Three doubles, a single ace and an ace bullpen was plenty for the Giants.
The recipe – especially at Oracle Park – for Giants victories is simple: with a dominant starting pitcher, an on-its-game bullpen and an offense that has a pulse blending together.
All three were checked off Tuesday — although Will Smith had to escape a lot of danger in the ninth — when Madison Bumgarner had everything going in a 3-2 victory over the Athletics in front of 36,663, which included a healthy dose of A’s fans.
With the win, the Giants again reached .500 (60-60) and kept pace with the Cardinals in the hunt for the second wild-card spot, still 3 ½ games back. After losing six of seven to begin August and looking as if they would fall out, the Giants have rebounded to take four of five and the first game of the so-called Bay Bridge Series. They are 4-4 in a homestand that will finish Wednesday, when they’ll try to finish on a winning note against the A’s.
Since July 26, the Giants are 7-1 in starts by Bumgarner and Jeff Samardzija and 1-8 in outings from their revolving door of young starters. Each effort from the veterans takes on a greater meaning with the rest of the rotation struggling, and Bumgarner has never shied from picking up the slack.
He was effortless and overpowering, striking out nine in seven scoreless innings while allowing two hits and no walks. In his past two outings, he’s gone 14 innings while allowing a single run on three hits.
Oakland was hopeless and helpless, its first hit coming with the first batter, a Marcus Semien blooper that should have been caught. And two pitches later, Matt Chapman grounded into a double play, Bumgarner facing the minimum until Stephen Piscotty homered to left in the fifth.
If it wasn’t vintage Bumgarner, whose fastball peaked at 92 mph, it was a Bumgarner who had an excellent four-seamer, cutter and curveball at will at his disposal. In his 100 pitches, he got 25 called strikes, his previous season high being 20, reached in his last start.
In the first inning he only used fastballs and cutters, not unveiling his curveball until the second and mixing in a changeup in the fourth. The A’s had little idea what was coming next. His sixth inning took six pitches.
Still, it was 1-0 Oakland until the sixth. The Giants had been silent entering the inning, with just three singles their only base runners. With two outs against veteran Brett Anderson, who was dealing, the veterans awoke.
First it was Buster Posey, who entered the game 7-for-38 (.184) in his past 12 games, with a Triples Alley double. Then it was Evan Longoria, who is resuming his July form, who lined his own double over third baseman Matt Chapman’s head to tie the game. Finally it was Kevin Pillar, who has starred this month, who launched a 350-liner to left just out of the reach of Robbie Grossman, a third double bumping the Giants in front.
The Giants again rallied in the seventh, this time off the Oakland bullpen. Aramis Garcia and Brandon Crawford both walked against lefty Jake Diekman, before Bumgarner sacrificed them over. The A’s brought in righty Yusmeiro Petit, and the Giants responded by pinch-hitting Scooter Gennett, whose sacrifice fly brought in Garcia for the 3-1 lead. They nearly got more, but Joey Rickard’s rocket to left-center was hunted down by Mark Canha, who made a nice play at the wall on it.
Reyes Moronta pitched a nice eighth, but the A’s threatened in the ninth, loading the bases against Smith with one out. He struck out Matt Olson, the 23-homer threat, before walking Mark Canha and forcing in a run. But he struck out Chad Pinder, and the Giants could exhale.
It marked the Giants’ ninth victory in Bumgarner’s last 10 starts. Their formula is simple and would be easier replicated with a few more Bumgarners and Samardzijas.