That’s about when reality hit: The final game of this first half could be more than just a 57th win for the best team in baseball. With a week off in sight, Bumgarner had no limits.
Bumgarner took a no-hitter to the eighth inning when — right after Yasmany Tomas struck out to give Bumgarner his 14th, matching a career high — Jake Lamb punched a two-strike slider into right field.
The Giants had to settle for a measly complete game, Bumgarner’s third and the team’s eighth, in a 4-0 win over the Diamondbacks on Sunday evening. Lamb’s hit was the only one Bumgarner would allow; it took him 117 pitches to lock down his fourth-career complete game one-hitter. Bumgarner laughed. He thought he he’d get it:
“When you get through seven, and you have six more outs to get, you feel like you have a pretty good chance the way the game’s been going. It didn’t work out for me, but that’s alright. I’ll take a complete game shutout any time.”
Bruce Bochy said this one-hitter was as good as any he’s seen from Bumgarner, though he did watch his big lefty go one out further in his third close call last September. The three-time champion and 2014 World Series MVP will get the elusive no-hitter one day, Bochy assured:
“This is one box he hasn’t checked off. He’s done about everything else. So we were puling for him so hard. The thing I like about what happened after the base hit. He kept his focus. … It shows you how difficult it is to throw a no-hitter. There’s going to be a hard hit ball somewhere, though today there weren’t a lot. “
Lamb hit two of the few hard-hit balls, both punishing. His high fly ball in the fifth that popped in and out of a lost Gregor Blanco‘s glove erased a perfect game:
“As soon as the ball was hit I didn’t know where the ball went. … I put my glove there to see if I was going to catch it, and I didn’t.”
E9, the scorer quickly announced. Bumgarner was now floating through a no-hitter, which didn’t bother him much. Blanco explained himself to an understanding Bumgarner, who gave him a slap and went on:
“If you do go out there and you let that bother you and think about what happened, the game can turn around on you in a hurry.”
Bumgarner struck out 10 of the first 14 batters he faced, pushing the All-Star ahead of Christy Mathewson (28) and behind first-ranked Tim Lincecum (36) on a list of Giants with 1o-plus strikeout games (29).
It was assurance Bumgarner didn’t really need. The work was done at the plate. His breaking stuff was starting to look more and more untouchable as he plowed through the Arizona lineup inning for inning. His teammates knew that his stuff could be un-hittable when he struck out Jean Segura to kick the game off, said Brandon Crawford:
“I thought he was going to throw a no-hitter, his stuff was that good tonight. I know he’s come close quite a number of times. He had the stuff to do it tonight and I thought there was a decent chance he could do it.”
When Lamb’s ball landed in shallow right field, one out into the eighth inning, disappointment rung out loud, said Bochy:
“We’re waiting on every pitch like the fans, trust me … I think like all of us it was disappointment. You’re pushing so hard for him to get a no hitter. Still, the priority is to win ballgames.”
And that they did. Lucky for Bumgarner, the offense was able to put up two runs out the gate on a Buster Posey RBI single and Brandon Crawford sac fly.
The offense went into a daze during the no-hitter hype, but turned the jets back on in the seventh. Brandon Belt drew a walk and Posey singled. Crawford doubled them home, notching his team-leading 61st RBI.
The Giants had already clinched the best first-half record in baseball before Sunday’s game, but the final game had a chance to add some history to San Francisco’s strong start. They head to the All-Star break at 57-33, with a .633 winning percentage and a 6-1/2 game lead over the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL West.