SAN FRANCISCO– In the top of the second inning, Phillies’ center-fielder Nick Williams smoked a line drive off Madison Bumgarner’s calf for a base hit.
Many of the 39,921 fans in attendance at AT&T Park held their breath for a split second. Giants’ manager Bruce Bochy knew, however, that there was nothing to worry about.
“Last time the trainer went out there, he got his head barked at,” Bochy said following Sunday’s game.
Bochy knows better than to tend to a bruise on the leg when it comes to the Giants’ ace. It’s just the latest sign that Bumgarner – who spent three months on the disabled list – is getting back to his normal self on the mound, as he looks to make the most out of what’s left in a rocky 2017 season.
In the final game of a four game series against the Philadelphia Phillies, Bumgarner allowed one earned run in six innings. His eighth start back from injury, Bumgarner threw 111 pitches, his highest total of the season. The Giants blew the lead late in a 5-2 loss, but are encouraged by how well Bumgarner has come along.
“We pushed him a little today, but I didn’t have any concerns with him,” Bochy said. “I think he’s back to normal.”
It appears to look that way too, at least from the outside. Bumgarner has a 2.99 ERA since returning from the disabled list following the All-Star break. Extending his pitch count past 100, too, shows that Bochy and his staff aren’t holding any sort of restrictions on the left-hander.
When Bumgarner landed on the disabled list after hurting his left shoulder during a dirt bike accident, the Giants envisioned that they could right the ship and be in the thick of the playoff race when their ace returned off the disabled list.
It hasn’t quite shaken out as they hoped. The loss on Sunday officially eliminated them from winning the National League West with over a month remaining in the season. That won’t stop Bumgarner, however, from bringing the same mindset to the rubber that he has since he broke into the big leagues as a 20-year-old in 2009.
“Every time I go out there, it’s the same intent,” Bumgarner said. “You can’t just go out there and go through the motions, because things will get sideways pretty quick.”
His strong return has proven thus far that he won’t let the dirt bike injury turn his career sideways, either. Bumgarner is under club control through 2019. All signs have pointed to a massive contract awaiting him in the near future.
By throwing the ball well in the second half of the 2017 season, Bumgarner is casting away any doubts and proving that he’s still worthy of a big pay day down the line.
“He’s throwing the ball pretty well,” said Buster Posey, who came up with Bumgarner through the Giants’ farm system and knows the 28-year-old as well as anyone. “That’s what makes him good; he always feels like there’s room for improvement.”
That goes for Bumgarner on the mound, and seemingly at the plate too, where he again provided the Giants’ offense with a spark from the bottom of the order. With two outs in the bottom of the sixth inning, Bumgarner hit a laser into left field to bring home Ryder Jones from second and give the Giants a 2-1 lead.
With the bat, and especially with his arm, Bumgarner is backing to bringing it all when he’s out on the field every fifth game. With the Giants hoping that they turn it around in 2018, it’s relieving to see that 2017 is winding down with Bumgarner showing that he’s back to normal.