— San Francisco Giants (@SFGiants) July 19, 2019
In a touching tribute to honor what could have been Madison Bumgarner’s final start at Oracle Park as a Giant, neither team chose to win for 16 innings, not wanting it to end.
But any Bumgarner farewell possibilities nearly became a footnote. A game became a marathon.
And a dispiriting loss, after Pete Alonso launched a 16th-inning bomb, became the most exhilarating victory of the season when Alex Dickerson and Brandon Crawford launched back-to-back doubles off Chris Mazza in the bottom of the 16th to tie it before Donovan Solano singled home Crawford for a 3-2 Giants win. And the party was on.
The Giants won their season-high sixth straight and 13th in 15 games, improving to 48-49 – the first time they have been one game under .500 since they were 2-3 on April 1. They remain, stunningly, 2 ½ games back of the second NL wild card.
It appeared it was over in the top of the 16th, when Alonso, with the crowd chanting, “0-for-6!” crushed a Williams Jerez breaking pitch 427 feet to left in a game that wouldn’t end.
But end it did, with Giants heroics, after nine brilliant innings from Bumgarner, and Will Smith, Reyes Moronta, Tony Watson, Derek Holland and Trevor Gott got the job done. It was Jerez, a call-up earlier in the day, who gave up the bomb, as Sam Dyson watched in a development that may be quite meaningful.
What was meaningful was Bumgarner’s performance. In a season in which the Giants are trying to decide whether to look to the present or the future, they glanced to the past.
There were shades of the 2016 wild-card game, of Bumgarner outdueling Noah Syndergaard at Citi Field, during an edge-of-your-seat pitchers’ duel. The names were the same, the stuff was similar, the venues were different. Syndergaard was brilliant but not as efficient. Bumgarner was vintage, more guile than brawn, and put on a showcase for both why the Giants should keep him and why they should turn him into prospect gold.
Bumgarner went nine sterling innings, allowing five hits and walked one while striking out six. He walked off to raucous applause from a crowd that loved every minute, every pitch, and watched as the Giants offense finally picked him up.
If this were Bumgarner’s last start as a Giant — a proposition that gets more unlikely with every win — mission accomplished. Trade value: raised. Value to Giants: raised. The team’s win total: raised.
It was the best he’s looked all year, and the first time he’s thrown nine innings since July 10, 2016, against Arizona. In his past five starts — which includes the injury-shortened July 6 outing — the 29-year-old has gone 29 innings and allowed four earned runs (1.24 ERA). He’s looking every bit like an ace who can dominate a playoff series.
The Mets threatened in the 10th, when Robinson Cano singled and Amed Rosario doubled, but Smith struck out Tomas Nido. The Giants intentionally walked Wilson Ramos, but Smith struck out Michael Conforto for the second out.
Smith and MLB batting king Jeff McNeil waged war, a seven-pitch at-bat that ended with a disappearing slider and a frustrated McNeil, the strikeout perhaps Smith’s biggest of the season.
An offense that had stuffed the box scores, 62 runs in a seven-game trip, did not quite return home. The Giants were 4-for-13 with runners in scoring position, Syndergaard buckling down when needed. And while Bumgarner was impeccable on the mound, his one slip-up came at the plate.
Mike Yastrzemski led off the bottom of the seventh with a triple, the second leadoff triple the Giants had; the first, an Alex Dickerson shot in the second, was left stranded.
Kevin Pillar grounded out meekly to third, and the Mets intentionally walked Joe Panik. With one out and runners on the corners, Bruce Bochy elected to let Bumgarner swing and, while it was great theater, it was bad baseball. With a lefty bat like Stephen Vogt and a righty threat like Austin Slater stapled to the bench, Bumgarner struck out. Brandon Belt then flew out, and the game continued, 1-1.