SAN FRANCISCO – Michael Morse earned himself at least one full gallop through the postgame clubhouse wearing his Leonidas helmet.
Unofficially, it was Morse Appreciation Day at AT&T Park on Sunday. The big, strong first baseman became the first Giant in nearly a year to hit three doubles in a game. One of them cleared the bases in the fifth inning and set off a standing ovation that appeared to both embarrass and enrapture Morse as he stood on second base.
Madison Bumgarner struck out 10 and didn’t walk a batter in seven innings, thoroughly flushing his previous start against the Twins from three years earlier as the Giants won 8-1 at China Basin.
Here’s one for you: The Giants are 6-0 in interleague play after home sweeps of the Twins and Indians. They’ve already matched their win total against AL clubs last season, when they went 6-14 against them.
Starting pitching report
Bumgarner was facing the Twins for the second time in his career, and there was no forgetting his first encounter with them. It might have ranked as the worst start by a Giant in franchise history.
Back on June 21, 2011, Bumgarner faced 10 batters and gave up nine hits – a fluke that a big league lineup would have a hard time replicating with a batting tee. Twins pitcher Carl Pavano was the only batter that Bumgarner retired as he was charged with eight earned runs that day.
So you can bet Bumgarner savored it on Sunday when he worked a 1-2-3 first inning. He subdued the Twins all afternoon, striking out 10 and yielded his only run on back-to-back singles and a sacrifice fly in the third inning.
Bumgarner couldn’t handle an infield single in the fifth inning and balked Danny Santana to second base when he didn’t make a full stop before throwing over. But he kept his composure and struck out Nolasco to end the inning.
Bumgarner (6-3) struck out Joe Mauer three times, becoming just the fourth pitcher to do that over the former AL MVP and three-time batting champ’s career. CC Sabathia (twice), John Lackey and Ryan Dempster are the others.
Bumgarner improved to 4-0 with a 2.53 ERA in five starts in May.
George Kontos is Greek. He tossed two scoreless innings. So let him try on the Spartan helmet, too, OK?
At the plate
There was a time when Ricky Nolasco could do no wrong at AT&T Park. Even after giving up nine runs in two starts here last season, he entered 4-1 with a 2.55 ERA in six career starts at Third and King.
But no kindness was shown to him in a cruel, two-run first inning that included a bloop, a broken bat and a misplayed single. Gregor Blanco’s blooper should’ve been caught in center field, but Santana, a reserve infielder was getting a start there. Buster Posey held just his bat handle after his single fell in left field. There was an apparent cross-up with catcher Kurt Suzuki that was scored a wild pitch and allowed both runners to advance. Then left fielder Eduardo Nunez got a terrible jump as Pablo Sandoval’s very catchable RBI single eluded his diving attempt. Morse hit a sacrifice fly to complete the rally.
Hunter Pence hit his sixth home run of the season in the third inning, giving the Giants a 3-1 lead. They tacked on another run in the fourth when Morse doubled, advanced on a grounder and made a dust storm at the plate while scoring on Brandon Crawford’s sacrifice fly to medium center field.
The “torture” Giants of the past would’ve stopped scoring there, or earlier. This is a different group.
It appeared the middle of the order might waste a massive chance in the fifth inning, when they went walk-single-single to load the bases with no outs. Posey had a truly impotent at-bat -- called strike, called strike, foul, called strike – and Sandoval popped up on the first pitch.
But Morse found a way to put a two-strike slider into play, and he was fortunate enough to chop it past third base and into left field for a double that cleared the bases.
It was a neat scene as Morse stood on second base, soaking up a standing ovation that the sellout crowd only took the opportunity to amplify as the Twins made a pitching change. Morse looked enraptured by the moment. He was as giddy as a kid, laughing and flailing his arms, as the Giants played his “Take On Me” walk-up music.
He liked the moment so much he did it again, ripping his third double of the day to set up another run in the eighth inning.
Posey exited as part of a double switch after grounding into a double play in the seventh. The Giants continue to win while their best hitter is lost at the plate.
Nothing illustrates Posey’s struggles better than this:
Morse had three doubles Sunday. Posey has three doubles all season.
The Giants announced 42,590 paid, and they’d do well to stock up on Morse jerseys. No.38 could become a best seller again.
The Giants play a Memorial Day matinee on Monday as they begin a three-game series with the Chicago Cubs at AT&T Park. Yusmeiro Petit (3-1, 4.76) makes a spot start for Matt Cain and is scheduled to oppose Cubs right-hander Jeff Samardzija (0-4, 1.46). First pitch is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. PDT. It’ll be Tim Hudson (4-2, 2.13) vs. right-hander Jake Arrieta (1-0, 2.33) on Tuesday and Tim Lincecum (4-3, 4.55) vs. right-hander Edwin Jackson (3-4, 4.94) on Wednesday.