The Giants are showing cracks in the foundation of their success, namely pitching.
No, I’m not talking about Tim Lincecum, who had a bad outing on Saturday. It was just one of those days for Lincecum, who never really had command of his pitches. He’ll be back to his Cy Young form with his next start.
Madison Bumgarner is a much more legitimate concern. The second-year pitcher couldn’t get out of the third inning on Friday night against the Atlanta Braves. When I talked to Giants manager Bruce Bochy before Saturday’s game, he said he wasn’t worried about Bumgarner.
“He’s still got his good stuff,” Bochy said. “He’ll be fine.”
Bochy is a very patient man, possibly his best attribute as a manager, but I’m not so sure about his assessment. I think most of us just assumed Bumgarner would pick up where he left off last year, when he was 7-6 after being called up in midseason and 2-0 in the postseason, throwing eight shutout innings against the Texas Rangers in the World Series.
Only two months past his 21st birthday, Bumgarner was the fifth-youngest pitcher to start a World Series game, behind Bullet Joe Bush (Philadelphia A’s, 1913), Jim Palmer (Baltimore Orioles, 1966), Fernando Valenzuela (Los Angeles Dodgers, 1981) and Johnny Podres (Brooklyn Dodgers, 1953). No bums there.
But we really have a very small statistical sample with Bumgarner. We do know this much: With his pitching motion, which is nearly sidearm, it’s a constant struggle to make sure he comes up enough over the top to have good breaking action on his pitches. When he doesn’t, he’s usually out of the game quickly. I saw another of those games last year, against the Cincinnati Reds, when he didn’t last three innings and gave up eight runs, seven of which were earned.
Bochy has used Bumgarner judiciously, slotting him as the No. 5 pitcher, then pushing him up a slot when Barry Zito went on the DL; the date of Zito’s return is still uncertain. Bochy may pitch Ryan Vogelsong on Wednesday in Pittsburgh to give Bumgarner an extra day of rest, but that’s risky. Vogelsong has not shown that he’s a major league pitcher since he’s come up.
That’s put more pressure on the bullpen, which has not handled it well. Jeremy Affeldt gave up a three-run homer to Jason Heyward in the seventh inning Sunday that put the Braves ahead.
Then, after the Giants had gone ahead with four runs, Sergio Romo did everything but put the ball on a platter for Dan Uggla, who hit a no-doubter into the left-field seats to tie the game again.
Then in the 10th, Brian Wilson loaded the bases on two hits and a semi-intentional walk to Uggla. He got two outs, but then gave up a two-run single to Nate McLouth. In fairness to Wilson, the Miguel Tejada of even five years ago might have gotten McLouth’s grounder. If the New York Mets have to break up their team in midseason, the Giants should be first in line for Jose Reyes.
But for now … well, continue to celebrate last year’s Giants triumph. It doesn’t look like there will be a repeat.
Glenn Dickey has been covering Bay Area sports since 1963 and also writes on www.GlennDickey.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.