LOS ANGELES -- Madison Bumgarner's dominance wasn't quite there Saturday against the Los Angeles Dodgers. His durability, however, began to emerge.This combination yielded a predictable result. Bumgarner threw 112 pitches, matching Derek Holland's May 18 effort for the most by a Giants pitcher this season. Because this was just Bumgarner's
LOS ANGELES -- Madison Bumgarner's dominance wasn't quite there Saturday against the Los Angeles Dodgers. His durability, however, began to emerge.
This combination yielded a predictable result. Bumgarner threw 112 pitches, matching Derek Holland's May 18 effort for the most by a Giants pitcher this season. Because this was just Bumgarner's third start since he recovered from his fractured pinkie, some of those deliveries lacked velocity or precision. Two of them were smacked for home runs by Matt Kemp and Enrique Hernandez, who powered the Dodgers to a 3-1 victory.
Offense remained the Giants' most significant shortcoming. They have scored two or fewer runs in 11 consecutive games here, dating back to last season. Saturday, they mustered four hits, all singles, off Dodgers starter Alex Wood and four relievers. San Francisco collected three of those hits in the fifth inning, which rendered most of the game a trifle dull.
At least the Giants and their faithful could watch Bumgarner use his now-familiar slinging motion to work six innings. He surrendered three runs and five hits, walking four and striking out three. He hasn't quite returned to the level that earned him four All-Star selections and unofficial hero status in the 2014 postseason.
"Each time out I've felt better and better," Bumgarner said. "That's the only thing you can ask for. I don't know how long [it will take], but I'm trying to get better as fast as I can."
Said catcher Buster Posey, "I feel like the fastball was jumping a little bit more tonight. He's only going to get stronger as he goes on."
"It showed that he has his strength and stamina," manager Bruce Bochy said of Bumgarner's performance.
Bumgarner may have company. Johnny Cueto believes he needs two more Minor League injury rehabilitation starts before he can rejoin the Giants' starting rotation. Jeff Samardzija is said to need only one more start to prepare adequately for big league action. The Giants' hopes for making noise in the National League West race would soar if Bumgarner, Samardzija and Cueto all peak in the season's second half.
Bumgarner's progress might be stalled if he had to face Hernandez all the time. The Dodgers handyman hits Bumgarner violently and consistently, batting .455 (15-for-33) lifetime with four homers off him.
"It's no secret I've thrown a ton of curveballs the last few times against him," Bumgarner said. "He made the adjustment."
Relating that he initially tried to subdue Hernandez with fastballs at the outset of their confrontations, Bumgarner called such ploys part of the "cat-and-mouse game" between pitchers and hitters. Asked if he enjoys such experiences, Bumgarner managed a thin smile and replied, "I like it when I win."
The Giants fell to 3-6 on their three-city, 10-game trip that concludes here Sunday.
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Playing his first game since he had an appendectomy June 1, Brandon Belt went 0-for-4. But he contributed a sparkling moment when he made a deft pickup of a throw from third baseman Alen Hanson that short-hopped him. Belt led the Giants in home runs (11) and RBIs (31) went he went on the disabled list.
The Giants' roster does not include a classic "Dodger-killer" who thrives against the team's biggest rival. Joe Panik comes the closest to fitting that description. The second baseman went 1-for-3 Saturday to improve his season average against Los Angeles to .306 (11-for-36).
Chris Stratton will try to build upon his last outing when he confronts the Dodgers in Sunday's series finale beginning at 1:10 p.m. PT. Stratton worked seven innings at Miami last Tuesday, ending a streak of nine starts in which he could not last that long. Stratton's Los Angeles counterpart will be Caleb Ferguson, making his third career start.
Chris Haft has covered the Giants since 2005, and for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat and listen to his podcast.