Madison Bumgarner(notes) has arguably been San Francisco’s top starting pitcher over the last three weeks, but with close to 200 innings pitched and the Giants’ postseason hopes dwindling, the team is considering shutting him down to preserve his arm.
In what could be one of his final outings, Bumgarner looks to win a career-high fifth straight start when he faces the Colorado Rockies on Friday night.
San Francisco (80-70) won its fifth in a row with an 8-5 victory in Thursday’s series opener, preventing Arizona from moving closer to clinching the NL West. This surge might be too little too late for the defending World Series champions, however, as the Giants are seven games back with 12 to play.
Bumgarner (11-12, 3.33 ERA) has done his best to keep the Giants in the playoff picture, recording a 1.30 ERA in winning his last four starts, while striking out 34 and posting a 0.94 WHIP over 27 2-3 innings. Against the Dodgers on Sunday, he allowed a run and three hits with eight strikeouts in five innings of an 8-1 victory, improving to 7-3 with a 2.63 ERA since the All-Star break.
“I’m just making better pitches and having a little better luck at the same time,” said Bumgarner, who was 4-9 with a 3.87 before the break. “I don’t know if I’ve gotten stronger. I still feel good. I’m not worried about wins and losses for me. The biggest thing is innings. You want to stay out there and pitch late. That’s probably the most important thing.”
In his first full season in the majors, the 22-year-old left-hander has amassed 186 2-3 innings, and the Giants plan to take a cautious approach.
“I just like where he’s at right now,” Bruce Bochy said.
Bumgarner has been solid in his two starts against the Rockies (70-79) this year, recording a 1.38 ERA, but three total runs of support has left him with an 0-1 record.
The Giants had no trouble generating offense in the opener, pounding out 13 hits and scoring eight runs for the third time in five games. They had reached the eight-run mark in only three of their previous 89 contests.
Sandoval led the way Thursday, becoming the 25th Giant to hit for the cycle. The All-Star third baseman is batting .524 with two homers, four doubles and seven RBIs during the winning streak.
San Francisco’s suddenly potent offense now tries to make things tough on Alex White(notes) (2-1, 8.18), who has allowed nine home runs and has a 1.73 WHIP over 22 innings in four starts for the Rockies.
Five of those homers came against Cincinnati on Saturday. The right-hander, acquired from Cleveland as part of the Ubaldo Jimenez(notes) trade, permitted three other hits and seven runs in five innings, but was bailed out by his offense and earned his second straight victory in a 12-7 win.
Troy Tulowitzki(notes) (hip) and Todd Helton(notes) (back tightness) each missed their second straight game in the opener, and it doesn’t seem likely either will play Friday. Their replacements, shortstop Tommy Field and first baseman Jordan Pacheco(notes), both made errors Thursday.
The Rockies are 3-6 without Tulowitzki and 9-16 without Helton.