Madison Bumgarner found his fastball.
It was coming out of Brandon McCarthy‘s right hand.
Two men were on and the Giants had just taken a one-run lead in the sixth inning against the Dodgers when Bumgarner cranked a pitch jetting down the pipe for a base-clearing double adding fuel to the 9-3 victory.
This story has been updated with quotes and post-game material from the Giants clubhouse at AT&T Park.
The weight from a streak of uneven innings and an odd joke at his expense seemed to have lifted as he pumped his fists at second base:
“This is an exciting time of year, you’re going to have some emotion from guys.”
Emotion oozed through that sixth inning, the breakout inning that the Giant’s have struggled to find in these late summer months.
Conor Gillaspie broke out of his stone-faced grimace and into a passionate cheer after his go-ahead pinch hit double. Brandon Belt smiled as he rounded third after his three-run blast put the Giants up by six.
Hunter Pence chucked up his hands and goaded the dugout as the outcome started to crystallize: The Giants beat the Dodgers 9-3 Friday night in front of an equally emotional crowd.
Perhaps these Giants could feel September ending; only three hours separated this team from October, technically, when the magic started brewing. Buster Posey nodded his head furiously, he felt the postseason energy. Angel Pagan feels it, too:
“We already started playing playoff games right here…We have a good chance and we can’t take it for granted.”
The breakout inning looked unlikely, at first, with a dominant Rich Hill on the mound. But the Giants poked at him just enough, hit his curveball, knocked in two runs and forced McCarthy into the game.
McCarthy surrendered four runs on five hits without recording an out. Josh Ravin, in an attempt to salvage the inning, tried to fly a 98 mile-per-hour fastball past Brandon Belt, but he smoked it and iced the game.
Gillaspie’s clutch hit unhinged Bumgarner, too. Bruce Bochy had a pinch hitter ready, but a new lead allowed him to stick with his ace.
It had been a trying first few innings for Bumgarner, anyway. A shaky stretch that began in San Diego (five runs in six innings) leaked into the first few at-bats Friday night. Yasiel Puig cranked a painful RBI double and Carlos Ruiz punched a bloop RBI single to give the Dodgers an early two-run lead.
Posey said the first inning’s been an issue, anyway:
“For a lot of guys, that first inning can be tricky. He settled in there.
Bumgarner sharpened out as the innings progressed, with a little help from speedy center fielder Gorkys Hernandez and Willie Mac co-winner Brandon Crawford behind him.
Bumgarner’s 7-1/3 inning, five strikeout night pushed him to a 2.74 ERA, a career low. His 249 strikeouts, a career high, rank third in the MLB behind Max Scherzer (277) and, yes, Jose Fernandez (253).
It also marks his 100th career win, making him the third youngest pitcher in Giants history to reach that mark. Christy Mathewson beat him out by mere days.
But Bumgarner will tell you, as he has after every career milestone and historic postseason performance, he doesn’t care about individual stats. He’s happiest when he can help in games like this one:
“There’s a lot at stake right now, so that’s in the back of my mind.”
The St. Louis Cardinals and the New York Mets also won their games, so the Wild Card standings stand still tonight. The Giants are sandwiched between them by one game.
Flower guys and the Angel Pagan tackle
Things got weird when two blue-shirt-wearing fans broke out onto the field with white flowers.
The Giants were in the field at that point and started to get nervous, said Posey:
“Anytime someone gets onto the field like that, you’re a little uneasy.”
Posey pushed one over with a slick stiff arm and one ran around Brandon Crawford, who declined a flower, over to Pagan. One of them approached Bumgarner, but shied away.
Pagan lured the fan in and executed a perfect WWE throw-down. The security guards, he said, were moving too slow and Pagan wanted to protect his teammates:
“I didn’t know what they could have around their bodies…Bum was on a roll…I was just trying to get the game going as soon as possible.”
Posey didn’t see the epic tackle, but saw Pagan on top of him:
“I dunno. It was weird.”
Bochy waited until after Friday’s game — once it became apparent that they wouldn’t need a long reliever — to announce that Blach will start Saturday’s game.
This will be Blach’s second big league start. He gave up two runs and four hits in three innings in his first start against the Padres.
He’s also pitched six innings of one-hit ball in relief.
Shayna Rubin is SFBay’s San Francisco Giants beat writer. Follow @SFBay and @ShaynaRubin on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of Giants baseball.