SAN FRANCISCO –- In case you’re a little hazy on the All-Star roster rules, allow us to provide clarification:
No, Madison Bumgarner cannot pinch-hit for the NL team. Or start at designated hitter. He’s inactive for the game, his activities limited to cheering for Yasiel Puig, Giancarlo Stanton, Paul Goldschmidt and many other NL teammates who have lower slugging percentages than he does.
“Nawww,” said Bumgarner, told he’s outslugging Stanton, among others.
“I’ll be sure to let him know,” he said, after a beat.
There is sure to be plenty of talk about Bumgarner’s hitting among his NL teammates, especially after he and Buster Posey became the first batterymates in major league history to hit a grand slam in the same game during the Giants’ 8-4 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks on Sunday.
Check out the Instant Replay for all the facts, firsts and figures. We’ll pull this one out for you, though: Bumgarner is the first major league pitcher to hit two grand slams in a season since 1966, when the Braves’ Tony Cloninger famously hit two in a game July 3 of that year at Candlestick Park.
“You just kind of shake your head,” said Posey, a look of authentic wonder on his face. “I was actually asking (Dave Righetti) how many pitchers have hit two grand slams in a season. I didn’t realize a pitcher and catcher had never done it.”
Said Tim Hudson, who was named as Bumgarner’s active replacement on the All-Star roster: “He’s gonna be hard to deal with in this locker room now after two grand slams.”
In every other respect, it’ll be a lot easier for the Giants to deal with four days away from baseball before they play Friday at Miami. A team that gave away a 9 ½-game lead in the NL West remains in a good position; their 52 wins matching the 2011 club for their most at the break in 11 seasons.
They finally captured a home series, too, taking two of three from Arizona -– the first time they’ve won a series at AT&T Park since that three-game sweep of the Mets on June 6-8 marked the high-water point of their season.
Bumgarner’s slam in the sixth inning provided the winning margin, but it was Posey’s shot with the bases loaded in the fifth inning that gave the Giants a 4-1 lead. It was the hit the Giants have groped in the dark to find while they were shut out in five of their previous 13 games, and came within two garbage-time runs of getting blanked by the A’s in two others.
“Buster’s hit was the one that I think gave us a sense of relief throughout the dugout,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “We’ve been missing that hit.
“We really thought this was a critical game. … No question, it’s big to take this series and go into the half on a good note so the guys feel good about themselves.”
Posey’s slam reminded me of another that loomed large in recent franchise history. It happened on Sept. 23, 2010, at Wrigley Field after the Giants had scored one run over the first two games of a series with the Cubs. In fact, they had been shut out four times in their previous 10 games. Everyone was wondering, then as now, whether this team would hit enough to win with any consistency and see a pennant race through.
Before the game, the hitters met in the cramped cage underneath the right field bleachers, behind the bricks and ivy. Edgar Renteria broke down and cried, and told his teammates he wanted one more chance at a World Series. Then Juan Uribe went out and hit a grand slam and a two-run homer all in the second inning of a 13-0 victory that put the Giants in first place.
Bumgarner started that game, too, and that inning seemed to break loose a polar ice cap.
The Giants rolled from there and Renteria lived up to his pledge under the bleachers. He was the unlikely World Series MVP that season.
Who knows if Posey and Bumgarner gave these Giants the same kind of lift? Perhaps this game, the first time the Giants have scored eight runs since June 1, combined with the All-Star break, could help them hit the reset button and forget about what they’ve given away.
“The challenge for us now is to look at the overall record,” Posey said. “We’re still in a good spot.”
Bumgarner helped himself in more ways than one Sunday. He also doubled to start the rally that culminated with Posey’s slam. The next inning, after Brandon Crawford walked to load the bases, Bumgarner was geared up for a 98 mph first-pitch fastball from Matt Stites.
“Always,” Bumgarner said. “It’s the only thing I can hit.”
Said Posey: “It was a line drive, and it got out quick.”
Not only is Bumgarner’s .550 slugging percentage the highest on the Giants, but it’s fourth-highest among NL All-Stars. Only Troy Tulowitzki, Devin Mesoraco and Andrew McCutchen are outslugging him. His three homers already match the San Francisco-era record for a pitcher and his 12 RBIs are the most since Juan Marichal collected a franchise-record 15 in 1966.
No, Bochy said he wouldn’t consider giving up the DH the next time Bumgarner pitches in an AL park. He’s the opening-day starter, after all, so no need to risk anything. (Someone should remind Bochy that Bumgarner takes that same risk when he starts 90 percent of his games in NL parks. But whatever.)
“He’s gotten so much better as a hitter,” Bochy said. “He’s got a quick bat and as you know, he’s strong. He gets the bat out there. That’s something that can win a game for you.”
All of this talk of Bumgarner’s hitting is well deserved and appropriate. But the left-hander was quick to point out that he slipped while allowing three runs in the seventh inning, and he allowed 10 hits for the second consecutive start.
“It feels good but I’ve got to get back to pitching,” he said, with a hangdog expression. “Today it wasn’t terrible but if we didn’t score a lot of runs it would’ve been a different story.
“I’m happy about it because it got us a win but the last four games haven’t been very good for me. They’ve been OK but not what we need to have that good push.”
What’s been the difference?
“You know, I don’t know,” said Bumgarner, who will have his regular four days of rest before opening the series at Miami on Friday. “I’ll use the break to look at stuff, see if I’m doing anything different. Maybe I’m relying on one pitch too often. I don’t know. I’ll check and see. Maybe it’s nothing, but it can’t hurt to check.”
In the meantime, he might sneak another look at that grand slam swing. His NL teammates might insist on that, actually.