While Madison Bumgarner settles into a groove for defending World Series champion San Francisco, Matt Garza’s season is running parallel with that of last-place Milwaukee.
Bumgarner will try to win a third straight start and continue his dominance of the Brewers Tuesday night at Miller Park, while Garza needs to beat the Giants to avoid a winless May.
Bumgarner (5-2, 2.84 ERA) improved to 4-1 with a 1.60 ERA in his last five starts after allowing seven hits in 6 1/3 innings of Thursday’s 4-0 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The 25-year-old’s .244 opponent batting average is up slightly from a .226 mark over the past three seasons, but the World Series MVP so many saw as a complete pitcher last fall might be progressing in another area.
The left-hander’s 5.20 strikeout-to-walk ratio and 1.58 walks per nine innings through nine starts are on pace to be career bests. Dating to July 13, he’s gone 29 starts, including the postseason, without walking more than two batters, and he’s just one piece of a team Brewers manager Craig Counsell has come to respect.
"It seems like there’s a real consistency to their culture, and I think it helps them ride the wave a little bit, that the baseball season can have," Counsell told MLB’s official website. "They stick with it, and it’s paid big dividends for them in the end."
In two career starts at Miller Park, he’s 1-0 while allowing one earned run in 15 2/3 innings, and in seven overall against the Brewers, he’s 4-2 with a 1.65 ERA.
Garza (2-6, 5.71) is 0-3 with a 7.15 ERA this month, including consecutive defeats after allowing four runs and five hits in 6 1-3 innings of Thursday’s 10-1 loss in Atlanta. His numbers have been better in four home starts with a 4.13 ERA, but he has a 0-3 record to show for it.
Garza is 1-1 with a 2.84 ERA against the Giants with success against Gregor Blanco (1 for 7) and newcomer Nori Aoki (1 for 11).
The Giants (26-20) started the series with Monday’s 8-4 victory, using a seven-run sixth inning to overcome a 4-1 deficit for a fourth straight win in the series with an average of 14.5 hits. They’re also 17-7 this month, trailing only Washington and Minnesota.
"We’ve had the rain delays in (a four-game split in) Colorado and the travel and lack of sleep," Andrew Susac said. "It’s a pretty gutsy effort from us right there."
Aoki, who spent his first two seasons in Milwaukee, was 4 for 4 with a home run and two RBI in his first game back. Hunter Pence went 3 for 4 while driving in two. Aoki is batting .484 in seven games, while Pence’s return from injury has come with a .342 average in 10. He’s also 17 for 34 in his last eight games against Milwaukee.
The win came with Buster Posey out of the lineup, but he figures to return Tuesday with a 12-game hitting streak. The former MVP is 16 for 42 with six home runs at Miller Park, and his 1.306 OPS there is his top mark of any park where he has recorded more than 10 at-bats.
The club is also getting production from third baseman Matt Duffy, who’s batting .375 in his last 15 games, prompting the Giants to designate Casey McGehee for assignment on Sunday.
For the Brewers (16-30), Khris Davis went 3 for 3 with two home runs, while Ryan Braun went deep for the fourth time in seven games. He’s batting .353 with six homers and 18 RBI in his last 11 and is 6 for 20 with two home runs and two doubles against Bumgarner.