CHICAGO – Madison Bumgarner is not the kind of leader who stands in the middle of a clubhouse, delivers movie-script speeches and starts a slow clap.
He leads the way a plow horse does: with a quiet grunt and a durable will, pulling everyone and everything along behind him.
Buster Posey won’t crowd out Roger Staubach on the inspirational speaking circuit, either. When he’s feeling good, though, his bat is fully capable of leading a comeback.
At the end of a long night that could’ve been much longer, the Giants leaned on both ends of their battery to lead them in a 5-3 victory over the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field on Thursday.
[INSTANT REPLAY: Posey, Bumgarner power Giants past Cubs]
Posey tied his career high by reaching base five times, going 4 for 4 with two doubles, a tiebreaking homer and a walk. Bumgarner pushed himself up a hill and through muggy conditions while striking out 12 in seven innings. And the Giants escaped with a series victory, taking two out of three in a series that will be long remembered in franchise lore.
“We’ve just got to win all the games we can win,” Bumgarner said. “It’s definitely not the point in the year to hold back.”
Posey reached base five times for the fifth time in his career, and the first time since July 8 of last season. His shot in the fifth came one inning after Bumgarner hit a tying single for his 13th RBI of the season, the most among NL pitchers.
A day after Posey rested and received treatment on a sore right hip, he caught the final four innings of Tuesday’s suspended game – which resulted in a 2-1 loss -- and then worked nine more through stifling conditions.
Afterwards, Posey revealed that the hip issue is chronic and he’s dealt with it throughout the year as well as in previous seasons.
“The hip is something I kind of battle throughout the year,” said Posey, who carried a .171 average over his previous eight games. “It just kind of gets bound up. That’s the best way to describe it. I’ve had it for awhile.”
He said it’s different than the back issue that forced him out of action earlier this season. The hip hasn’t required an MRI exam, and reliably calms down with treatment and anti-inflammatory medication.
A healthy Posey is usually a productive Posey, which is something the Giants will need as they seek to have a voice in two playoff races.
“He had an awesome day, an unbelievable day,” Bumgarner said of Posey. “That’s the kinds of things we’ve seen him do. We’ve got to have him, have everybody else doing their part if we want to be in this thing.”
Said Bochy: “It was evident, the way he swung the bat, the day off served him well. It calmed down and he looked good at the plate. That’s a long day for the boys, especially Buster catching all those innings.”
Bumgarner had to catch his breath after serving up back-to-back home runs in the first inning to put the Giants behind 3-1. But as aces often do, he gained life and movement as he went along, and his fastball overwhelmed the free-swinging Cubs at times. His 12 strikeouts was one short of matching his career high, and was his highest total since June 12, 2012 at Houston.
He registered eight of his last nine outs by strikeout, and showed emotion after getting Cubs rookie Javier Baez to swing through a 91 mph fastball to strand the tying run at second base in the seventh.
“What a gutty effort that last inning,” said Bochy, who started to walk to the mound in the seventh but locked eyes with Bumgarner and never ventured past the top step. “He had to bow his head and find a way to gut through it.”
Bumgarner relished facing Baez, who swings so hard he creates his own weather system. He struck out the rookie all four times, throwing fastballs on 17 of 19 pitches to him. In the last at-bat, all six were heaters.
“It could’ve been the turning point in the game,” Bumgarner said. “I knew it was probably my last hitter. I was giving it all I had to get us back in the dugout.”
Said Posey: “It was really humid. He was probably gassed and the tying run is at second base. … By the third inning it felt like he was letting it go pretty good there. He had more life. He’s one of those pitchers that’s got a knack for (strikeouts). He understands how to expand the zone when he gets ahead.”
He enjoys a good challenge fastball, too. What does Bumgarner think when he sees a young kid like Baez swinging out of his shoes against him? Did it get his dander up?
“Well, yeah, any time you’re facing guys that are big-time or supposed to be the next big thing, you reach back for a little more,” Bumgarner said. “I like his philosophy. That’s what I try to do, anyway. Swing hard in case you hit it.”
But isn’t it true that you once confessed to hitting a batter at Double-A because he was swinging too hard?
“Now, you know, that story’s been told and I don’t know where it comes from,” he said, smiling. “Shoot, I couldn’t do that, the way I swing.”
Bumgarner’s swing produced the tying run in the fourth inning, although the Giants caught a break because Cubs manager Rick Renteria spent an unsuccessful challenge an inning earlier. Replays appeared to show that Joaquin Arias’ foot skidded in front of the plate and hovered over it as he was tagged out. There was no way to challenge plate umpire Mike DiMuro’s safe call.
So Bumgarner had his 13th RBI, two back of Johnny Antonelli and Juan Marichal for the Giants’ franchise record for a pitcher. Then he gave whatever he had left to protect the lead that Posey provided.
And the Giants felt fortunate in more ways than one. They took two of three, and they concluded affairs well before midnight. That didn’t look too likely when the first pitch of Tuesday’s suspended game was thrown nearly two hours late because of steady rain, with more in the forecast. But the grounds crew deployed the tarp with aplomb, the second game started just 57 minutes late and the next soaking mercifully held off until the Giants were boarding the bus.
“It’d have been nice to come back (in the suspended game) and we tried,” Bochy said. “We came up short. Still, it’s a tough series, and really, we’ll get into Washington late but not too late. I was concerned about it, to be honest. The long delay, showers later, I didn’t know what was going to happen.”
As it stood, the delay between Tuesday’s stoppage and Thursday’s resumption, following the first successful protest in 28 years, was six hours and 31 minutes – the longest rain delay in baseball history, according to the Society for American Baseball Research.
The Giants have no time to doze. It’ll be Doug Fister, Jordan Zimmermann and Stephen Strasburg this weekend at Nationals Park, against a surging team that has five walk-off victories in a six-game span – the first club to do that since the 1986 Houston Astros, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Bumgarner’s advice – swing hard and don’t hold anything back – would seem to apply.