MLB

Madison Bumgarner Makes History, Bullpen Blows it

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On an opening day where the San Francisco Giants’ starting pitcher made history, the club ultimately collapsed in all-too-familiar fashion—a blown save. The Giants (0-1) fell short 6-5 to the Diamondbacks (1-0) at Chase Field.

Imagine a list of worst possible outcomes for starting this season. A blown save is undoubtedly number one. It was Mark Melancon’s first real test. He failed. The Giants took the lead three separate times, and blew all three.

In other news, Madison Bumgarner leads the league in home runs. He took the mound against the Diamondbacks’ ace Zack Greinke as the third Giant to start opening day for four consecutive years, joining Tim Lincecum and Juan Marichal, who each went for four as well.

Greinke made a mistake in the fifth inning by leaving one up in the zone with two strikes and Bumgarner made him pay. The line drive screamer came off the bat at 112.5 MPH—fastest from any pitcher in the Statcast era—and hugged the ground during the majority of it’s low-height departure.

In eight at-bats, Bumgarner owns two hits against Greinke. Both are home runs. His shot in the fifth inning put Giants ahead 2-0. And though Greinke had fairly good command with all of his pitches, the Giants made him work and his day ended after five innings. He gave up two runs, four hits and struck out five. His relief, Tom Wilhelmsen, didn’t last long after he gave up leadoff double to Crawford who was driven in by Eduardo Nunez (3-for-4, 1H, 1R). Nunez’s third hit of the day helped push the Giants ahead 3-0.

And on the mound Bumgarner was utterly perfect early on, retiring the first 15 batters he faced. Then the bottom of the order helped ignite some runs for the Diamondbacks in the sixth inning. Bumgarner’s cutter hung a bit, leading to a one out triple off the bat of Jeff Mathis that turned into their first run when Nick Ahmed drove one to right field. A.J. Pollock followed it up with a homer off a 93 MPH fastball in left center to even the score at 3-3.

“They’re human, these guys, we forget that sometimes,” said manager Bruce Bochy. “They’re going to make mistakes and give up some runs occasionally. He said he felt funny and then went back out and threw a nice inning.”

Bumgarner’s least productive, 23-pitch inning ended with his 10th strikeout when he sat down Jake Lamb. And then he grabbed the reins. Again. He got one of the runs back on his own with a towering shot to left field off left-handed reliever Andrew Chafin, recapturing the lead, 4-3. And on that swing he made MLB history. Never before had starting pitcher hit two home runs on opening day.

He finished of the bout with 11 strikeouts while giving up six hits and three runs through seven innings. Derek Law came on in the eighth inning and found himself in trouble quick. With no outs and runners on first and second, he faced hard-hitting Paul Goldschmidt and surrendered an RBI, game-tying single.

“In a way I think it’s my fault,” Law said, Alex Pavlovic, Giants insider. “I think if I get it to (Melancon) earlier, maybe it’s a different ending. I kind of feel like, how hitting is contagious, pitching is the same way. If I would have kept going the way Bumgarner was going, maybe it ends the way we want it.”

But the Giants got the lead back again in the ninth when Joe Panik drove a 3-1 fastball deep enough to put him on third before Conor Gillaspie hit a sacrifice fly to put the Giants up 5-4. And with runners on every bag, they left the lead at just one run (1-for-10 with runners in scoring position).

And that hurt. Because high-priced, off-season acquisition Mark Melancon couldn’t get it done. He retired the first two he faced with the help of a good play from a diving Joe Panik. But with two outs, Mathis (3-for-4) got his third hit of the day—a double—before crossing the plate off a single from pinch hitting Daniel Descalso, tying the game up again, 5-5.

Melancon gave up two more singles, one of them to Chris Owings, who is credited with the walk-off hit as the Diamondbacks took game one of the four games series. And yet, Bochy isn’t bothered.

“They’re men in there,” he said, per Pavlovic. “You’ve seen how they’ve handled things. It’s one game and we’ve got 161 (left). If we start thinking about this too much, that compounds things. I don’t worry about Mark or anybody. They’re pros and part of that is being resilient.”

The reference to a long season is expected and true. Nevertheless, it seemed like they gave away one hell of an entrance into the 2017 season.

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