Madison Bumgarner finally got his first victory of the season – in his ninth start. He needed a little help from Nate Schierholtz, who made a game-saving circus catch to preserve it.
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Bumgarner came within an out of his first major league shutout and Freddy Sanchez drove in two runs to help lead the San Francisco Giants over the Los Angeles Dodgers 3-1 on Thursday night.
”It feels like a playoff win, it’s been so long,” Bumgarner said. ”I’m just glad to finally get that first win out of the way. The last few games, I felt like there’s been a big difference from the first four, even though it didn’t work out for me. But it taught me a lot and what I need to focus on.”
Bumgarner (1-6) allowed a run and six hits, including a first-pitch RBI double with two outs in the ninth by rookie Jerry Sands. The 21-year-old left-hander struck out three and walked two in his ninth start of the season. Bumgarner has a 1.32 ERA over his last five outings.
Bumgarner is one of only three pitchers in history to start in a World Series game and then go winless in his first eight starts the following season, along with St. Louis’ Anthony Reyes in 2007 and Hall of Fame electee Bert Blyleven of the 1980 Pittsburgh Pirates.
The only other Giants starter to lose his first six decisions of a season since Terry Mullholland’s 0-6 start as a rookie in 1986 was Barry Zito, who began 2008 with an 0-8 record.
”I just tried to ignore that and go on,” Bumgarner said. ”I feel good about throwing a good game and keeping us in there. Wins and losses are something you really can’t control, so I tried not to focus on that.”
All-Star closer Brian Wilson walked pinch-hitters Jay Gibbons and James Loney to load the bases, but escaped with his 13th save in 15 attempts. Schierholtz made a diving grab of Jamey Carroll’s line drive in short right field on a 2-2 pitch for the final out.
”I was pretty far in for that situation, because if he hits it over my head or down the line, the game’s probably over,” Schierholtz said. ”I just reacted off the bat and went for it. I play in on Carroll, so when I saw the point of contact, I broke in on it and didn’t hesitate at all. It was risky, but I was confident I was going to make the play. It felt good to come up with it, especially because Madison pitched a good game and deserved to win it.”
Manager Bruce Bochy had coach Roberto Kelly signal Schierholtz to play more shallow than normal for Carroll to guard against a possible line-drive single that would tie the game.
”We were gambling by playing in like that, but I told Roberto that we were going for the win here,” Bochy said after the Giants completed a 3-3 road trip.
The save came one night after Wilson blew a three-run lead in the eighth for Matt Cain and was credited with the victory, thanks to a three-run homer in the ninth by Cody Ross.
”His command is a little off,” Bochy said while Wilson took refuge in the trainer’s room. ”I don’t know if his ankle’s bothering him, but he says he’s fine. The big thing with Brian right now is that he’s not quite getting the ball where he wants.”
Chad Billingsley (2-4) gave up three runs and six hits in six innings and struck out four. The right-hander, who lost his previous start 1-0 against Arizona despite giving up only one hit over eight innings, has a 2.23 ERA over his last seven outings, but has only one win.
”Chad’s been pitching great, and he hasn’t gotten any runs,” manager Don Mattingly said. ”I felt like he was frustrated tonight and kind of fought himself. But he battled. That was a frustrating one.”
Facing the defending World Series champions for the third time this season, Billingsley fell behind 1-0 in the second inning when Buster Posey led off with a double and scored on Mike Fontenot’s two-out double.
Bumgarner led off the Giants’ third with a double to the wall in right-center, his second extra-base hit in 56 career at-bats to that point. Andres Torres advanced the runner with a bunt in front of the plate, and was credited with a hit after beating Billingsley’s throw to first. Sanchez followed with a sacrifice fly, then drove in the Giants’ third run with sixth-inning single.
Billingsley, whose only 1-2-3 inning was the first, issued four walks and plunked two during a stretch of 12 batters. The pitch that probably kept him in the game a little longer was his 96th – a called third strike he slipped past Fontenot with the bases loaded to end the fifth. By contrast, Bumgarner used only 64 pitches through the first five innings.
Notes: The announced attendance for the two-game set between these rivals was only 64,669 – compared to the season-opening four-game series at Dodger Stadium that attracted 192,539. … Since winning their last pennant and world championship in 1988, the Dodgers are 48-38 against NL teams coming off a World Series title. But they are 61-94 since ’88 against NL clubs that won the pennant the previous season and lost the World Series. … Sanchez posted his first multi-RBI game since April 16. … The Giants open their interleague schedule Friday night, as the Oakland Athletics cross the Bay Bridge. The Dodgers go to Chicago for a three-game set that will rekindle memories of their triumph over the White Sox in the 1959 Fall Classic.