San Francisco Giants

Bumgarner, Morse Pave Way as Giants Sweep the Twins

Madison Bumgarner showed why he’s the ace of this staff, and Michael Morse endeared himself to an entire city as the Giants completed the sweep of the Twins 8-1.

Bloop singles were the theme of the first inning, as San Francisco jumped out to an early lead. Gregor Blanco dropped one in to lead off the game. After Hunter Pence grounded into a fielder’s choice, Buster Posey blooped a hit into left. Pablo Sandoval brought home the first run of the game with a Texas-Leaguer to left, his fifth game in a row with an RBI. Morse made it 2-0 with a sacrifice fly to left.

Minnesota got one of the runs back in the top of the third when Eduardo Escobar and Danny Santana led off with back-to-back singles. Both runners moved into scoring position on a throwing error by Pence, and Escobar came home on a sacrifice fly off the bat of Brian Dozier.

But Bumgarner (6-3) was dominant and shut down the Twins for the rest of the game. The lefty threw 107 pitches over seven innings, allowing three hits, one run, and no walks. He tied a season-high in strikeouts with ten and lowered his ERA to 3.15 on his way to his fourth win in a row. Bumgarner is averaging just over ten strikeouts per nine innings in 2014, the highest of his career. Manager Bruce Bochy is proud of his growth a pitcher.

“I think, with his equipment and his command, he’s gained more knowledge with experience on how to attack hitters. He’s throwing 93 with command, a good cutter, a curveball, and a change. He can go both sides of the plate, so he’s gonna amass some strikeouts.”

Though the two runs were all their starter needed, the Giants added some insurance runs just for fun. Pence crushed his sixth home run of the year with one out in the third, a solo shot coming on a 2-1 pitch. Morse led off the fourth a double off the right-field wall, moved to third on a groundout by Tyler Colvin, and was on the scoring end of a sacrifice fly off the bat of Brandon Crawford to make it 4-1.

Morse’s heroics weren’t done for the day, however. A walk to Bumgarner and singles by Blanco and Pence loaded the bases with no outs in the bottom of the fifth. After Posey and Sandoval failed to bring in any runs with a strikeout and a pop out, Morse came through with yet another clutch, two-out hit – this time a double down the left-field line – clearing the bases and making it 7-1. His hit gave him his team-leading 33rd RBI and knocked Twins starter Ricky Nolasco out of the game. The pitching change gave the fans a chance offer up a huge standing ovation to Morse, who waited on second base. After a couple minutes of thunderous applause, he bashfully smiled and made the “YES” movement motion to the crowd of 42,590. It was a moment that Morse won’t soon forget.

“The fans here are the best fans in baseball, and they prove it every day by coming out to the park. They support us so much, and moments like that make you feel so humble and happy that you’re here. I can’t thank them enough. They make me feel so welcome.”

With his rocky start on Sunday, Nolasco (2-5) has yet to get a win in the month of May. He lasted four-and-a-third innings, allowing nine hits, seven runs, one walk, three strikeouts, and one wild pitch. He threw 88 pitches – 57 strikes – and is now 0-3 with a 5.57 ERA this month.

Just for good measure, the San Francisco offense scratched across another run in the bottom of the eight. Sandoval led off with a single, and Morse collected his third double in a row, bringing his average up to .279, putting runners on second and third, and earning him another standing ovation from the appreciative crowd. Tyler Colvin then grounded out to first, scoring Sandoval and making it 8-1.

The sweep of Minnesota gives the Giants their third sweep of the season (April 25-27 vs. Cleveland and May 2-4 at Atlanta) and gives them a perfect 6-0 record in Interleague Play this season. Sunday’s decisive victory was a complete team win, from the top of the lineup to the bottom as each spot (except for Brandon Hicks in the eight-hole) either reached base (via walk or hit) or had an RBI (via hit, groundout, or sacrifice). To follow Bumgarner’s dominant start, George Kontos pitched a near-perfect eighth and ninth, allowing one hit and striking out three.

San Francisco is now 32-18, with the most wins in baseball and the highest winning percentage (.640). Even though they weren’t picked by many to win the West prior to the start of the season, Bumgarner knows how good this team really is.

“We’ve got a good team, better than a lot of people realized at the start of the year. We play together. On paper it might not be the best team, but I’d put us up against anybody. We don’t have anybody that’s selfish on this team. Everybody plays for everyone else, and it’s a complete team game when we go out there.”

The Giants will look to continue their dominance as they welcome in the last-place Chicago Cubs on Monday ht. They’ll send Yusmeiro Petit (3-1, 4.76) to the mound to face the Cubs’ ace Jeff Samardzjia who, despite an incredible ERA (1.46) has yet to be credited with a win this year (0-4).

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