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‘What are you doing?’: Madison Bumgarner’s pitching breakthrough

Just as scouts have dissected every windup, every pitch, every movement of Madison Bumgarner, so has Madison Bumgarner.

And he discovered something pretty important: That plate behind the hitter is 17 inches wide, and it’s a good idea to use it.

That’s the self-diagnosis of what’s been ailing the lefty, who bounced back with a six-inning, 11-strikeout, two-run gem in the Giants’ 4-2 win Tuesday over the Rockies at Oracle Park.

“Just using the whole plate,” Bumgarner said, describing what he did right that he had been doing wrong. “I’ve been getting caught pitching just to one side pretty much every pitch. Guys are too good to do that to. Plate’s small enough as it is. Better use the whole thing.”

He did, against a powerful Colorado lineup that managed just three hits off of him (one being a “double” that Alex Dickerson couldn’t find). He was filthy and credited mixing his pitches better, including a fastball that’s nearly a full mile per hour harder than last year — Fangraphs had it averaging 92.2 mph entering the start.

It was the rebound he needed from a brutal outing against the Dodgers, when he allowed six runs and 10 hits in 3 2/3 innings.

“You want to get out there as fast as you can, but it takes some time to mentally get rid of it,” said Bumgarner, who assuredly helped the Giants’ asking price in a trade. “Especially bad ones like that against division rivals. It’s tough. You just got to grit your teeth and come at the next guys.”

He did, with a new mindset to use every inch of the plate. He said he had focused too much on one side “pretty much” all year. If this is a breakthrough, it’s a sensible one.

“I knew I was [using one side of the plate], but then you see it also,” said Bumgarner, saying he picked it up on film. “And it’s like, ‘Man, what are you doing?'”

What he was doing was showing plenty of glimpses of the October legend, while mixing in starts that made him seem older than his 29 years. As the trade deadline approaches, every team is trying to uncover the real Madison Bumgarner.

As is he.

“He’s shown that ability so many times to come off a bad start, put it behind him, wash it off and bounce back,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “And then he did that tonight.”


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