Giants' Bumgarner looks to avert sweep by Dodgers (Jul 30, 2017)
LOS ANGELES -- The San Francisco Giants' season is lost. They are 25 games below .500. They've blown leads 28 times that directly led to a loss. They're 9-48 when scoring three runs or less.
They're so far behind the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League West that they're in danger of being lapped. Never in the historic rivalry have the Giants ever trailed the Dodgers by this many games (33 1/2).
Yet the Giants on Sunday will try to stir the drink one last time before the season ends. All week long, Matt Cain has been slotted to start Sunday's series finale against the Dodgers, but on Saturday, manager Bruce Bochy switched the rotation and will start Madison Bumgarner.
It's a 5 p.m. local start for a national cable TV audience, which will certainly please the viewers. Bruce Bochy massaged the decision by saying they want to keep Bumgarner on his regular process.
"He's on his regular day,'' Bochy said. "He only went five innings and 80 pitches in his last start. Matt's our swing guy.''
The Giants were headed toward their current residence back in April when Bumgarner suffered his injury riding a dirt bike on an off-day. The team clearly missed him in the rotation as well as his often-menacing presence as a clubhouse leader.
But this team looked headed in the wrong direction early. Veterans like Joe Panik, Brandon Belt and Hunter Pence have been struggling. There's a total lack of power among the outfielders and a lot of journeymen or rookies thrust into the lineup. Gorkys Hernandez, anyone?
The offseason trade for closer Mark Melancon blew up in April, and he has since lost his job and found his way to the disabled list.
So Sunday's start seems like a wake-up call for August and September with an eye on 2018. The Giants had a run of eight sparkling seasons with three World Series titles. Bumgarner's mere presence should at least get the attention of his teammates.
Bumgarner, 101-71 in his career, pitched well in his four April starts before the injury, posting a 3.00 ERA, but the Giants lost all four games. He has been so-so in three starts since his return. He earned his first win, allowing six hits and a run, in just five innings against Pittsburgh.
Bumgarner (1-4, 3.38 ERA) has been money against the Dodgers with a career 14-9 record and 2.70 ERA in 27 games (26 starts).
"His intensity, his presence, all that, trust me, I'm hoping things like this are a shot in the arm for the club," Bochy said when Bumgarner returned from the DL. "We just had really a horrible half. Getting guys back hopefully will do a lot for the psyche of the club."
It will undoubtedly get the Dodgers' attention. Bumgarner's attitude harkens back to older days when the teams detested each other. Last season, one will recall, Bumgarner and Yasiel Puig got into a staring contest and then some smack that led both benches to empty.
His opposition will be Hyin-jin Ryu, who is still battling to come back from surgery that cost him two seasons and a toe injury this season. He's 3-6 with a 4.17 ERA and wasn't pleased when the Dodgers briefly moved him to the bullpen. He has a 4-5 record and 3.79 ERA in 10 starts against the Giants.
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts worked overtime to massage Ryu's ego about that move.
"I told him any move to the bullpen would not be permanent," Roberts said. "We have an excess of quality starting pitchers. Getting enough innings for the guys has been tough.''
There will be sidelight to Ryu's start. He will face a longtime friend and former colleague in Giants corner infielder Jae-gyun Hwang, who is in his first season with San Francisco after 10 years in the Korean Baseball Organization (KBO). He earned a major league call after hitting 26 and 27 home runs in his last two seasons.