SAN FRANCISCO Madison Bumgarner has spoiled us all.Bumgarner, who is still just 23, has been so good so far inhis young career that sometimes he makes you forget just how difficult it is topitch in the major leagues.Sometimes, you forget how easily a game can be ruined, how onesmall lapse can be all it takes. When you see what happened on a day likeSaturday, it actually makes you appreciate even more what Bumgarner did in hisprevious start, when he shut out the Dodgers over eight innings of sheerbrilliance.But he wasnt thinking about that in the wake of the Giants7-3 loss to the Braves. He had the sour look of a guy who just failed histeammates, even though, by an objective standard, he still wasnt that bad, andhe left with his team still in the game.I just got out of whack mentally and mechanically, andwasnt able to get it back, Bumgarner said.He was referring to the third inning. Opposing pitcher MikeMinor with a .024 batting average, one hit and one walk in 45 plateappearances was in the box to start the inning. Bumgarner walked him. After astrikeout, he walked Martin Prado.Then with the sizzling Jason Heyward at the plate, hisfastball outside wasnt so much outside as, wellOver the middle of the plate, Bumgarner said.And Heyward drilled it over the right-field fence, hisfourth homer in 10 games. Just like that, the Braves had a 3-0 lead.I felt pretty good the first couple innings, then thewheels kind of fell off, Bumgarner said. I was still able to battle throughand get some outs, but you cant pitch that way, not feeling confident in yourstuff, not feeling like you can put the ball where you want, especially againsta team like that.Bumgarner did it again in the seventh, when he grooved afastball to Minor, who ripped it off the right-field wall for a double.I just kind of set it out there on a tee for him,Bumgarner said. It just goes back to not having confidence in your stuff. Ididnt feel like I could put it where I needed to. Its something you have towork through.Truth be told, Bumgarner was a little hard on himself.Manager Bruce Bochy said overall I thought he pitched pretty good. When Bumgarnersfinal line was tallied, hed allowed four runs in six-plus innings, which iscertainly a passable bad start.The Giants still had a shot to win the game even after hewas done, thanks to Gregor Blancos two-run pinch-hit double in the bottom ofthe seventh, which made it 4-3.Only the Giants bullpen We got a little sloppy there inthe eighth and ninth, Bochy said put the game out of reach again, and theysaw their five-game winning streak come to an end.Bumgarners struggles and those of the offense, which hadbeen hitting .299 and scoring more than five runs a game over the previouseight, were rare enough that the Giants could simply shrug their shoulders andblow this one off. The Braves, after all, are no punching bag. They entered theday as leaders in the wild card race, with the exact same record as the Giants.We knew it was going to be hard, Blanco said. We had five straight wins and we wanted it to be six, but this happens and hopefully well start another streak tomorrow.
SAN FRANCISCO — In a quiet moment in the dugout Friday, manager Bruce Bochy tried to figure out a nickname for his new budding star. During a week where Christian Arroyo has made the game look so easy, this has turned out to be the most difficult part.
Bochy briefly settled on “Yo” before that was scuttled because the team’s video coordinator is Yo Miyamoto. Joe Panik said some players have tried C.A. or YoYo, but admitted that neither is all that good. The team’s Twitter account spent a few days trying to make Boss Baby a thing, but Arroyo wasn’t thrilled with that one and the experiment appears to be over. In a back room of the clubhouse, there’s a printout showing Arroyo and Buzz from “Home Alone,” but that comparison is much better made with Atlanta’s Freddie Freeman.
Perhaps the answer is as simple as the path Arroyo’s bat takes to a fastball. As he watched Arroyo field grounders during batting practice, Dick Tidrow was asked about the 21-year-old. Tidrow, the team’s senior VP of player personnel, has seen and worked with Arroyo since he was drafted.
“We always just called him The Kid,” Tidrow said. “He would turn around when I called him Kid.”
The Kid is growing up quickly. Arroyo’s second homer of the week was the game-winner Friday, an eighth-inning blast that put a lead in Mark Melancon’s hands. The new closer made sure the new third baseman’s homer didn’t go to waste, clinching a 4-3 win that got the Giants out of the National League West’s cellar.
The homer might have surprised Arroyo as much as anyone. He came here with a reputation as a mature and talented hitter, but power is not his calling card.
“I’m not trying to hit a homer there,” he said. “Get the head out, see a pitch over the plate, barrel something, just keep the line moving. I got a good pitch, elevated it, and fortunately it went out.”
Arroyo already speaks like a hitting coach, but he is not afraid to admit that there are things he doesn’t know. It’s easy to get film on opposing starters, but there’s little a rookie can do to prepare for late-inning pitching changes. Arroyo consulted Buster Posey and Conor Gillaspie before facing Ryan Buchter, who has been in the division for two years. Gillaspie told him Buchter’s fastball has some late life and gets on a hitter.
“I wanted to see it and the first pitch was a little low so I got a good read on them,” Arroyo said.
The second one was right at the belt and Arroyo pulled it down the line for his second big league homer. He had just three last year in Double-A, but the Giants felt the 36 doubles showed that power was on the way.
“He’s got pop,” Bochy said. “He’s not a guy trying to hit homers. He tries to put a good swing on it. But he drives balls and you saw it tonight. We see him more as a gap guy, but he’ll get more power as he gets older. We’re not asking him to hit homers, trust me, but it’s good to see him letting it go.”
The homer secured a win on a night when a lot went right. Jeff Samardzija was sharp, paying for one pitch to Ryan Schimpf that left the park but otherwise pitching seven strong. Panik and Brandon Belt ignited the offense early and Michael Morse came through with a game-tying sacrifice fly in the fifth. Derek Law and Mark Melancon closed it out, with Melancon getting help from Panik, who made a spectacular tumbling catch on a flare to shallow right-center. It was a big first out given that Melancon was pitching for the third straight day.
“It was going to be in no man’s land,” Panik said. “You give it everything you’ve got. Fortunately the ball stayed in the glove.”
When it was over, the youngest Giant was in for another round of interviews to cap a hectic week. On Monday he made his debut and on Tuesday he picked up his first hit. Wednesday brought the first homer and Thursday was the first multi-hit game. What will the weekend include? Maybe a real nickname?
For now, the Giants are fine with leaning on The Kid, because many of them didn’t even know how young the star of the week was until he was a couple of days into his big league career.
“I was thinking he was 23 or 24,” Samardzija said. “This has been really impressive.”
SAN FRANCISCO — On Monday, Christian Arroyo made his MLB debut. Tuesday brought his first hit and on Wednesday it was the first homer. Thursday’s game was his first multi-hit game as a big leaguer. What was in store Friday? The best swing yet.
Arroyo hit a go-ahead shot to left while leading off the eighth, giving the Giants a 4-3 win in their series opener with the Padres. The player coaches simply call “The Kid” has two homers in his first five games, and both have come in huge spots. Friday’s sent another jolt through AT&T Park and got a lead to Mark Melancon, who closed out the Padres.
For four innings, a long-haired right-hander was no-hitting the Padres. Jeff Samardzija was sharp early and he got a nice cushion in the first. Joe Panik and Brandon Belt led off with singles and Panik scored on Erick Aybar’s two-out error. A Conor Gillaspie knock made it 2-0.
The first hit allowed by Samardzija was a painful one. He plunked Yangervis Solarte to open the fifth and Ryan Schimpf hit a long dinger to dead center to tie the game. Cory Spangenberg followed with a single to left that skipped under Belt’s glove. Spangenberg went to third on the play and scored on a bloop.
Belt made up for the play in the bottom of the inning, beating the outfield shift with a double and scoring on Mike Morse’s sacrifice fly to right two batters later. Samardzija ran into trouble in the seventh, but with two in scoring position and one out, he got a strikeout and a grounder to third. The Giants put the go-ahead run on second in their half, but Hunter Pence and Morse struck out.
Starting pitching report: Samardzija has allowed six homers. He’s tied for fourth in the NL with a handful of players, including Johnny Cueto and Matt Moore.
Bullpen report: Melancon has five straight saves since blowing his first opportunity as a Giant.
At the plate: Belt reached base four times. His on-base percentage is sitting at a cool .390.
In the field: Panik made a brilliant diving catch in center for the first out of the ninth.
Attendance: The Giants announced a sellout crowd. One of the fans looked just like Samardzija, possibly on purpose.
Up next: Matt Cain has a 2.42 ERA but he left his last start with a tight hamstring. He’ll face Jhoulys Chacin (2-3, 5.90).