Spander: Bumgarner, Giants have old feeling back

A liner to left field by Justin Upton in the top of the seventh. A hit for the San Diego Padres. Their first hit Monday night. A gasp by the crowd at AT&T Park. Madison Bumgarner’s near perfection at an end, his dominance unending.

Two hits allowed on this evening by MadBum, but no runs. The Giants are back to .500 after a 2-0 win over the Padres, who came in as hot as the weather was cold. But at his best — and this was his best of the young season — Bumgarner chills them all.

This was Giants baseball as we come to know it in the last half-decade, brilliant pitching by a brilliant pitcher, a man who was the World Series Most Valuable Player and takes to his work with the confidence of someone who understands his ability and takes pride in it.

“We established command early,” said Bumgarner, sounding like a good team man but really referring to himself. “I was aware of not giving up any hits, but that’s about all. It was too early to think about it.”

Others in the Giants’ dugout did the thinking. Bumgarner, who pitched a no-hitter in high school, twice has pitched one-hitters for the Giants.

“He was great,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said, understating his ace’s tidy 107-pitch performance.

One walk, six strikeouts and most significantly no runs. It’s axiomatic that if the other team doesn’t score, you can’t lose. For the last two games, this one by Bumgarner, the one Sunday by Tim Lincecum, the other team, first the Los Angeles Angels, then the Padres, didn’t score.

San Francisco has won four in a row, seven straight at home, where Monday night what was listed as yet another sellout, the 283rd in succession. Who cares if there were blocks of empty seats in the upper left field stands? Still got that old feeling. Yeah, don’t stop believing. Bumgarner gave up five runs in a 10-2 loss at San Diego on April 11. And there was concern, at least among Giants fans if not the team. He had to work his way into the long season. His last three games he’s given up in succession, only two runs, only one run and now no runs.

Bumgarner, who also had a single in the fourth, reminded that pitching is a matter of adjustment, that why what happens one season doesn’t always happen the next.

“Your body changes,” Bumgarner said, “and you’ve got to stay on top of the changes. Be nice if you didn’t have to worry it.”

The Giants needed to stay on top of their defense. They committed a season-high four errors. The last time they had that many and still won was June 7, 2012, also against the Padres. Must be something in the air when San Diego’s the opponent.

Must be something in the pitches when Bumgarner’s on the mound. He outdueled the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw the two games before Monday night. Any worry that MadBum wasn’t MadBum can be ignored.

“It took him two or three games to settle in,” Bochy said. “That’s who he is. He’s as good as there is.”

Padres manager Bud Black, who long ago pitched for the Giants, compared Monday night’s Bumgarner to the Bumgarner the Padres clubbed roughly a month ago.

“His fastball was a little crisper than the last time we faced him,” Black said, “and had more life to it. His velocity was up a tick, and he made better use of his breaking ball. He was in and around the zone with better stuff. He held us in check. They gave us some opportunities, but we couldn’t capitalize.”

If he meant the miscues, Casey McGehee making an error on the Padres first batter, Bumgarner throwing away a pickoff attempt, Brandon Crawford and Brandon Belt also fumbling balls, well that was the extent of it. But San Diego never got a runner past second.

The Giants, not unusual, squandered numerous chances — they had runners on first and second in the second and didn’t score — but broke through in the third when Nori Aoki singled and Joe Panik walked to lead off the inning and came around.

“We should have scored a few more,” Bochy insisted.

That’s been the case often this season and recent seasons. “Sweet torture,” as Giants television commentator Mike Krukow phrased it. A lot of nail-biting and very few people crossing the plate.

But when nobody on the Padres crosses, somehow it all works out for the Giants.

Tim Hudson pitched well. Tim Lincecum pitched well. Now Madison Bumgarner pitches very, very well. That’s the way you win a world championship.

Art Spander has been covering Bay Area sports since 1965 and also writes on Email him at

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