The San Francisco Giants bullpen was one of the major leagues’ best last season while helping the club end a long World Series drought.
This year’s group could ultimately be even better.
San Francisco looks to take the series on Sunday from the Milwaukee Brewers, who try to finish their longest road trip of the season with a winning record.
After All-Star Ryan Vogelsong(notes) surrendered two runs and seven hits in five grueling innings, San Francisco’s relievers shined in Saturday’s 4-2 win that evened the set. Santiago Casilla(notes), Jeremy Affeldt(notes), Sergio Romo(notes), Javier Lopez(notes) and Brian Wilson(notes) limited the Brewers to two walks without a hit over the final four frames.
Last season, Giants relievers posted a major league-best 31-15 record and their 2.99 ERA was second-lowest in the majors behind San Diego. With the group largely intact this year, San Francisco’s bullpen has a 22-12 record and its 2.85 ERA is one percentage point behind the Padres.
“You try to do things so you can win the game before you have to get to their bullpen,” Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. “They don’t make many mistakes to give games away. They play tough when it’s close.”
Milwaukee (54-48) was tied with last-place Houston for the NL’s worst road record at 16-29 coming out of the All-Star break. However, the Brewers have gone 5-5 on their 11-game trek, and are in a virtual tie with St. Louis atop the NL Central.
However, Brewers slugger Prince Fielder(notes) may get a rare day off Sunday after struggling at the plate since being named All-Star MVP. Fielder is hitting .171 (6 for 35) with no homers and eight strikeouts in the second half.
Nate Schierholtz(notes) had three hits, including a two-run double Saturday for the Giants (58-43), who remained four games ahead of second-place Arizona in the NL West. Schierholtz is enjoying his best month of the season at the plate by hitting at a .360 clip to increase his batting average 28 points to .292.
After surrendering a season-worst 11 hits in four innings of a loss to Colorado on July 14, the right-hander came back with a solid effort in an 11-3 win over Arizona on Tuesday. Gallardo gave up three runs - one earned - and four hits in six innings.
Gallardo has surrendered three runs in 13 2-3 innings while winning his last two starts in San Francisco.
Madison Bumgarner(notes) (5-9, 3.72) hopes the Giants will continue to provide him with run support as he takes the ball Sunday. The left-hander received more than three runs of support for the first time in 19 career starts at AT&T Park in Tuesday’s 5-3 win over the Dodgers.
“I think maybe the games when they didn’t score a lot helped me more because I’m able to just go out there and pitch,” said Bumgarner, who fanned seven in eight innings and retired the final 16 batters faced.
Bumgarner got no run support in his only career home start against Milwaukee, a 3-0 loss Sept. 17.