-borne, Bumgarner has brought the vitriol and nastiness onto the field.
He’s jousted with everyone from Yasiel Puig to Alex Guerrero, and now, Muncy — the man who Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi has touted as one of his best acquisitions while the Los Angeles general manager. He’s been the singular foil for the Dodgers both during San Francisco’s run of three championships in five years, and during Los Angeles’s latest run of success.
During his career, Bumgarner is 9-8 at Dodger Stadium, with a 2.34 ERA — the lowest of any park in which he has at least 10 starts, including Oracle Park. With the trade deadline approaching, and Bumgarner a likely trade piece for Zaidi as he tries to rebuild the club from the bottom up, this could very well be Bumgarner’s final start against the Dodgers as a Giant. In the clubhouse, he was as he’s always been.
Tyler Austin sat with his phone in his lap, volume turned up, jamming to “Fire on the Mountain” — Bumgarner’s walk-up song. Bobbing his head back and forth, he tried to get the surly left-hander — sitting across from him — to jam along.
“You want to sing along?” Tyler Beede asked, prompting what looked to be a smile from Bumgarner.
“I can confirm: It was a smile,” Austin said.
“He’s amazing,” Bochy said. “He really is, keeping that maniacal focus you like from your players, putting aside any distractions, his focus is on the game tonight. Sometimes, it’s not easy for these players. They hear rumors and things. He’s showed in the postseason how focused he can get and maintain that. That’s where he’s at now.”
Outfield flip: Austin will play right field, and did not find out until just over two hours before gametime, when he checked the posted lineup. He’s been playing left all season, and has not played in right since 2017, with one start. He played three games there for the Yankees in 2016, including two starts.
After making two highlight-reel plays and adding an outfield assist — his second of the year — in Wednesday’s game, his teammates joked with him that, now that he was finally comfortable, the club decided to put him somewhere he’d never played. It’s only partially true. In 34 innings in right, he’s never made an error. Except for the mustache he’s growing. That could go against his fielding percentage.
One thing working in his favor: Dodger Stadium is symmetrical, unlike Oracle Park with Levi’s Landing. As Bochy said, “There’s nothing tricky out there.”
With a right-handed heavy lineup against Bumgarner, he may not get much action, Bochy said.
Steven Duggar (back) was scratched from Wednesday’s game, but will be available to play on Thursday. Bochy said he wouldn’t take swings on the field, but in the cages underneath the stands.
Pablo Sandoval — who was spiked on the hand by Muncy in the fifth inning of Monday’s 3-2 win, necessitating stitches — pinch hit on Wednesday, and is available to play tonight. He will start on Friday in the series opener in Arizona.