Silence conveys Bumgarner’s competitiveness

Saturday, Sept. 19

SAN FRANCISCO — Even in defeat Friday night, Madison Bumgarner continued to enchance the legend that he established during last year’s World Series, when he transformed himself from being a big league pitcher into a symbol of endurance, energy and determination.

To listen to Bumgarner’s brief remarks after the Giants’ 2-0 setback at the hands of the Arizona Diamondbacks was to fully realize how much the man hates losing. He expressed more with what he didn’t say than with what he actually said — which wasn’t much.

Bumgarner delivered the kind of performance that made him a celebrity last October. As usual, he threw with precision, issuing 72 strikes among a season-high 117 pitches. As usual, he threw with distinction, allowing Arizona the game’s only pair of runs largely because left fielder Alejandro De Aza couldn’t prevent Paul Goldschmidt’s sixth-inning double from darting to the corner, though the ball appeared to be within his reach. The miscue enabled A.J. Pollock, who probably would have stopped at third base, to score.

Skeptics believing that Arizona might have scored without the error, had the runners remained on second and third with one out, should refer to the previous inning, when Yasmani Tomas lined a leadoff triple between center fielder Angel Pagan and right fielder Marlon Byrd (another preventable play). Bumgarner marooned Tomas at third by not allowing the next three batters to hit the ball out of the infield.

Bumgarner was disappointed at least and steamed at most after his seven-game AT&T Park winning streak dissolved with his first home loss since June 12 against Arizona. He pitched more than well enough to win, but San Francisco’s Pence-, Panik- and Aoki-less batting order made D-backs starter Rubby De La Rosa resemble Zack Greinke. Bumgarner received scant offensive or defensive help, the Giants took a huge step toward confirming October vacation plans, and Bumgarner didn’t feel like elaborating on any of it.

Asked whether he wished he could do anything differently in the sixth inning, Bumgarner didn’t take the bait like most pitchers who say that he would have preferred to throw certain pitches in different spots. “There were a couple of runs that scored — yeah, I’d like to have those back,” he said.

Bumgarner said little about his eighth-inning repartee with Goldschmidt, when he intentionally walked the D-backs slugger and mouthed to him that it wasn’t his idea. Nor did Bumgarner talk much about his stuff.

I asked Bumgarner a question which wasn’t particularly insightful but, I hoped, would maintain a dialogue. Did stranding Tomas at third base give him momentum? “I don’t know about the momentum, but that’s the goal right there, though,” Bumgarner replied. “That was good to be able to do, but — that’s my goal, to get guys out and get out of that situation. It’s hard to say momentum changed.”

In other words, Bumgarner did his job. His teammates didn’t, so he absorbed a defeat he didn’t deserve.Bumgarner didn’t need to say anything. His performance spoke for itself. The futility of his teammates, who weren’t worthy of his excellence, also resounded around AT&T Park for the game’s two-hour, 56-minute duration.

Chris Haft

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