In final start of season, Madison Bumgarner unable to harm Dodgers

In final start of season, Madison Bumgarner unable to harm Dodgers

SAN FRANCISCO – Just before the All-Star break, Giants coaches sat down and mapped out their second half rotation. They have known for months that they could push Madison Bumgarner back to this final series if it gave them a leg up in the NL West race. 

This team, of course, is nowhere near contention. It’s been that way for a while. But the Giants still pushed Bumgarner back two days, giving him a big stage for his final start of the season and the opportunity to all but knock the Dodgers out of contention in the division. 

SAN FRANCISCO – Just before the All-Star break, Giants coaches sat down and mapped out their second half rotation. They have known for months that they could push Madison Bumgarner back to this final series if it gave them a leg up in the NL West race. 

This team, of course, is nowhere near contention. It’s been that way for a while. But the Giants still pushed Bumgarner back two days, giving him a big stage for his final start of the season and the opportunity to all but knock the Dodgers out of contention in the division. 

That the offense didn’t deliver was no surprise. But it was a bit when Bumgarner made it through just six, allowing three runs, two coming on a big Justin Turner homer with a runner on and the game tied. This, a 3-1 loss, was not the way he hoped to end his 2018 season. 

Bumgarner’s year started with perhaps the sharpest spring of his career. A line drive back to the mound shattered dreams of a career season, and in 21 starts, he posted a 3.26 ERA and 1.24 WHIP. Bumgarner went 6-7, striking out 109 and walking 43 in 129 2/3 innings. He said he was mostly happy with the season.

“There are a few starts in September I would like to be able to go back and do again, but you can’t do that,” he said. “But I dunno … I’d like to have a full one (complete game).”

For the first time since 2013, Bumgarner will head home for the winter without a complete game. He had a run of three consecutive seasons where he threw four of them, but times have changed. 

Bumgarner’s numbers are still good, and for the most part he still looks the part of an ace. But there are occasionally chinks in the armor. He has had a diminished strikeout rate in his second straight injury-marred season and has not consistently gotten as deep into games as he used to. 

Still, his reputation was built on big games, and he hasn’t pitched in one since the 2016 postseason. That’s why this night stood as a disappointment. 

The Rockies did their part, beating the Nationals earlier in the night to set the stage for Bumgarner, who could have nudged the Dodgers two games out with two to play. Bumgarner had just two clean innings out of six, allowing three earned on seven hits and a walk. His biggest mistake was jarring. With a runner on and one out in the sixth, he threw Turner a fastball that came in at just 90 mph and cut right through the center of the plate. Turner blasted it to left-center, breaking a tie as Bumgarner turned slowly and watched the ball soar. Bumgarner was trying to throw a fastball up-and-in, a pitch he has had a lot of success with against Turner.

“It didn’t get in as much as I would like,” he said. “I’ve thrown him that pitch quite a few times. He’s a good hitter, made an adjustment and got to it.”

An inning later, Bumgarner was off to the winter, and this will not be the type of postseason any star wants to deal with. There’s no way around it. Bumgarner, with one year left on his deal, is a struggling organization’s best trade chip, and perhaps the best pitching option available to contenders this offseason. The Giants do not want to trade Bumgarner, and he does not want to go, but the new head of baseball operations may walk through the door, look at a roster that was embarrassingly outmanned Friday, and determine that it’s the only way forward. 

Bumgarner said he gave no thought to the possibility of this being his last game in orange and black. His manager said the same. 

“Not at all,” Bruce Bochy said. “He’s signed through next year. That’s how I look at it, that he’s going to be here next year and hopefully longer.”

Giants win 4th straight behind Madison Bumgarner's arm, bat

Giants win 4th straight behind Madison Bumgarner's arm, bat

PHOENIX — Madison Bumgarner had just finished his regular postgame Q&A when he walked past reporters and said, half-jokingly, “I can’t believe you didn’t ask me about the balk.”

Yes, Bumgarner committed a balk Thursday night, and it was still on his mind even though the real story of an 8-1 Giants victory was Bumgarner doing Bumgarner things to beat one of the majors’ hottest pitchers on a not-so-hot day for the organization.

Johnny Cueto had Tommy John surgery. The Giants learned infielder Pablo Sandoval will have a season-ending hamstring operation. With that as the backdrop, the Giants played one of their best all-around games of the year and won their fourth in a row.

Bumgarner put 10 runners on base in five innings, but he stranded nine of them. He outpitched Zack Greinke, who was named National League Pitcher of the Month for July hours earlier.

Moreover, Bumgarner lined a two-out single to left in the fifth to bring Austin Slater home with the go-ahead run, leading to Greinke’s first loss since June 13.

“It was a grind,” Bumgarner said. “It was one of those games when your back’s against the wall the whole time out there. Obviously, that’s not the way I like to draw it up, working so hard. At the same time, those are the types of games that are gratifying, keeping your team in it.”

Hunter Pence gave the Giants a 3-1 lead with a sacrifice fly in the seventh and the Giants finally used the eighth inning to put away a game, rather than letting the other team sneak back into it. They scored five runs.

That largess allowed manager Bruce Bochy to rest relievers Reyes Moronta and Tony Watson.

Mark Melancon pitched a scoreless sixth and rookie reliever Ray Black accomplished something in the seventh that he was not aware of until friends texted him after the game.

When he struck out A.J. Pollock, Black completed the equivalent of a nine-inning no-hitter dating to a July 10 outing. Black kept the “no-no” going when he got Steven Souza Jr. to pop out.

Black struck out Paul Goldschmidt with a 99 mph fastball and Pollock with an 84 mph slider.

When asked about his approach to Goldschmidt, Black supplied a two-word answer.

“Challenge him,” he said. “He’s a great hitter. When a guy like that steps into the box, you can’t be too timid.”

Evan Longoria gave the Giants a 1-0 lead when he homered off Greinke in the top of the first, then saved two runs in the bottom half of the inning with his best catch with the Giants. He laid out with full extension to grab a bases-loaded liner by Souza.

Slater made some big contributions. He doubled and scored on Bumgarner’s single, totaled three runs and hit a two-run single in the five-run eighth.

With Sandoval done for the season, Slater will play a lot of first base until Brandon Belt returns.

Injuries have forced the Giants to become a melding of young and old now, with players like Slater, Steven Duggar, Alen Hanson, Dereck Rodriguez, Moronta and Andrew Suarez playing alongside old pros like Bumgarner, Longoria, Pence and Buster Posey.

“Those guys have been there and done great things in the game and they’re still producing,” Slater said. “We’re going to try to learn from those guys and bring some energy and excitement.”

Henry Schulman is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer.

Giants lose another late lead, fail to provide run support for Bumgarner

Giants lose another late lead, fail to provide run support for Bumgarner

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.

Kyle Freeland, Rockies look to slow down Giants, Madison Bumgarner

Kyle Freeland, Rockies look to slow down Giants, Madison Bumgarner

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.

Giants' Bumgarner hopes to erase goose egg at the plate

Giants' Bumgarner hopes to erase goose egg at the plate

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.

Bumgarner: Rule changes getting 'out of hand'

Bumgarner: Rule changes getting 'out of hand'

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.”