SAN FRANCISCO – Michael Morse and Hunter Pence are acquiring a museum’s supply of war helmets for their Giants teammates. Madison Bumgarner doesn’t have one yet.
That might change soon.
“I think they ordered, like, 10 more this morning,” Bumgarner said.
They probably don’t make the 10-gallon version in forged steel. But leave it to Morse. He’ll find something appropriate.
“He’s awesome, one of the best teammates I ever had,” said Bumgarner, who tossed seven strong innings and watched Morse hit three doubles in an 8-1 victory over the Minnesota Twins on Sunday. “It’s hard to explain. He’s just excited to help out in any way he can. He’s great in here.”
And out there. In one of the coolest moments at AT&T Park all season, Morse received a sustained, standing ovation following his bases-clearing double in the fifth inning. The Giants had been on the verge of wasting a huge bases-loaded, no-out opportunity after struggling No.3 hitter Buster Posey looked at three strikes and cleanup man Pablo Sandoval popped up the first pitch.
But Morse put a 2-2 slider from Ricky Nolasco into play, and it squeaked down the left field line to clear the bases.
Morse flailed his arms and laughed as the crowd continued to serenade him through a Twins pitching change. He appeared equal parts embarrassed and euphoric. The Giants saw fit to hit the crowd with another chorus of Morse’s “Take On Me” anthem, too.
“The fans here are the best fans in baseball. They prove it every day,” said Morse, who also had a sac fly and finished with four RBIs. “Moments like that make you so humble and happy.”
If the Giants had lost Sunday, all the talk would be about Posey, their de facto captain and franchise star, and what’s the matter with him. His average is down to .264 and he hasn’t looked right since missing two games with an irritated nerve in his back earlier in the week at Colorado. Morse hit three doubles Sunday. Posey has three all season.
Giants manager Bruce Bochy said Posey was fine and he double-switched him out after seven innings to give him a break after the club built a big lead. Bochy continues to believe it’s a matter of time before Posey breaks out of it – just as he correctly surmised it would be a matter of time before Sandoval found his old form at the plate.
It benefited Sandoval then and it’s a benefit to Posey now: When you stink at the plate, there’s no better deodorizer than to play on a rollicking, fun loving, ovation-inducing team that owns the best record in baseball.
They outscored the Twins 16-4 while sweeping the three-game series. And they’re 6-0 in interleague play, already matching their win total against AL teams last year (6-14).
“We’re a good hitting team and we believe in each other,” Morse said. “If one guy doesn’t get it done, we believe the next guy will. … I knew coming into camp what kind of team we had. It’s a great team and we’re proving it day in and day out. Everybody believes in everybody. We’re trying to get to a main goal here, and everybody’s in.”
Said Bumgarner: “We’ve got a good team – better than a lot of people realized. On paper it might not be better, but I’d put us against anybody. We don’t have anyone selfish in here.”
Bumgarner might have been inside his own head a bit, though. He met the Twins for the first time since June 21, 2011, when he 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, and the lefty was charged with eight earned runs that day. Statistically, it might have been the worst start in Giants history.
What was going through Bumgarner’s mind as he faced the first hitter Sunday?
“Please get this first guy out…please get this first guy out…please get this first guy out,” he said, with a laugh. “Definitely, for sure, I didn’t forget about that. There wasn’t a lot of talk about it, but that’s tough to forget a start like that one.”
So yes, Bumgarner very much enjoyed his 1-2-3 first inning. He liked it so much that he pitched another. He finished with 10 strikeouts, allowed hits to just three of 25 batters faced, and, in the only similarity to his previous nightmare against the Twins, he did not walk a batter.
“It doesn’t matter who’s in there and who’s not,” Bumgarner said. “It’s still the same team and it sticks with you.”
The one common thread for the Twins then and now was Joe Mauer. Bumgarner struck him out three times. That’s something only three other pitchers have done to the former AL MVP and three-time batting champ. CC Sabathia (twice), Ryan Dempster and John Lackey were the others.
“The difference today was making pitches to both sides of the plate, instead of one or the other, and being on top of the ball,” said Bumgarner, who is 4-0 with a 2.53 ERA in five starts this month. “That was it, really.”
Hunter Pence hit a solo homer, Gregor Blanco collected three hits while giving Angel Pagan a rest and George Kontos might have won himself some me-time with Morse’s Leonidas helmet from “300” by pitching a pair of shutout innings. (Kontos is proud of his Greek heritage, and yes, he wants his own Spartan headgear.)
Bumgarner said Morse has chided him a few times about the home run he hit off him in Washington a couple years ago. Bumgarner joked he knew Morse would end up a Giant, “and I wanted to get a good friendship going.”
Bumgarner is chummy with Sandoval, it seems. The Panda made a show of wearing Bumgarner’s ostrich quill cowboy boots in the dugout prior to batting practice. And I can tell you that Bumgarner takes his boots very seriously.
“I’m just gonna leave a pair in the dugout for him,” Bumgarner said. “If it helps him hit, he can wear them all the time.”
They share, they care, they have the best record in baseball, they are having fun, and it shows. As Morse stood on second base, awash in the crowd’s affection, he could have cribbed a famous movie line.
Are you not entertained?