Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner slammed their way into the history books on the final day before the All-Star break with a much-needed 8-4 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks.
For the first four innings on Sunday, it looked like Bumgarner would be a tough-luck loser like so many Giants starters in recent weeks. After being shut out for the tenth time in 2014 on Saturday, the Giants offense had stranded four runners through the first four innings, and San Francisco was down 1-0. Arizona took the lead in the top of the third when Nick Ahmed led off with a single, moved to second on a sacrifice by Videl Nuno, and came home on a Martin Prado single.
But the black-and-orange offense would finally come alive in the bottom of the fifth. Bumgarner helped his own cause with a one-out double down the left field line, Hunter Pence was hit by a pitch, and Pablo Sandoval hustled out an infield single to load the bases for Posey with two outs. The 2012 MVP delivered, crushing a ball into the left field bleachers for the first San Francisco grand slam since Hector Sanchez hit one in extra innings against the Colorado Rockies on April 23. Bruce Bochy couldn’t overstate the importance of that one home run.
“Buster’s hit was one that I think kind of gave a sense of relief throughout the dugout. We’ve been missing that hit. You know, you’re down a run, and he comes through for us.”
Not to be outdone, Bumgarner showed his offensive power in the bottom of the sixth. Joaquin Arias let off with a single, Ehire Adrianza – a last minute addition to the line-up after Brandon Belt was scratched with back stiffness – reached on a an error by Nick Ahmed, and Brandon Crawford worked a walk before the Giants starter launched his own grand slam over the wall in left, and the Giants had an 8-1 lead.
It was an historic moment, as it marked the first time in MLB history that a starting pitcher and catcher both hit grand slams in the same game. Bumgarner became just the second pitcher in baseball history to hit two grand slams in the same season (Tony Cloninger of the Braves in 1966, who hit two in the same game…at Candlestick Park). Surprisingly enough (or not, depending on how you look at it), Bumgarner was also the first Giant since Edgar Renteria to have two grand slams in the same season. San Francisco is now 38-15 in games where they hit at least one home run.
So, if San Francisco had its own Home Run Derby, who would win?
“Bumgarner,” Posey laughed.
Sunday’s win gave the Giants right hander his tenth win of the year, despite some faltering in the top of the seventh. Aaron Hill led off with a single before 2010 Giants hero Cody Ross hit his second home run of the year to make it 8-3. The Diamondbacks added to it when Ahmed hit a one-out single and came around to score on a double by pinch-hitter Nick Evans. In all, Bumgarner lasted 6 1/3 innings, allowing ten hits, four runs, no walks, and striking out five. He was efficient, throwing 102 pitches, 70 strikes.
After going 0-3 with a 7.50 ERA over his previous three starts, Bumgarner says that it’s time to right the ship.
“I gotta get back on track pitching. Today wasn’t terrible, but if we didn’t score a lot of runs it would’ve been a different story…Those last four games I have not been able to minimize damage, just have given up some crooked numbers in some of those innings, and that’s never good for us, so gotta have a nice little break here.”
Despite being 10-22 in their last 32 games – the worst record over the majors in that span – San Francisco is miraculously only one game behind the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League West. Sunday’s win featured offensive power, fantastic defense by Sandoval and All-Star Pence, and gave the team its first series win at home since sweeping the New York Mets June 6-8. Posey hopes they can focus on the positives and carry that momentum into the second half.
“I think the challenge for us is, we have to look at the overall record right now. I mean, we’re still in a good spot. As poorly as things have gone for us the past month, we’re still in a good spot….We just have to go forward these last 70 games or so.”
Bochy knows that won’t be easy.
“To take the series, to go into the half on a good note so guys feel good about themselves…It’s gonna be a battle the second half, but somehow we hung in there, and it’s gonna be important that we pick up our play, but this game here was important for the guys out there, to just go in the half having a good feeling.”
When you make Major League history, you’ve earned that good feeling.