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'Buzzard's luck,' soft contact sink Bumgarner

@jessicacamerato
September 19, 2019

BOSTON -- There are final statistics that clearly paint the picture of a pitcher's starts. Then there are results, like Madison Bumgarner's outing on Thursday at Fenway Park, that tell the story of an up-and-down performance. Seven strikeouts and a flurry of softly-batted balls were mixed in with five runs

BOSTON -- There are final statistics that clearly paint the picture of a pitcher's starts. Then there are results, like Madison Bumgarner's outing on Thursday at Fenway Park, that tell the story of an up-and-down performance.

Seven strikeouts and a flurry of softly-batted balls were mixed in with five runs and nine hits over five innings in the Giants' 5-4 loss to the Red Sox. Bumgarner dropped to 9-9 on the season with a 3.86 ERA.

Box score

"I thought he threw better than what the numbers are going to show," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "This has probably been his worst year as far as luck. A lot of soft contact that second inning. That's tough luck. Buzzard's luck."

Bumgarner allowed Boston's five runs in the first two frames. The Red Sox weren't belting rockets, but they were finding their spots. Of the 17 balls hit off Bumgarner in the game, only two had an exit velocity faster than 100 mph, according to Statcast. Three clocked in less than 66 mph.

"That's what you go for," Bumgarner said of soft contact. "That and strikeouts. It's just unfortunate that that many of them fell in. In this case, I just keep making my pitches and just trust that that's not going to continue to happen."

Bumgarner gave up two runs in the first inning when Andrew Benintendi doubled and Rafael Devers singled to drive him home. Christian Vázquez, who Bumgarner walked, scored on a Xander Bogaerts single.

Bumgarner quickly recorded two outs to start the second inning, but he then gave up four straight singles. The Red Sox plated three runs to jump out to a 5-0 lead, a deficit that has not worked in the Giants favor this season. They are 19-53 when allowing five or more runs.

"I would like to be upset about the game, but I feel really good about the way I threw, actually," Bumgarner said. "I felt like a lot of the hits, especially early on, were good pitches and got broken bats, soft contact. Just happened to fall in."

The 11-year veteran and three-time World Series champion buckled down after that. He pitched three scoreless innings and allowed just two hits the rest of the way.

"Just to do the best I can to give us a chance to win," Bumgarner said. "No matter how bad it is, don't let it get any worse. I just compete until I'm done and never give in just because you had a rough first inning or two. A lot of times, you end up doing like it went today. Sometimes things continually kind of go down the drain for you, but the last thing anybody wants is to walk up here after they're done and wish that they would've tried a little harder or gave it a little more. That's not what it's about."

Bumgarner accumulated 200-plus innings for the seventh time in his career, and he joined Justin Verlander as the only Major League pitchers to reach that innings mark at least seven times since 2011. Along with Juan Marichal and Gaylord Perry, Bumgarner is the third Giants pitcher with 200-plus frames in at least seven seasons since the club moved to San Francisco in 1958.

As the regular season winds down, Bumgarner is line to start Bochy's final game as manager of the Giants. Bochy is looking forward to seeing him "give us a chance to win" each outing until then.

"I enjoy every outing he makes for us," Bochy said. "This man's done so much for the Giants, for me and so I enjoy watching him."

Jessica Camerato is a reporter/editor for MLB.com based in Boston. Follow her on Twitter @jessicacamerato.