American League teams have an advantage at home in interleague play, the theory goes, because they can use designated hitters that are employed on a full-time basis.
But as the Giants proved in the Bay Bridge Series on Saturday, a pitcher who handles the bat well can give the National League teams an edge in their ballparks as well.
Not only did Madison Bumgarner hit a home run, but he pitched seven solid innings in a 2-1 victory over the Athletics on Saturday. The Giants look to complete a three-game sweep of the A’s at AT&T Park on Sunday.
“He’s a threat up there,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “What’s impressive is he’s made himself into a pretty good hitter, too. It’s not just the long ball. It just goes to show you how a pitcher can help themselves besides throwing the ball.”
Bumgarner — a Silver Slugger award winner in 2014 — homered on a 3-2 pitch from A’s starter Chris Bassitt (0-3) in the third. It was Bumgarner’s third home run this season and ninth of his career.
Bassitt, called up from minors before the game to make the start, allowed five hits in six innings with four strikeouts. He faced two over the minimum through five innings, with the only blemish Bumgarner’s third home run of the season.
“The pitch before was a strike. [The umpire] missed it,” Bassitt said. “It was an awkward thing. I was like, ‘Don’t walk him, don’t walk him, don’t walk him’ and I grooved a fastball right down the middle. I have to go after him like a hitter. It was a horrible mindset and he made me pay.”
Athletics pitcher Angel Castro was optioned to Triple-A Nashville to make room for Bassitt.
“The best swing of the day was the one Bumgarner hit,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “You have to treat him like a DH. You’re certainly not going to walk the 8 hitter to get to him.”
Bumgarner (11-5) also struck out seven while working past the sixth inning — something he failed to do in each of his previous three starts.
“Today it wasn’t looking real good early but we were able to get some quick outs and make some pitches,” Bumgarner said. “That’s definitely more satisfying for me.”
The Giants went into the game leading the NL in scoring but had few opportunities against Bassitt and two relievers. Joe Panik had two hits and scored a run.
Panik hit a two-out double in the sixth and scored on Duffy’s single to put the Giants up 2-1.
Sergio Romo pitched the eighth and Santiago Casilla worked the ninth for his 25th save.
Bassett pitched yet another gem and still has nothing to show for it. That has been the story of the season for Oakland’s starting pitchers.
Bassitt yet to allow more than two runs in any of his nine appearances, including four starts. In his lone major league victory, last September with the Chicago White Sox, Bassitt threw 7 2-3 scoreless innings.
A’s starters lead the AL with a 3.13 ERA and Oakland leads the league with an overall 3.44 ERA. That hasn’t translated into many wins though, as the A’s, 11 games under .500, occupy last place in the AL West.
Fernando Abad and Fernando Rodriguez each pitched a scoreless inning to keep the game close. But A’s hitters could not do much against
Bumgarner, Romo and Casilla, who did not allow a hit between Ben Zobrist’s fifth-inning double and Billy Burns’ two-out single in the ninth.
Zobrist was a home run shy of the cycle and walked in the eighth. He had half of the A’s six hits, while Josh Phegley drove in the only run on a fourth-inning double.
“We needed one big hit and never got it,” Melvin said. “The best swing of the day was the one Bumgarner hit.”
Billy Burns entered the game as a pinch hitter and stayed in to play defense, one day after leaving a game with a testicular contusion. “I feel 100 percent. Before the game I got to run around, go through my regular routine and it all checked out,” he said.
Closer Sean Doolittle (strained left shoulder) threw off flat ground and will pitch a bullpen session Thursday.
Bochy said leadoff hitter Nori Aoki (broken leg), who went hitless in a rehab game Friday, needs more at-bats in the minors before rejoining the big league club.
Pitcher Tim Lincecum has resumed playing catch and throwing but has yet to get back on a mound. Lincecum, who has been sidelined with a bruised forearm, was recently diagnosed with degenerative hip disorder in both hips.
Kendall Graveman (6-6) will face Tim Hudson (5-8) in the final game of the series today.
Graveman has a 2.76 ERA in 11 starts since being called back up from the minors, but has dropped his last two decisions.
Hudson (5-8) was a sixth-round draft pick by Oakland in 1997. He’ll be facing his former team for just the third time in his career.