Giants ace Bumgarner breaks MLB record – and it’s only Opening Day

The Giants blew their lead Sunday, losing 6-5 against the Arizona Diamondbacks, but there was one big bright spot: Madison Bumgarner.

It’s only Opening Day, and the Giants ace has already broken a major league record.

The San Francisco starter’s back-to-back homers Sunday gave him the most Opening Day home runs by a pitcher, ESPN reports.

While Hall-of-Famer Don Drysdale also had multiple Opening Day homers as a pitcher, he did it in two games – not one, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Bumgarner’s 16 career home runs are the “most for an active player whose primary position is pitcher,” according to ESPN Stats & Info.

Bumgarner’s second home run clocked in at 112.5 mph, putting him in all the top three spots for hardest-hit homers by a pitcher since MLB’s Statcast technology was launched in 2015.

San Francisco Giants' Madison Bumgarner (40) celebrates his home run against the Arizona Diamondbacks with first base coach Jose Alguacil, right, during the fifth inning of an Opening Day game Sunday in Phoenix. Ross D. Franklin The Associated Press BY KALIN KIPLING



Giants’ bullpen blows opener, wastes 2 Madison Bumgarner HRs

PHOENIX — Mark Melancon might lead the National League in save percentage come October. The Giants’ bullpen could redeem itself after it sabotaged the 2016 season. The term “blown save” might disappear from the lexicon of the local nine.

You do not want to hear that now. How can you, after the Giants dropped their first game of 2017 the same way they lost their final game of 2016, with a bullpen breakdown? Heck, even the score was the same.

The Diamondbacks won 6-5 Sunday with two runs in the ninth inning against Mark Melancon, who was making his debut as the Giants’ $62 million ninth-inning answer.

That was after Derek Law blew a 4-3 lead without getting an out in his first shot at the eighth, ensuring a no-decision for Madison Bumgarner after the big fella made history by becoming the first pitcher in major-league history to hit two homers on Opening Day.

Too much is made of the opener, positive and negative. It’s a single snapshot in an album of 162. Grand conclusions about the 2017 bullpen are premature. But after 31 blown saves last year, counting season-ending Game 4 of the Division Series against the Cubs, the faithful have a right to squirm.

The guys in the visiting clubhouse at Chase Field do not.

“These are men in there,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “I think you’ve seen how they handle things. It’s one game. We’ve got 161 left. If we start thinking about that too much, it’s going to compound things.”

Melancon would love a chance to redeem himself Monday, but the Giants do not play until Tuesday night.

“It’s never fun trying to process these games,” Melancon said. “But that’s part of the job. You have to have a short-term memory. I’m sure I’ll go over it 100 times, keeping the good and getting rid of the bad.”

Melancon had not allowed a run all spring, in a Giants or a United States uniform, 102/3 innings overall.

When he retired the first two Diamondbacks in the ninth, he was poised to save a one-run lead that Joe Panik and Conor Gillaspie provided in the top half with a triple and sacrifice fly against new Arizona closer Fernando Rodney.
Then came the hits. Three of them.

Jeff Mathis doubled into the left-center gap, and pinch-hitter Daniel Descalso singled him home to tie it. A.J. Pollock’s single got the winning run to third, and Chris Owings delivered the winner, a single to right.
As the Diamondbacks pounded Owings in celebration, Melancon took the slow walk that Giants fans knew so well from their closer last year. And, yes, Melancon understood the significance.

“You never want to start off this way, especially after a heck of a performance by Madison,” he said. “That’s one of the more impressive games I’ve seen by anyone. I wanted to cap it off. Obviously, it didn't go that way.”
Bumgarner tied and then set a franchise record for pitchers with his 15th and 16th homers, off Zack Greinke and Andrew Chafin. The first homer helped the Giants to a 3-0 lead that looked as secure as the Hope Diamond as Bumgarner retired his first 16 hitters.

Nobody was thinking “bullpen meltdown,” but rather Googling “Opening Day no-hitters.” (Cleveland’s Bob Feller had the only one, in 1940.)

Bumgarner then displayed he is human when he blew that three-run lead in the span of three hitters in the sixth inning. Mathis, Nick Ahmed and Pollock went triple, single, homer.

The Giants were leading 4-3 after seven innings when Bochy decided Bumgarner had enough after 88 pitches.

In July, Bumgarner would have gotten the eighth inning, and probably the ninth.

But this was Bumgarner’s first start of the year after topping out at 90 pitches in spring training. He also threw hard, hitting 94 mph. With the top of the Arizona order due up, Bochy decided to try out his new bullpen scheme.

The Diamondbacks tied the game 4-4 on singles by Pollock, Owings and Paul Goldschmidt. Ty Blach debuted by getting Jake Lamb to hit into a double play, and Hunter Strickland got the third out to keep the game tied.

The stomach-churning began, at least back home, and it might not stop for a while.


Giants lose after blown saves in eighth and ninth innings

That’s all I’ve had up for 15 minutes. That and a blinking cursor. Also acceptable: Nah, come on, nope, and hell no. These are the only words I can think of. The Giants blew another save, and ... well, no. No. Nope.

Madison Bumgarner pitched as well as he can pitch, roughly. If you think that’s early-season hyperbole, you didn’t watch his seven innings. He was breaking the Diamondbacks down, and he was making it look like he was the only one who got a month to prepare for this game. The command was stellar. The velocity was superb. The breaking balls broke. For 5⅓ innings, he had a perfect game going, and it seemed like that was underselling just how well he was pitching.

Then he made a couple of mistakes. That’s not unusual. If you rewatch Matt Cain against the Astros in 2012, you’ll find mistakes. Same goes for Tim Lincecum against the Braves in 2010. And, more importantly, it applies to Bumgarner against the Royals (pick a game) in 2014. Great outings always leave at least one or two hitters with a woulda-coulda-shoulda to wake them up in the middle of the night.

In this game, Bumgarner made the mistakes right in a row. And instead of woulda-coulda-shouldas, there were I did!-I did!-I did!s. That’s how the sport works, I guess. It’s a horrible sport. But the Diamondbacks broke up the perfect game with hit-hit-homer, and it turned Bumgarner’s perfect game into a garden-variety quality start.

The difference, though, is that Madison Bumgarner, granite-eating wonder from deep beneath the earth’s crust, also contributed two home runs. He was the first pitcher in Major League Baseball history to hit two home runs on Opening Day.

Add the two up: Pitcher throws as well as he’s capable of throwing. Pitcher contributes offense in a way that is absolutely historic. This should have been the kind of Opening Day that we would have remembered for a decade, if not longer. How can a pitcher have that kind of command, that kind of stuff, that kind of velocity, that kind of ABILITY TO HIT TWO FREAKING HOME RUNS and lose?

The Giants’ bullpen ruined everything. That’s how! They’ve done it before. They’ll do it again. And it’s the efficiency with which they do it that’s impressive. So smooth. So effective. Their diligence remains impressive. There was a new guy, but he’s just a new actor in the same role, a very expensive addition to an episode of Drunk History, mouthing the same words that were previously spoken by someone else.

This doesn’t have to define the season. But it sure doesn’t make you forget the last one.

If we’ve giving credit — or, at least, apologizing for the mistakes — Derek Law gave up two opposite-field hits and a 40-hop doink through the middle. Ty Blach got a quick, needed double play, and Hunter Strickland folded Yasmany Tomas into a tiny ball and swallowed him. That’s a very selective way to describe what happened before the ninth inning, but it’s not incorrect.

Then Mark Melancon, sweet Mark Melancon, got two quick outs. All he needed to do after that was get either Jeff Mathis or Daniel Descalso out.

Jeff Mathis or Daniel Descalso.

The first pitch to Mathis was a get-it-in fastball, a dud that deserved to be smoked. Gorkys Hernandez clanked it around in left field because the 2017 season is apparently going to zero right in on left field and the Giants’ bullpen, but it was fine, because Mark Melancon against a 48-year-old Daniel Descalso is what you pray for.

Descalso also got a pitch up. Then there were two more hits. It doesn’t matter that Chris Owings’ game-winning hit came on a pitch on his fists. There were four hits with two outs. That’s the kind of thing that happens for every team a few times every season. Every team except the Giants. Roll the chart, Phil.

Of course this is what happened on Opening Day. Of course the closer who didn’t give up an earned run in spring training gave up two in his first appearance. Of course all of the team’s deepest, bitiest demons would show up right away, ready to make everyone doubt everything.

Still pretty sure that Mark Melancon is good at his job. Still pretty sure that Derek Law is, too. Pretty sure the Giants are going to be fine. They lost their first three games in 2012, after all.

Did they have to lose this way, though. Couldn’t they have lost 11-0? Couldn’t Bumgarner have been off? Couldn’t they have been one-hit by Zack Greinke? Couldn’t Paul Goldschmidt have hit three homers? It’s so easy to write, “Ha ha, it’s just Opening Day, everyone! No big deal. It’s a long season.:

No. It had to be two blown saves. Apparently, we all have to face our deepest, bitiest demons right away.

To which I say this: No.

No.

Stop it.

No.

Come on.

No.

Of course, just like last year, blaming the bullpen takes some of the blame off the lineup, which isn’t fair. Eduardo Nuñez was nabbed trying to take a base on a pitch that stayed close to the catcher. Denard Span was picked off first. Buster Posey coughed up a bases-loaded, one-out situation against Fernando Rodney.

The Giants were 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position.

If we’re going to live in 2016 again, at least I can say this much: I wasn’t dead in 2016. If the trend continues, I will be immortal. So if 2017 is going to be the same stupid year as 2017, things are looking up.

[checks news]

wait no i don’t want to be immortal i just want the blown saves to stop

Madison Bumgarner hit two home runs on Opening Day, the first pitcher in history to do it, and it feels like an afterthought. That makes me incredibly mad.

They were both beautiful home runs, leaving the Earth at supersonic speed. The first one gave the Giants the lead, and the second one took the lead back. The guy tried to win the game. He really did.

He’s a treat, an absolute treat, and he’s given this franchise more than any team can ever hope to get from any of their players.

And his history feels like a footnote now, because of another couple of dumb blown saves. His brilliant pitching for five innings feels like it happened in 2015, it was so long ago.

This game was pure 2016, though. Welcome back, 2016. Please take your shoes off before you, oh, well, at least wipe the mud off your, oh, well, please don’t put your muddy shoes on the couch and, oh, well, at least don’t bite the couch like a wolverine and spit the stuffing out and, oh, well, at least don’t hide the batteries in my remote control and, oh, well ...

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