Bumgarner evaluates his first start back with Giants: 'I'll take that anytime'

Bumgarner evaluates his first start back with Giants: 'I'll take that anytime'

SAN DIEGO — Madison Bumgarner is a perfectionist on the mound, but even he likely didn’t scrip a return like the one he had around 6 p.m. Saturday night. 

Bumgarner struck out the side in his first MLB inning since April 19, showing right from the jump that he’s the same guy. The rest of his night included some rockier moments, and the Giants ultimately lost, but they at least could walk away knowing that their ace is fine.

The team? Not so much. But Bumgarner is fine. 

“It’s good to have him back,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “Overall, I thought he did a real nice job.”

Bochy did not attend any of Bumgarner’s rehab starts, although he watched video. In that sense, seeing Bumgarner stand a few feet away and sling cutters in on hands was a bit of a relief. He always felt his lefty would be fine after a dirt bike accident, but this night confirmed it.

“To see him back in action, he looked the same,” Bochy said. “His delivery and everything looked good. The command was really good tonight.”

Unfortunately for Bochy, his Giants looked the same, too. They failed to take advantage of Jhoulys Chacin’s early wobbles, scoring just two runs in the first and one in the sixth. They went down in a manner that was equally surprising and not. Hector Sanchez, the longtime backup to Buster Posey, crushed a Steven Okert pitch into the night to walk the Giants off and clinch a 5-3 win for his new team. 

Bumgarner felt some of the sting of that. On this night, he was sharp enough that he could have gone just about the distance. But Bumgarner’s pitch count was right around 100, and he was pulled after getting through seven on 102 pitches. Bumgarner was charged with three earned on four hits, including two homers. 

“I felt pretty good the whole time,” he said. “We were making pitches pretty much from the first inning on. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to go much over 100 (pitches). They weren’t going to let me, anyway. Going out for seven, I’ll take that anytime.”

Bumgarner gave up two homers, both on two-strike curveballs. It took him some time during the rehab process to get his breaking pitches squared away, but he said this night wasn’t about rust. 

“They weren’t bad pitches,” he said. “Looking back, they were the wrong pitches.”

Okert made the wrong pitch, too. With the winning run on second and an open base, he threw a fat slider that Sanchez hit into the Western Metal Supply Co. building. The catcher hit .240 with 10 homers in five years with the Giants. In two seasons facing them, he is 6 for 12 with three homers and eight RBI. Sanchez has four homers this season and two have come in the ninth inning against the Giants. A third came against Sergio Romo, his former teammate. 

You can add that to the long list of things that have gone wrong in this 2017 season. The list of things that have gone right is short, but the Giants can at least sleep easier knowing that Bumgarner will carry his usual heavy load every five days the rest of the season. 

Bumgarner was not ready to look that far down the line. He didn’t think big picture Saturday. He said he was happy to be back, but when asked about the remaining schedule, he shrugged. What does he want to accomplish?

“Win tomorrow,” he said. 

Three teams chasing Giants in tight race for first overall pick


Three teams chasing Giants in tight race for first overall pick

LOS ANGELES — The Giants have a pretty strong track record when picking in the top five of the MLB Draft. In 1985, they took Will Clark with the second overall selection, and Clark remains the highest-drafted player in franchise history. A year later, Matt Williams was taken third overall. Jason Grilli at No. 4 in 1997 is rather forgettable, but taking Buster Posey with the fifth pick in 2008 led to three titles. 

With a week of baseball remaining, the Giants are a lock to pick in the top four of next year’s draft. A few days ago, they looked like a pretty strong bet to pick first overall, but the standings — the bottom of them, at least — have tightened in recent days. Here’s a look at the contenders, so to speak … 

White Sox (63-92): No team went into tank mode this year quite like Chicago, with trades of just about every big piece on the roster. But a funny thing has happened … they’ve actually played decent baseball down the stretch. The White Sox are 11-12 in September after a blowout of the Royals on Sunday. They finish up with four against the Angels and three against the Indians, so they should get pretty close to 100 losses. 

Phillies (62-94): They have looked all along like the team to beat, but they hurt their top-pick chances by taking three of four from the Dodgers last week. They host the Nationals and Mets this week. 

Tigers (62-94): All of a sudden, they’re the biggest road block for the Giants. The Tigers have lost seven straight and they’re 4-20 in September. They finish up with three against the Royals and three against the Twins, and all six games are on the road. 

Giants (61-95): Can we stop for a moment and appreciate this. We’ve been talking about it for five months, but still, it’s pretty amazing that a $200 million team is headed into the final week with a very good shot at having the worst record in Major League Baseball. What an awful season this has been. Having said that, the Giants have not shown any signs of actually tanking, and manager Bruce Bochy said this weekend that he won’t shut any players down. So, it’s on to Phoenix, where the Giants have lost six of seven this season but the Diamondbacks might chill out a bit after clinching a postseason spot. They’ll face Zack Godley, Robbie Ray and Zack Greinke. The season ends with three at home against the Padres. The Giants have struggled against the Padres for the last year and a half, but they’ll have Matt Cain going in an emotional start and Madison Bumgarner will also get a game. 

Given another look at fastball, Williamson gets revenge against Kershaw

Given another look at fastball, Williamson gets revenge against Kershaw

LOS ANGELES — Mac Williamson was sent up to pinch-hit when the Giants faced Clayton Kershaw earlier this month, and on a two-strike count, he watched as Kershaw shook off five different signs as he stood on the mound. Kershaw then froze Williamson with a fastball. It was a good lesson for Williamson, a player still trying to find his footing at the big league level.

“He’s a guy you can’t really guess with,” Williamson said. 

The outfielder admits he tends to overthink things. “I’m a perfectionist,” he said Sunday. But given a start against Kershaw, Williamson let his talent — and a little luck — take over. Williamson’s first hit off Kershaw was a bleeder that resulted in an infield hit. His second bounced through the middle of the infield for a single. The third one was the highlight of the day for the Giants. 

Kershaw had a shutout going when he tried to sneak a first-pitch fastball past Williamson in the eighth. He blasted it to dead center. It was the only run for the Giants in a 3-1 loss to the Dodgers. 

“It’s good to see him get those swings off,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “That homer was to the big part of the park. It shows how strong he is.”

The Giants have always known Williamson has the strength and raw talent. He hasn’t stuck for a number of reasons, including injuries and that aforementioned tendency sometimes to overthink at the plate. It probably hasn’t helped, either, that the Giants tend to sit him for days at a time and then play him against the Kershaws and Zack Greinkes and Rich Hills of the world. 

Williamson took advantage of the tough assignment on Sunday, joining a small group of Giants who have three hits in a game off Kershaw. 

“Hunter was ahead of me,” he said, smiling. “He beat me to it.”

Pence also had three hits, giving the Giants six from the corners against the best pitcher in the game. It wasn’t enough, but for Williamson, it was something to build off as the offseason approaches. He said it’s a winter he doesn’t plan to take lightly. Williamson’s agents are working to line up a Winter Ball job in the Dominican Republic.