DENVER–It isn’t easy to beat the Giants these days, and it’s become even more difficult for an opponent to score off of Madison Bumgarner.
The Rockies accomplished both of those feats in a 5-2 defeat of the Giants Monday, even if they did their damage when Bumgarner finally came off the mound.
The Giants have won 11 of their last 15 games, but all four of their losses have come in games in which they’ve allowed at least three runs after the sixth inning.
After snapping off 22 straight scoreless innings, Bumgarner opened the bottom of the seventh by allowing three straight singles including an infield dribbler off the bat of Charlie Blackmon to load the bases.
With Rockies slugger Nolan Arenado at the plate, Bruce Bochy strolled to the mound and took the ball out of Bumgarner’s hands and turned the game over to his bullpen with a 2-0 lead.
The wheels fell off and Colorado stopped San Francisco in its tracks.
A bases loaded walk by reliever Reyes Moronta plated Colorado’s first run and the Rockies tied the game on a double play ball. Moronta nearly escaped the inning after inducing a groundball, but Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford threw the ball away from first baseman Brandon Belt and the Rockies broke the tie.
The Giants began their six-game road trip with a miserable 16-26 record away from AT&T Park this season, but a combination of stellar pitching performances and timely hits led to a series sweep of the first-place Arizona Diamondbacks. San Francisco beat one of the National League’s toughest pitchers, Patrick Corbin, to open the weekend, but didn’t need Bumgarner to improve to a season-best five games over .500.
Bumgarner entered Monday’s start coming off back-to-back scoreless outings against the Padres and Rockies, having pitched both of those games in the pitcher-friendly confines of AT&T Park. While he allowed a combined five hits in 15 innings, the Giants ace had yet to showcase the type of fastball velocity the Giants have come to expect from him.
In 32 1/3 innings in June, Bumgarner threw just two pitches faster than 92 miles per hour. His velocity was back Monday, as he ramped his two-seamer up to 92.7 miles per hour and threw 44 fastballs at an average of 91.9 miles per hour.
Though the Rockies didn’t score when Bumgarner was pitching, the left-hander was charged with two earned runs as the Giants fell to 45-41.
In their last outing against Rockies starter Kyle Freeland, the Giants were held scoreless through seven innings as they failed to provide Bumgarner with a single run of support. They waited until the ninth to draw first blood, but Brandon Crawford’s walkoff home run off left-hander Harrison Musgrave was also the only run they needed to secure a 1-0 win.
This time around, Freeland’s evening began in decidedly different fashion.
Giants center fielder Gorkys Hernández swung at Freeland’s first pitch and clobbered a 359-foot opposite field home run that sailed through the thin mountain air. It was the Giants’ second leadoff homer of the year and their first since Gregor Blanco deposited a ball over the right field fence in Philadelphia in a 6-3 loss on May 10.
Hernández’s 11th homer of the year was also his fifth against the Rockies in 11 games, but it was one of just five hits the Giants recorded all night.
San Francisco added on in the third on a hit where the size of the Coors Field outfield helped net the Giants a run they likely wouldn’t have scored in a smaller park. With Belt at first, catcher Buster Posey worked a nine-pitch at-bat and sent a hard one-hopper past the glove of Trevor Story at shortstop.
The ball continued to skip into the left center field alleyway, allowing Belt to race home and Posey to reach second with his 17th double of the year.
The Rockies threatened to answer against Bumgarner early on, but rookie left fielder Austin Slater provided outstanding defensive support to aid his starter. Slater caught a routine flyball in foul territory to help Bumgarner escape a bases loaded jam in the first, but he saved his best work for the next two innings.
In the second, Slater took away extra bases from left fielder Noel Cuevas with a headfirst dive and in the third, he snagged a rocket off the bat of Chris Iannetta to rob the Rockies of another scoring opportunity with the bases loaded.
Giants announce international signings
The international signing period began Monday and the Giants wasted little time making a splash.
The club announced the signings of 11 international prospects including 16-year-old shortstop Marco Luciano, ranked as the No. 2 free agent signee in this year’s class.
Six of the 11 signees hailed from Venezuela, with Luciano among four players the Giants agreed to deals with from the Dominican Republic. 17-year-old outfielder Jairo Pomares was the lone prospect to sign with the Giants from Cuba.
DENVER — The surging San Francisco Giants open a three-game series Monday at Coors Field, where they have fared poorly. But ace left-hander Madison Bumgarner, who is in vintage form, will start against the Colorado Rockies in a sequel of sorts.
Bumgarner (1-2, 2.51 ERA) and Rockies left-hander Kyle Freeland (7-6, 3.29 ERA), who has been the Rockies’ best starter, opposed each other Wednesday at AT&T Park. Both starters pitched seven scoreless innings before the Giants won 1-0 on Brandon Crawford‘s walk-off homer.
The Giants have lost 12 of their past 14 games at Coors Field. But they began their current road trip by sweeping three games at Arizona — their first sweep at Chase Field since September 2016 — giving the Giants (45-40) 10 wins in their past 12 games.
The Giants are 19-26 on the road, which is the second-worst road record in the National League. But they have won eight of their past 14 road games.
The Giants are tied for second in the NL West with the Los Angeles Dodgers, 2 1/2 games behind the Diamondbacks. That is the closest the Giants have been to first place since June 10, when they were also 2 1/2 games behind.
The Giants got strong starts from Andrew Suarez and Dereck Rodriguez while beating the Diamondbacks 2-1 and 7-0 and overcame a poor start by Derek Holland to win the series finale, 9-6.
“These are big games for us, for sure,” Giants catcher Buster Posey said after Saturday’s win. “I think we all collectively know we’ve got to play better on the road. … We go to Denver, where we haven’t played well the past couple of years. It’s a matter of keeping our focus and executing.”
Bumgarner’s execution has been uncommonly good lately.
He has a string of 16 consecutive scoreless innings dating back to June 16 against the Dodgers at Los Angeles. He then worked eight scoreless innings June 21 against San Diego and limited the Rockies to two hits Wednesday in seven innings.
That gave Bumgarner back-to-back scoreless outings of at least seven innings for the first time in his career. In 27 starts in his career, Bumgarner is 12-7 with a 2.92 ERA against the Rockies.
At Coors Field, he is 5-5 with an ERA of 4.00 in 13 starts. He hasn’t pitched in Colorado since 2016.
This is the second season in the majors for Freeland, who is 4-2 with an ERA of 2.61 in seven starts against the Giants. He’s 2-0 in three starts against them this year.
Freeland has allowed three or fewer runs in 11 starts and four runs in the other. In six starts at Coors Field this year, Freeland is 4-2 with a 2.95 ERA.
Freeland held the Giants to four singles Wednesday, and registered 12 ground-ball outs.
Bumgarner gave up a single and a double, allowed one runner to reach third base and struck out eight (six swinging). Freeland threw 104 pitches, 67 for strikes. Bumgarner finished with 101 pitches, 66 strikes.
“It was a great matchup between two lefties, one just starting his career and getting his feet on the ground, and Bumgarner obviously we know what he’s done in his career,” Rockies manager Bud Black said. “It was impressive from Kyle in terms of the changeup usage, keeping the ball down, enough inside to keep the righties honest, changing speeds, sinking the ball.”
The Rockies (41-43) dropped two of three at San Francisco but then won two of three at Los Angeles, ending a 3-3 road trip with a 6-4 loss Sunday that kept them six games behind Arizona.
The Rockies are 26-21 on the road, but their 15-22 home record is the second-worst in the NL.
PHOENIX — Every time Madison Bumgarner approaches the plate at AT&T Park, the crowd buzzes because everyone wants to see him hit a home run. He has 17, most by any active pitcher.
When Bumgarner suits up for Monday night’s start at Coors Field, he would just like to get any old hit. He is 0-for-12 with seven strikeouts and a sacrifice fly since his return from a broken hand.
“I haven’t thought about it much, but it would be nice to get on the board,” Bumgarner said Sunday. “I’ve been up a few times with a chance to drive in some runs. If I don’t get a hit I just want to make a productive out.”
Bumgarner has had as many as 19 hits in a season (2015) and at least three homers in each of the past four seasons. The Giants could use his production because the all the starters are making a great case for the universal DH.
Giants pitchers rank last in the National League with a .053 average, 9-for-154, with Derek Holland doubling for the ninth hit Sunday. They’re also 10th in sacrifice bunts with 13. What typically has been a strength for the Giants is now a huge weakness.
The hottest-hitting pitcher in the league is a reliever, Cincinnati’s Michael Lorenzen, who has homered in three consecutive at-bats, including a grand slam against Milwaukee as a pinch-hitter Saturday night.
Bumgarner is impressed, but not surprised. He pitched to Lorenzen in 2015 and thought he was looking at a position player.
Bumgarner does not blame his .000 batting average on an inability to practice hitting during his rehab.
“I won’t say that at all,” he said. “You build a little bit of a reputation. The league sees what you can hit or not and adjusts. It’s all about adjustments, and I have to adjust.”
Signing day: Monday is an important day for the Giants. The 2018-19 international signing period begins, and the Giants will escape the penalty box for surpassing their bonus slot in 2015 to sign Bahamian Lucius Fox, since traded to the Rays.
For two years the Giants could not offer a bonus to any single player above $300,000. Now, they can spend their roughly $5 million pool any way they want, and they plan to make some high-impact moves.
“For sure, we will be active,” general manager Bobby Evans said.
Baseball America reports the Giants will sign one of the big prizes in this year’s class, Dominican shortstop Marco Luciano. The publication also has the Giants signing Cuban outfielder Jairo Pomares and Venezuelan outfielder Luis Matos.
Briefly: The Giants still have a poor road record at 19-26, but their four series wins have come against tough competition: the Angels (who were hot at the time), Braves, Nationals and Diamondbacks. Their three series they have swept all have been against contenders: the Braves and Diamondbacks on the road, the Phillies at home. … The Giants’ 2.69-ERA improvement from May to June was the second best for those months in big-league history. Only the 2002 A’s had a better improvement, but barely, at 2.70. … The Giants earned their first sweep at Chase Field since 2016.
Henry Schulman is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer.
When it comes to chatter about a “universal” designated hitter, San Francisco Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner is waving the white flag.
“I understand they don’t care what I say,” Bumgarner told the San Francisco Chronicle. “I’ll play whatever rules we have, but I think it’s kind of getting out of hand.
“Honestly, I don’t care anymore. We’ve changed so many rules, I can’t keep up with it. I play the game that they have for us. Who knows what that’s going to be when I’m finished, as much as I’ve seen changes in the little time I’ve been here.”
Bumgarner enjoys pitchers having the ability to contribute to the offensive side of the game in the National League. The three-time World Series champion sports a .181 career batting average with 17 home runs, and he thinks having the pitcher hit adds “100 percent more strategy” than American League games.
“Don’t get me wrong,” Bumgarner said. “My job is pitching. That’s what I’m going to focus on doing. But the whole reason I work on hitting is because that’s how we play in the National League. You can help a team win a game.”
Bumgarner allowed four runs on six hits and one walk across 5.1 innings in a no-decision Monday against the Marlins. He struck out three.
Bumgarner allowed two runs on three hits in the fourth inning, but the offense came back and gave him a lead going into the sixth. He faltered in the frame, however, allowing two more runs on three hits and a walk before his removal. Bumgarner worked up to 91 pitches in his second start of the season, but he threw just 55 percent for strikes and clearly has some rust left to shake off. He’ll have the opportunity to do just that in his next scheduled start this weekend against the Dodgers.
Alex Rodriguez is once again making news and it has nothing to do with his high-profile and extravagant romance with Jennifer Lopez. Thanks to his blossoming media career and continuing efforts at rehabilitating his tarnished image, Rodriguez recently used one of his multiple media outlets (FS1’s MLB Whiparound) to opine on how San Francisco Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner would be a perfect fit for the New York Yankees if he becomes available via the trade market this summer. Besides setting social media afire with dreams of grandeur for Yankees fans, was Rodriguez actually using his growing media presence to send a message to the organization in which he serves as a special adviser?
In truth, that enhanced his argument. The Giants need top flight prospects to rebuild their farm system, they have already received extraordinary value from Bumgarner at a significantly below market value contract, and a short-term loss could actually be a long-term gain for the franchise. Rodriguez clearly has a high aptitude for baseball and his enthusiasm is infectious. Even though the specter of performance enhancing substances still engulfs Rodriguez, no one can deny his passion and intelligence regarding the sport.
LOS ANGELES, CA – APRIL 01: ESPN announcers Alex Rodriguez, Jessica Mendoza and Matt Vasgersian. (Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
In this particular case, you have to wonder if a conflict of interest exists just because of the multiple hats Rodriguez currently wears within the game at the present moment. Was he simply being a baseball analyst on a cable network sports program or was he demonstrating his abilities to assess talent for the Yankees in an attempt to one day obtain a larger role within the organization’s player development strategies? Rodriguez’s aspirations within baseball go well beyond the broadcast booth and he is undoubtedly motivated by what Derek Jeter is attempting to do in Miami with the Marlins.
If we were to indulge the fantasy regarding Rodriguez’s opinion on Bumgarner and the Yankees, there would be several aspects that would have to be thoroughly analyzed and go well beyond the Giants’ willingness to even entertain the conversation. Bumgarner is a rare commodity in the sense that his postseason value overwhelmingly exceeds his regular season achievements. He is a left-handed power pitcher with a franchise friendly contract in which he is grossly underpaid for his accomplishments to date. It also doesn’t hurt that Bumgarner has won three world championships (2010, 2012, 2014), two National League Silver Slugger Awards (2014-2015) and was the Most Valuable Player in the 2014 National League Championship Series and World Series.
Bumgarner has confronted health issues over the past two seasons which has adversely affected his left shoulder and hand. In 2017, he was placed on the disabled list for bruised ribs and a sprained left shoulder due to a dirt bike accident. This past spring, Bumgarner fractured the fifth metacarpal on his pitching hand after being hit by a line drive. The injury required surgery and three pins inserted into his left pinkie finger. Both injuries began as 10-day disabled list appearances but were transferred to the 60-day disabled list. Prior to these injuries, Bumgarner was a model of durability. He had started at least 31 games a season for six consecutive seasons (2011-2016). During these seasons, he averaged 213 innings pitched and 214 strikeouts.
SAN FRANCISCO, CA – JUNE 05: Madison Bumgarner #40 of the San Francisco Giants. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
The Giants are in desperate need of help in terms of their farm system. According to Baseball America’s organizational rankings over the past five seasons, the Giants have consistently ranked in the bottom third and are currently 26th in all of baseball. Based on MLB.com’s 2018 Prospect Watch, the Giants only have one prospect (outfielder Heliot Ramos) in the top 100 and he is 54th overall. In the recently completed amateur draft, the Giants selected 23 pitchers with a heavy emphasis on right handers who attended a four-year college program (13). The Giants didn’t select a high school ball player (outfielder Patrick Hilson) until the sixth round. Four of their first five draft picks were right handed pitchers with some type of college experience.