Hunter Pence hit a flair down the right field line, with a full count and two outs in the ninth inning, to clear the loaded bases, and propel the San Francisco Giants to a 3-1 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies, Wednesday night, for their third consecutive win at Citizens Bank Park. Madison Bumgarner pitched what might be considered his most dominant game of the season, throwing eight shutouts innings on 94 pitches.
Giant nemesis, A. J. Burnett, 6-3 lifetime against the Giants going into the game with a 2.30 ERA, threw eight shutout innings as well, giving up four hits, while walking four, striking out six and hitting a batter. Compared to the fifteen pitchers we saw in Tuesday night’s game, it was quite a contrast in styles.
Madison Bumgarner, in pitching one of the most dominating games of the season, minimized his pitch-count, and kept his fielders on their toes, especially Pablo Sandoval, who handled six chances at third, two of them exceptionally fine plays.
Beginning with the first inning, and continuing through the first seven, Bumgarner either matched or reduced his pitch count every inning. He threw 12, 12, 11, 11, 11, 8 and 6 pitches, respectively, actually facing four batters in the inning in which he only threw eight pitches. He was overwhelming.
Not until the eighth inning, when he allowed Carlos Ruiz and Dominic Brown to reach base with singles, did Bumgarner have to up his pitch count. After Darin Ruf sacrificed the runners to second and third, Bumgarner got Andres Blanco swinging, and pinch-hitter Grady Sizemore to fly out to Michael Morse in left field to end the threat.
A baseball oddity, of sorts, occurred in the first inning, when Ben Revere led off the game by beating out an infield grounder with his speed, and then was eliminated from the base-paths when Jimmy Rollins hit into a 5-4-3 double play. You will not see those two names attached to very many double plays.
Another oddity saw both Ehire Adrianza and Hunter Pence over-sliding the second base bag, with both being subsequently tagged out, Pence after a lively chase down the line towards third, before Jimmy Rollins flipped the ball to Andres Blanco. In a game as tight as this one, there was no room for errors on the bases.
Luckily, Madison Bumgarner got the memo about going at least seven innings in order to give the weary bullpen a rest. He went one better and Santiago Casilla got his eighth save after giving up one run in the ninth on a Marlon Byrd single after Jimmy Rollins had doubled with one out and advanced to third on a throwing error by Ehire Adrianza.
Jonathan Papelbon came in to pitch the ninth and as Yogi Berra observed, it was deja vu all over again, only this time Papelbon issued three free passes, sandwiched around a pair of strikeouts. Michael Morse was hit square on the left shoulder by a pitched ball to lead off the inning, and after Gregor Blanco pinch-ran for Morse, Blanco stole second as Adam Duvall struck out.
Papelbon, remembering Brandon Crawford from Tuesday night’s heroics, walked him intentionally and then did the same to Hector Sanchez, unintentionally, bringing up Hunter Pence. Pence drew the count full and then made a desperation swing at an off-speed pitch, putting the ball in play just inside the right field line, and causing Duane Kuiper to repeat last night’s call, by exclaiming after the bases had cleared, “They ALL scored!”
Just about the time the Giants were scoring their runs, the game in Pittsburg ended, with the Pirates defeating the Los Angeles Dodgers, 6-1, widening the margin between them and the first-place Giants to two games.
This marked the thirteenth victory out of the last sixteen games for the Giants, when playing in National League East parks, dating back to last season. In winning, the Giants picked up their sixth win in the last seven games, including a 5-1 start to this current seven-game road trip. They finish the trip tomorrow with a day game and Tim Hudson taking the mound.
The victory tonight was important because of the need to return to AT&T Park with a fair amount of momentum, in order to give the Dodgers a run for their money, as in taking two of the three games.
Two out of three, Giants, just keep winning two out of three. It’s a great formula for success.