San Francisco took game one of the Bay Bridge series over Oakland Tuesday night at Oracle Park on the back of yet another stunning performance from Madison Bumgarner (W, 8-7, 3.63 ERA) but it came with a side of torture á la Giants closer Will Smith (S, 29, 4-0, 2.55 ERA).
Bumgarner gave up just one run on two hits over seven innings, and the Giants took a 3-1 lead into the ninth. But Smith played in traffic allowing three hits and walking in a run, before finally shutting the book on the A’s last gasp for San Francisco’s (60-60) 3-2 victory.
Bumgarner has been nothing shy of deadly this summer. The Giants have an 11-3 record with him on the mound since June 4, and Tuesday he struck out eight of 11 batters he faced in a sequence that ran from the second to the fifth, racking up nine strikeouts on the evening for just the third time in 2019.
Giants skipper Bruce Bochy said his recent performances have represented some of is best work:
“I mean back-to-back starts like that and really it was only one [bad] pitch [tonight]. Besides that he was in control the whole way, he commanded the strike zone so well tonight, he had everything working.”
García, who was just called up from Triple-A Tuesday, was playing first at Oracle Park for the first time since September 30. As he weaved along the foul line into shallow right, he tried valiantly to get the ball in his sights to no avail. Ultimately it fell just fair and landed Semien at first.
That’s a tough play for a first baseman. He’s played some first down in Sacramento, I think he’s got 20 games there. We always say a guy gets out there for the first time and the ball finds you — it found him with the first hitter.”
Bumgarner said it wasn’t a mislocated pitch:
“He gets paid to hit, too. It was right where I wanted to throw it, I felt like it was a good time to throw the fastball in there, and he hit it.”
Though it only put Oakland up one run, the Giants had failed to do more than scatter a few singles against Brett Anderson (10-7, 3.95 ERA) to that point, so it appeared an ominous development.
But the Giants (60-60) finally got to Anderson in the sixth. With two outs, Buster Posey rechristened Triples Alley, walloping Anderson’s first-pitch fastball out there for a double. Evan Longoria came up next and sent a down-and-in 0-1 fastball into the left-field corner for an other double, scoring Posey and tying it up, 1-1.
Kevin Pillar, already having lengthened his hitting streak to seven games with a second-second-inning single, came through in the clutch to take the lead. He fired an 82-mph changeup out to left, and Robbie Grossman couldn’t quite lasso the ball. It was good for the Giants third-consecutive two-bagger, giving them a 2-1 lead.
Of the rally Bochy said:
“Their guy was pitching very well, we couldn’t do much with him and finally broke through there with three consecutive doubles So it was good to see the bats come alive there.”
San Francisco added on in the seventh when A’s reliever Jake Diekman walked Aramís García and Brandon Crawford to open the frame. Bumgarner executed a rare (for him) sac bunt, to move the two runners over. It was just his third sac-bunt of the season, and only the fourth time he’d even attempted such a play in 2019.
Asked if he enjoyed bunting, the big southpaw said:
“When we score a run, yes.”
“That was a good all-around ballgame for us. Every little thing we did paid off in the end.”
Smith put San Francisco fans through another round of torture Tuesday in his second uncharacteristically traffic-heavy outing in a row.
Bochy said the torture routine is familiar to him at this point after years of close ball games with the Giants and he said he has faith in his closer:
“Sometimes you wish you had a seat belt in the dugout, but we’re used to it here. With Will, I have so much confidence in him, if it doesn’t work out we had our guy out there. There’s no way I’m gonna look back and say I could have done this differently or that differently.”
Smith allowed back-to-back singles from Dustin Garneau and Khris Davis to open the ninth, before striking out Semien. Then Chapman won an eight-pitch battle, punching a single into right field to load the bases.
Smith said he knows he’s not going to be perfect out there every night and he appreciates the faith his skipper has in him:
“Boch will trust his gut sometimes, and that’s a good feeling as a player that he believes in you. So for him to stick with me right there was a pretty cool feeling. I enjoy trying to save as many games for him for his last year.”
As the situation became direr and Smith’s pitch-count climbed to nearly 30, Bochy ordered Sam Coonrod to start getting loose, but he said that was only a last resort.
“I was gonna let [Smith] stay up there until they ended up tying it or something bad happened.”
After a meeting on the mound, Smith whiffed Olson and the Georgian lefty seemed to be back on track. But then something bad did happen. Mark Canha drew a walk, to put the A’s within a run.
Bochy didn’t waiver, though:
“He’s got the mindset, the mental toughness that you like from the closer. Things weren’t going very well for him, he walked in the run but he’s so competitive he’s not going to cave in. He was gonna stay out there, like I said, un
tilthey tied the game, because of how he can will his way through.”
Smitty said there was quite
“I definitely don’t like the trouble, but we’re not gonna be perfect every night. Some nights when it happens like this you just play the scoreboard, we had a two-run lead, and you just kind of go from there, and dig deep and see what you got.”
It turned out he had enough to get the job done for his skipper and his teammates. Bochy said it was an entertaining game:
“This is exciting baseball. It’s that time of year, and it’s why you play the game. The fans were into it, the players were into it, it was a hard-fought game. We had to put some torture there at the end, but Smitty showed a lot about what he’s about.”
Alex Dickerson served as the River Cats designated hitter Tuesday night going 0-for-3 with a walk, in his first rehab start after going down August 1 with a strained right oblique. The River Cats have an off-day Wednesday before heading to Reno, and Bochy said he expects Dickerson to return to the big league club Wednesday to be evaluated. It remains to be determined whether he will be reactivated at that time.