CHICAGO – Buster Posey was hitting .171 over his previous eight games, he sat out Wednesday night’s game with a sore right hip and it was becoming fair to wonder if he would slide away into another unproductive second half.
It’s amazing how quickly those thoughts dissolve when you’re spilling a fan’s beer in the bleachers and fluttering ivy leaves off the left field wall.
Posey broke out with one of the best offensive games of his career, reaching base all five times and hitting a tiebreaking home run on the fifth inning while powering the Giants to a 5-3 victory over the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field Thursday night.
Posey also walked and doubled twice as part of a 4-for-4 night that raised his average from .278 to .284. Pablo Sandoval also doubled twice and Madison Bumgarner hit a tying single to go along with a hearty, 12-strikeout effort over seven innings.
The Giants weren’t able to win Tuesday’s suspended game when it finally resumed after an additional rain delay of one hour, 57 minutes earlier Thursday. But the skies cleared up for the nightcap, allowing the Giants two victories of sorts: they won the game to take two of three in the series, and they were able to complete affairs before midnight – a doubtful proposition, they thought, given the forecast.
Starting pitching report
Bumgarner (14-9) overcame two early mistakes, and like a true ace, he got better and appeared to throw with more life the deeper he went.
Justin Ruggiano reached out and sent a two-run home run into the right field bleachers, then Wellington Castillo made it back-to-back shots with a towering fly ball down the left field line as the Cubs took a 3-1 lead in the first inning.
Although he had to escape two entanglements, Bumgarner yielded nothing more. On a humid night, he threw 116 pitches in seven innings and recorded eight of his final nine outs via strikeout. His 12 strikeouts were one short of matching his career high, and was his highest total since June 12, 2012 at Houston.
Cubs rookie Javier Baez, who swings so hard he creates his own weather system, struck out four times – including a most aggressive whiff to strand two batters in the seventh inning. Bumgarner showed some emotion and punched the air as he walked off the mound.
Javier Lopez and Sergio Romo teamed up for a scoreless eighth inning and Santiago Casilla pitched the ninth to record his 11th save.
At the plate
The heart of the order finally made some noise in this series. Posey finished a triple away from the cycle, Sandoval doubled twice and Bumgarner, who is the best No.9 hitter in baseball whenever he’s in the lineup, contributed an RBI single.
The Giants got on the board in the first inning when Angel Pagan singled, Posey walked and Sandoval hit an RBI single. They missed a chance for more, though, when Adam Duvall fouled out to first base with one out and the bases loaded.
Posey and Sandoval hit consecutive doubles off left-hander Travis Wood as the Giants pulled within 3-2 in the third inning.
They tied it in the fourth in somewhat controversial fashion when Joaquin Arias scored from second base on Bumgarner’s single. Replays appeared to show that Arias’ foot skidded in front of the plate and caught air as a tag was applied. But umpire Mike DiMuro’s safe call couldn’t be challenged because Cubs manager Rick Renteria, who might be the most active skipper in baseball when it comes to fitting umpires with headphones, used his challenge an inning earlier. (He contended Arismendy Alcantara was hit by a pitch; replays confirmed that he was not.)
Bumgarner ended up with his 13th RBI of the season, which is two away from matching the Giants’ franchise record set by Johnny Antonelli in 1955 and matched by Juan Marichal in 1966.
Bumgarner also leads all NL pitchers with 13 RBI. Wood, actually, ranks second with nine. He has one more as a pinch hitter. No other pitcher had more than four.
Posey’s 14th home run of the season put the Giants ahead in the fifth, although the Giants had Sandoval at third base with no outs and couldn’t add to their lead. They made it 5-3 in the seventh, though, after Pence singled, took third on Posey’s single and scored on Michael Morse’s sacrifice fly.
Sandoval couldn’t come up with Ruggiano’s ground ball down the line in the third inning, but the scorer (justly, I think) ruled it a hit. Sandoval’s errorless streak reached 72 games as he continues to creep on the major league record for a third baseman (99, held by Jeff Cirillo and John Wehner).
The Cubs announced 30,541 paid on what became a beautiful night for baseball. Let’s play one and a half!
The Giants, after a very late arrival into Washington DC, will begin a three-game series with the Nationals on Friday. Tim Hudson (8-9, 3.03 ERA), who was sent ahead on an earlier flight, is scheduled to take the mound against Nationals right-hander Doug Fister (12-3, 2.20). First pitch is scheduled for 4:05 p.m. PDT. It’ll be Tim Lincecum (10-8, 4.48) vs. right-hander Jordan Zimmermann (8-5, 2.97) on Saturday and Ryan Vogelsong (7-9, 3.73) vs. right-hander Stephen Strasburg (10-10, 3.41) on Sunday.