Bumgarner gives Giants a performance for the ages

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Bumgarner gives Giants a performance for the ages

LOS ANGELES Dave Righetti slipped on his loafers as hedrifted into memories.

You dont see it very often, said the Giants pitchingcoach, after watching Madison Bumgarner outduel Clayton Kershaw in a 2-1victory Monday night.

Sabathia comes to mind from the last 10 years, and you haveyour Guidrys and Carltons, your Vida Blue.

Lefties always admire lefties, especially the rare powerguys. Those pitchers arent trying to trick you or nip at the corners or dowhat keeps left-handers in the game into their 40s. No, these pitchers come atyou straight on, tanks in a demolition derby, sawing off bats, throwingexplosive stuff, daring you to hit it if you can.

Thats what Kershaw did. Thats what Bumgarner did just abit better.

Watching both those guys on the mound was a treat, Giantsleft-hander Javier Lopez said. Of course, I dont think the hitters will tellyou that.

Actually

Special? Oh yeah, that was special, said Giants centerfielder Angel Pagan, who had two of the six hits off Kershaw and scored bothruns. Bumgarner threw an unbelievable game. And Kershaw, man, he threw amazingtoo. It was fun to watch.

It was a late-August game in a pennant race, and the winnerwould be guaranteed to end the day in first place.

But it was even more than that.

Know what that was? Righetti said. That was like one ofthose old NL matchups. Until they go out and perform, its just anotherGiants-Dodgers. Then they start pitching and it feels like something else.

Theyre the ones that made us remember. It was cool, realcool.

And Im glad we won.

The Giants have to keep winning this way. Sure, Melky Cabrera is still being spilled all over the tabloids and the offense will have to find a way around thatpsychological morass. Theyll have to score enough runs on a consistent basisto support their pitching staff.

But they must pitch to win. They might be capable of winning6-5, or even 8-3. But its more likely theyll have to win many more 2-1 gamesover the next six weeks. And when they come upon a Kershaw, the Giants willneed a performance to match.

Even though Tim Lincecum hasnt been Tim Lincecum, thebullpen is a committee and the pitching overall has lacked the dominance ofyears past, the Giants do seem to find the big performance when they need it.

Want proof? Kershaw is 1-3 against them this season.

Bumgarner had only faced Kershaw once before in his career.It was April 11 of last season, and the Dodgers bum-rushed him for five runs infive innings. Rod Barajas hit a two-run home run in a four-run fifth.

It was one loss amid an 0-6 beginning hes never forgotten.

This kid weve talked so much about him, Giants managerBruce Bochy said. Hes got such great poise, such great focus. His makeup isoff the charts. One of the moreimpressive years was when he got off to a rough start. A young guy can lose hisconfidence. But it never wavered with him.

Now Bumgarner is more focused than ever about finishing batters.With two strikes, hes got a killer instinct that wasnt always there in thepast. He bounces a slider where he used to try to paint a perfect one. Thatshow hes struck out the most batters in the NL (61) since the All-Star break.Thats how he put away Matt Kemp in the seventh to strand a runner at thirdbase.

That was a big strikeout for me just a big point of thatgame, said Bumgarner, who flexed like a pro wrestler as he walked off themound. I guess I had a little adrenaline.

Said Bochy: It gets back to the focus Im talking about.Hes really concentrating on making a good pitch and not dropping his guardwith two strikes.

All great power pitchers do more than burn out bulbs on the radar gun. They also are able to maintain their stuff tothe last pitch. Bumgarner did that, too. Bochy pushed him into the eighth andlet him throw 123 pitches the second most by a Giant this season (after MattCains 125 pitches in his perfect game June 13).

Bumgarner struck out his final two hitters.

Yeah, his stuff was great, Bochy said. He wasntlaboring. I checked on him. Hes a big, strong boy. Its probably tougher ifyou take him out, to be honest.

It's always a good idea to ask others about Bumgarner because he wontspare many words about himself. He spoke of making sure hes on his game withevery pitch, having a plan and not giving into guys. But his ultimate summaryof Monday's game came out like a bit of country wisdom:

You better pitch better if you want to win.

The last time against Kershaw, perhaps Bumgarner wasntequipped to match up against him. Hes a year older now. And since that 0-6 beginningin 2011, he is 27-14 with a 2.88 ERA in 50 starts.

Oh, and he is allowing 0.82 baserunners per inning since thebreak, too.

Last year I had a little bad luck, Bumgarner said. But Ibelieve you create your own luck, and I created bad luck by throwing pitchesthat were over the plate for guys to hit.

Its just making better pitches and learning how to pitchto different guys. Its knowing what to do with who Im facing. Its justpitching smarter.

Bumgarner has plenty of curve ahead in his learning. Hesonly 23, as of Aug. 1. Kershaw is 24.

There will be plenty more confrontations, plenty more tanksin the derby, plenty more opportunities to transform a pennant-race game into Instagram-coloredmemories.

Does Bumgarner look forward to that?

Well, he said, definitely.

Giants respond to Melancon report: 'It’s pole vaulting over mouse turds'

Giants respond to Melancon report: 'It’s pole vaulting over mouse turds'

SAN FRANCISCO — As reporters approached Mark Melancon’s locker Monday afternoon, the closer looked up at a clubhouse clock and smiled.

“I guess it’s 3:30,” he said softly. 

A year ago at this time, Giants relievers would have been out in left field jogging and playing catch. The routine was changed a week into the season, and players, coaches and management expressed confusion and frustration Monday about how that became the centerpiece of a FOX Sports article portraying the clubhouse as “boring” and a problem.

The piece, written by Ken Rosenthal and posted Monday morning, said Melancon “rubbed some teammates the wrong way early in the season by putting an end to the bullpen’s 3:30 p.m. stretching session before night games, a practice that the relievers began in 2012.”

Several players mocked the concept as they stretched Monday. Manager Bruce Bochy called it a non-story.

“It’s pole vaulting over mouse turds,” he said. 

Melancon defended the move, saying it was made collectively by the revamped bullpen and staff. He said the Giants decided to be better about time management, noting that it did not make sense for the relievers to run and throw an hour before going back on the field with the rest of the team. The decision was made to instead focus on lifting, eating and doing other clubhouse work in the hours leading up to the 4:30 team stretch. 

“Really it’s nothing — it’s kind of funny it’s been raised,” Melancon said. “I was brought in to be a leader here and take ownership of the bullpen. In conversations with guys and the coaching staff, we decided to change the stretch time. It was the first series of the year, and from a time management standpoint, it’s been good. I’m shocked, but if this is the reason we’re pointing out (for the team’s record), please bring it on.

“We’re talking about stretching. Stretching,” Melancon added, joking he felt like Allen Iverson. 

The story also mentioned Melancon’s routine of spending the first six or seven innings in the clubhouse preparing to pitch. Melancon said he is usually in the bullpen by the fifth or sixth, and noted that that’s been the way of all closers he has worked under, from Mariano Rivera to Jonathan Papelbon. 

“I don’t know anyone who has had a problem with (my routine),” he said. 

His manager certainly doesn’t. Bochy said every closer he has managed did the same thing because they almost never pitch until the ninth. Of course, that’s where the real problem comes. Melancon has a 4.58 ERA and has blown four saves. He said that should have been the focus of any story about the Giants’ struggles. 

“I understand if you lose this many games there’s got to be something to blame, and I’ll take this blame on,” he said. “I haven’t pitched well … There are a lot of things I can be better at with my performance on the field, and that’s first and foremost.”

The Giants expected a bit more on the mound, and Melancon knows it. He owns that part of this. But they have no complaints, sources said, about anything he has done off the field. Several teammates noted Monday that Melancon has also been pitching hurt for a team that’s hopelessly buried in the standings. Melancon also had team employees remodel a small room behind the dugout — adding new seats, a flat screen TV, and inspirational quotes — so relievers were more comfortable while waiting to pitch.

Those are small changes, with nothing to do with how the team has played. And given the way the bullpen pitched last year, any change probably should have been welcomed. 

Giants lineup: Hernandez in, Slater out

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AP

Giants lineup: Hernandez in, Slater out

Bud Black and Bruce Bochy issued their lineups for today's series opener at AT&T Park:

Rockies (47-31) 
1. Charlie Blackmon (L) CF
2. DJ LeMahieu (R) 2B
3. Nolan Arenado (R) 3B
4. Mark Reynolds (R) 1B
5. Raimel Tapia (L) RF
6. Ian Desmond (R) LF
7. Trevor Story (R) SS
8. Tony Wolters (L) C
9. German Marquez (R) P (5-3, 3.92 ERA)

Giants (27-51)
1. Denard Span (L) CF
2. Joe Panik (L) 2B
3. Hunter Pence (R) RF
4. Buster Posey (R) C
5. Brandon Belt (L) 1B
6. Brandon Crawford (L) SS
7. Ryder Jones (L) 3B
8. Gorkys Hernandez (R) LF
9. Jeff Samardzija (R) P (2-9, 4.74 ERA)