PHILADELPHIA -- Madison Bumgarner cruised through his first seven starts after returning from the injured list on July 16, thanks in large part to his renewed ability to command the strike zone.
That command wavered for a second straight outing on Sunday afternoon, however, as Bumgarner matched a season high with four walks in a 7-4 loss to the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. Arizona dropped each of the final three games of the series after winning Thursday's opener to finish just 3-7 on its 10-game road trip.
Bumgarner allowed five runs on seven hits and four walks over five innings -- though that may have been a best-case scenario given the way he felt.
“It should have been a lot worse. That's as bad as I think I've ever been,” Bumgarner said. “I had no feel, no idea where the ball was going. It was really bad. That's as bad a game as I've thrown in a long time, and I'm surprised it wasn't a lot worse.”
Bumgarner has conceded nine earned runs while walking seven batters over 14 innings (5.79 ERA) in his last two outings. He had posted a 1.93 ERA while walking only five hitters over 46 2/3 innings in his first seven starts since coming off the IL.
Along with the control issues on Sunday, Bumgarner's four-seam fastball averaged a season-low 89.0 mph. His previous low was 89.3 mph -- and that came on Tuesday in Pittsburgh.
Though everything felt normal in the bullpen before Sunday’s game -- and Bumgarner confirmed that he felt fine physically -- he said it was obvious from the get-go that it would be a grind.
“Pretty much right away,” said Bumgarner when asked about when he first noticed something was off. “Even the warmup pitches on the game mound -- for whatever reason -- I was throwing fastballs in the dirt warming up, which I don't do.”
Bumgarner indeed worked his way into an early hole, walking a pair of batters in a two-run first inning. Though he put up zeros over the next three frames, the veteran southpaw loaded the bases with one out in the fifth on a pair of singles and another walk.
The Phillies plated their third run in the fifth inning when Jorge Bonifacio chopped a slow roller to first baseman Christian Walker, who opted to take the safe play at first base instead of attempting to start a potential inning-ending double play or try to cut down the runner at the plate. Two more runs scored when the next batter, Freddy Galvis, dropped a two-out two-run single into center field. All three of Philadelphia's base hits in the inning had an exit velocity of less than 80 mph.
“It was just a well-placed ground ball,” manager Torey Lovullo said of Bonifacio’s groundout to Walker. “It ended up being a big out -- a potential double-play ball that we didn't turn. ... But he made the right play. He made the right play.”
Instead, it was the eighth-inning defense that bothered Lovullo.
After the D-backs scored two in the top of the eighth to cut the Phillies’ lead to 5-4, they gave those runs right back on a pair of miscues in the bottom half. Josh Rojas misplayed a leadoff grounder to start the frame, then Ketel Marte mishandled a catchable ball in center field for what was ruled an RBI triple.
“It's a little bit frustrating to me and the rest of the staff, and I know the players, as well,” Lovullo said. “We worked hard to close the gap to one run, but some plays that I felt like should have been made weren't. You can see when it unravels, it happens quickly. That's not what we're supposed to do. That's not what we're preparing to do. We've got to tighten that up.”
Those miscues overshadowed a big day from Jake McCarthy, who collected his first career hit with an RBI double in the second. The 24-year-old outfielder also threw out Bryce Harper at the plate to complete an inning-ending double play in the seventh, then singled and scored in the eighth.
Unfortunately for the D-backs, that wasn’t enough to overcome the shaky late-game defense -- or the “should have been worse” start from Bumgarner.
“He was out there giving everything he could,” Lovullo said. “He was competing without his best stuff, and I think he knew it.”