Giants spring training Day 31: Bumgarner dominates in lengthy outing

Giants spring training Day 31: Bumgarner dominates in lengthy outing

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The Giants had Madison Bumgarner set for four or five innings on Wednesday. The ace blew right past that in one of the most efficient outings you’ll see in a Cactus League game. 

Bumgarner allowed just one hit over six scoreless innings and he worked so quickly that the Giants actually had to come up short of his scheduled pitch count. As he hit the 70-pitch mark, Bumgarner had already thrown six innings and taken two at-bats. 

“Every time out it’s a little better, a little better,” he said. “Today was by far the best. I’m pretty happy with where I’m at.”

If Bumgarner looks this sharp on March 15, what will he do until the April 2 opener? Perhaps, he’ll turn to his other on-field passion. Bumgarner was 0-for-2 as the first Giants pitcher to hit this spring, striking out twice and throwing his bat into the stands down the third-base line on one swing. How did he grade the first day in the batter’s box?

“Pretty not very good,” he said. 

Manager Bruce Bochy had Bumgarner hitting eighth, and he said it’s something he’ll look at in the regular season if the Giants have multiple speedy leadoff types in the lineup. That process will ramp up in the coming weeks, as pitchers take more and more at-bats and start to get back into the flow. On the mound, Bochy doesn’t need to see much more. 

“That’s just a great outing for him,” Bochy said. “He pounded the strike zone and had everything going. You look at an outing like today and you think he’s ready, but he needs a couple more outings. He’ll tell you that.”

CUETO WATCH: Over at the minor league facility, Johnny Cueto also looked to be near regular season form. Making his second appearance of the spring, Cueto allowed two hits and struck out three in 3 2/3 innings. He threw 53 pitches. 

Cueto still has not fully ruled out a WBC cameo. There’s a small chance that he joins the Dominican Republic team for the final round. 

LINEUP CHANGE? Bochy had Eduardo Nuñez hitting second and Joe Panik seventh against lefty Tyler Skaggs, and he said the staff is talking about that as an option for real games. 

“Nuney, you saw what he did today,” Bochy said. 

Nuñez manufactured the first run of the day, doubling in the sixth and stealing third ahead of an RBI groundout by Mac Williamson. He hit righties better last season, but his .751 OPS was still way ahead of Panik’s .596. 

HIGHLIGHT REEL: Nuñez and Panik teamed up for a nifty double play to end the third inning. Nuñez snagged Yunel Escobar’s grounder and made a tricky overhand throw from the ground to Panik, who hung in on the bag and made a strong throw to first. They’ll have easier opportunities later this spring. Bochy said he’s going to get Nuñez a few starts at shortstop.

STARTER WATCH: Ty Blach’s first inning out of the bullpen was a nightmare: Five straight hits and four Angels runs. Bochy seemed more interested in what happened next. Blach came out for the eighth and cruised.

“What I like about it is the next inning he goes out and really has a solid inning,” Bochy said. “He didn’t let it fluster him.”

In the race for the No. 5 spot — which has tightened up quite a bit — Blach didn’t do himself any favors Wednesday, but he certainly showed some mettle. 

STOCK RISING: Michael Morse crushed a double off the left-center wall that was about two feet from being a homer and he later added a tie-breaking single. His spring average is up to .304 with a 1.016 OPS, and he’s moving well at first base.  

“Mo is swinging it well,” Bochy said. “He’s really seeing the ball well. It’s evident he worked hard to come in and try to make the club.”

Another couple of weeks like this might do it. After a slow start, Morse has five hits in his past three games, including two homers. 

“Early on, everything was there but I was just missing off the end of the bat,” he said. “Now I’m seeing the ball deeper and getting it on the barrel more.”


Williamson stuns Davis in ninth, but earlier mistakes haunt Giants

Williamson stuns Davis in ninth, but earlier mistakes haunt Giants

CHICAGO — Had a half-dozen other things gone differently Wednesday night, the Giants might have spent the hour after the game shrugging off a blowout loss or celebrating one of the best at-bats of the year. 

Three innings after the game was nearly lost for good, Mac Williamson saw 12 pitches from Wade Davis, who entered with a perfect ERA in 19 appearances, fouling eight of them off before slamming a two-run homer to right. The play came with some comedic value, as Williamson nearly passed Eduardo Nuñez on the bases. It also came with some historic value, as it snapped a streak of 19 consecutive solo shots that was two shy of the MLB record. 

The homer was not, however, the talking point after the game. A few minutes after Williamson went deep, Joe Panik was tossing his bat into the grass in frustration over a called third strike that ended the game and clinched a 5-4 win for the Cubs. Ten minutes after that, Bruce Bochy watched the highlight and tossed his phone onto his desk. 

“It’s a shame to end on that call, it really is,” Bochy said. “We had him on fumes and that’s not a strike. But they got the call and that’s it.”

The Giants were left with their third loss in four games, a run that has halted their momentum. They again are 11 games back in the National League West, with so many nights like this one: A comeback seemed real, but the mistakes were too much to overcome. 

Williamson, in talking about his homer, pivoted and pointed to a blunder of his own. In a tied game in the fifth, Miguel Montero hit a single to right with Addison Russell on first. The speedy shortstop watched Williamson as the ball rolled into the outfield, and when Williamson didn’t charge as hard as he otherwise might, Russell took off for third. The throw was perfect, but late. Russell scored on a fly ball. 

“The home run is really cool but it would have been a lot cooler if I hadn’t have made the mistake earlier in the game and given them the extra run,” Williamson said, explaining that he has tried to focus on being smooth to the ball and not rushing on fast outfields. In the past, rushing has led to bobbles and extra bases. 

Another costly sequence came in the eighth. After the Giants left the bases loaded in the top of the inning, Steven Okert gave up a triple to Jason Heyward, who scored on a sacrifice fly. Okert, so good when he was first called up, has been less effective of late. 

“We’ve got to get our lefties going,” Bochy said. “We gave them a run there and that put it at three and that’s just enough to cover it for them.”

Truth be told, the Giants were probably lucky to even have worries at that point. The wind blew a three-run Heyward homer inches foul in the sixth, and while the Giants grumbled about the final call of the game, an earlier call on Heyward for running inside the base path took a Cubs run off the board and killed a rally. It was correct by the letter of the law, but one you rarely see. The Giants escaped, but they wouldn’t come all the way back, despite Williamson’s late push. 

The young outfielder has been looking to make an impact since coming back up on the last homestand. He knew how tough Davis has been. 

“He’s been the best in the game this year and the numbers speak for themselves,” Williamson said. “He has phenomenal stuff. You get in the box and figure you’ve got nothing to lose, battle as tough as you can.”

Williamson fouled off good strikes and tantalizing balls. When he lofted a 2-2 pitch toward right, he took off out of the box. The ball carried just over the wall, and Williamson didn’t look up until he rounded third. That’s when Phil Nevin started yelling at him to slow down. Nuñez, who had a tight hamstring, turned and told Williamson to slow down.

“I kinda blacked out for a second there,” Williamson said. 

“I was like, ‘Bro, it’s a homer — just jog,’” Nunez said.

The moment temporarily sent a rush through the dugout. Minutes later, the Giants were left livid over a game that probably shouldn’t have been so close, but nonetheless was right there for them to steal. 

Instant Analysis: Giants' rally falls short in 5-4 loss to Cubs

Instant Analysis: Giants' rally falls short in 5-4 loss to Cubs


CHICAGO — The Giants will need a win on getaway day to clinch their first winning road trip.

Wednesday's comeback attempt fell just short, as the Giants scored two in the ninth but lost to the Cubs 5-4. Since taking the first two games in St. Louis, they have dropped three of four, falling 11 games back of the Rockies in the division.

Here are five things to know from the coldest Giants game of the year … 

— Mac Williamson fouled off eight pitches before going the opposite way against Wade Davis, who entered with a 0.00 ERA in 19 appearances. The two-run homer ended a run of 19 consecutive solo shots by the Giants, two short of their own MLB record. It was the first homer off Davis in two years. 

— The sixth inning was one of the stranger escapes we’ve seen from a pitcher this season. With two on and one out, Jason Heyward blasted a Matt Moore pitch right down the line and it looked like it would give the Cubs a 6-2 lead. The wind blew the ball a couple of feet foul. Heyward then topped one down the line and Moore’s throw bounced away from first, allowing a run to score. But the umpires called — correctly — Heyward out for running inside the line. It’s a call you rarely see. Moore then struck out Addison Russell to keep what could have easily been a 6-2 or 4-2 game at 3-2. 

— Before the first game of this series, a Giant asked in the dugout, “I wonder what some of the Cubs’ numbers would look like at our place?” Anthony Rizzo is a .159 hitter with no homers in 18 career games at AT&T Park, but he had no issues on a night when conditions were worse than they are most nights in San Francisco. Rizzo homered off Moore in his first two at-bats. 

— Rizzo will occasionally put a bunt down to beat the shift — he had an accidental bunt in his third at-bat — which the Giants have long wanted Brandon Belt to do. Belt pushed one away from the shift in the sixth, and even though it was too close to pitcher Kyle Hendricks, the throw was off and Belt reached second. One of those a week would open up a few more holes. 

— This lineup has made a habit of making mediocre and downright bad pitchers look good, and the actual good ones are taking advantage, too. A night after Jon Lester recorded his first complete game of the year, Hendricks threw seven innings for the first time.