If the San Francisco Giants publicity department had been empowered to script Sunday's game at the home field, they couldn't have topped what actually happened.
Thousands of fans received small copies of the statue at the park of Hall of Famer Juan Marichal, the great Giants pitcher of the 1960s. Marichal was himself on hand, doing interviews with TV and radio. In one such interview, Marichal recalled that in his last major league win, he struck out slugger Reggie Jackson three times.
In the actual game, Madison Bumgarner was on the mound, facing the Washington Nationals. The last time he pitched to them, in Washington, two of the first three hitters hit home runs. In Sunday's first inning he struck out the side.
When young Joe Ross also struck out the side in the first, a real pitchers' battle seemed in the offing, Both pitchers went 1-2-3 in the second, although it took three good plays for MadBum. After the high-scoring game Saturday night, the Giants announcers joked how much better they sounded when they had lots of hits and runs to describe. Not like "another 1-2-3-inning," Duane Kiper said with exaggerated slowness. Well, it looked like it could be that kind of game.
Then to start the third, Gregor Blanco got a seeing-eye hit up the middle, which still seemed as if it was an anomaly. But then the Giants started teeing off on Ross. Duffy and Belt just missed homers (as Crawford would later, by inches) but Hunter Pence didn't. His titanic shot capped a 3 run inning.
Two more runs were driven in later, both by MadBum himself, with a double and his fourth home run of the season, a no-doubt-about-it drive into the stands in left. Meanwhile, his pitching just got stronger. And when the dust cleared....
Bumgarner had pitched his second complete game in a row, beginning and ending this 5-1 homestand. He fanned 14, tying his career high. And he became the second SF Giant pitcher to pitch a shutout, strike out at least 10 and homer in the same game. The first? Who else?
The only two Giant pitchers to do that were in the stadium at the same time, separated in their playing time by some 40 years.
Incidentally, after Marichal's Reggie Jackson story, Bumgarner matched him--he struck out one of baseball's top hitters this year, Bryce Harper, three times. And added fanning the Nationals' leadoff hitter four times. Sunday's 5-0 game completed the 4-game sweep of Washington, and one upped the Giants in the season series now completed, those 4 to the 3 game sweep the Nats inflicted in July.
This was, as announcer Jon Miller said, a day to savor. And if you were there, a program to carefully put away to keep.
Now the Giants head out for a fateful 7 game road trip--3 games in St. Louis against the club with the most wins in baseball, and 4 games in Pittsburgh against the team with the second best record in baseball. (Washington's only solace this weekend was that the Bucs swept the Mets, and so the Nats didn't lose any more ground in their division race.)
But let's stay with that a second--the Pirates went into New York against one of the three hottest teams in baseball, and swept them on the road, in two extra-inning games and in what was a close low-scoring game on Sunday until the 7th, when Pirates bats erupted. Alex Ramirez struck the fatal double, one of his four hits. They ended up winning 8-1.
So now my mind games begin. Every Giants victory against St. Louis not only helps them, but may help the Pirates. I'd be happy with a split in Pittsburgh. But frankly a 3-4 trip would be really okay.
The Giants may be further bouyed by pitcher Mike Leake and catcher Andrew Susak coming off the DL, and Aoki is expected to be ready when his concussion DL is up. So Leake may be available for a start in St. Louis, Susak may be as well, but all three are likely to be active when the team is in Pittsburgh.
The news on Joe Panik is less positive--just more medical consultations about his back.