Everything's all right: MadBum foils LA's plan
Giants ace triumphs despite Dodgers benching left-handed hitters
LOS ANGELES -- A fellow named Sandy Koufax, who earned plenty of fame and fortune while pitching here, is alleged to have said, "You don't beat hitters. You beat lineups."
So far this year, every lineup Madison Bumgarner has faced was constructed with the sole intent of neutralizing his success. Tuesday, he made a mockery of this strategy.
Facing another array of right-handed batters, Bumgarner used his left arm to thumb his nose at the percentages and the Los Angeles Dodgers as he led the Giants to a 2-1 victory. San Francisco's 2014 postseason hero delivered an effort worthy of last October by surrendering five hits and the Dodgers' lone run in eight innings.
Bumgarner accomplished a lot with what was by far his finest performance of the season: He bested Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw, who was denied his 100th career victory; he ended the Dodgers' eight-game home winning streak; and he guided the Giants to their fifth victory in seven games.
He also gave advance scouts and the teams they work for something to ponder.
So conscious were the Dodgers of Bumgarner's left-handedness that they benched a handful of their best hitters, who happen to bat left-handed: Adrian Gonzalez, who began the day leading the Majors in slugging percentage and ranked among the leaders in numerous other offensive categories; Joc Pederson, who doubled and homered in Monday's series opener; and Andre Ethier, who's batting .310.
Conceivably, the logic of stacking a batting order with right-handed batters against Bumgarner is unassailable. But this ploy has become so popular and extreme that Bumgarner has faced only two left-handed batters in five starts this season: Arizona's Ender Inciarte, who's 2-for-5 off him, and Kershaw, who's 0-for-5.
In fact, opponents might have savored the exasperation in his voice when he related how he felt when he took his first look at the Dodgers' lineup: "I thought, 'When's the next time I'm going to see a lefty?' I don't know. It certainly is different. I don't mind. Either way, you have to make pitches to whoever you're facing."
Bumgarner made dozens of effective pitches, striking out nine while permitting three runners to reach scoring position. He improved his lifetime record against the Dodgers to 12-5 with a 2.46 ERA, including 8-3, 2.08 at Dodger Stadium.
"I felt like his pitches were a little bit more crisp than I've seen so far," said catcher Buster Posey, who generated San Francisco's offense with a first-inning RBI single and a fourth-inning homer. Bumgarner attributed his effectiveness to a smoother delivery, which enabled him to reach 94 mph with a fastball that struck out pinch-hitter Yasmani Grandal and ended the seventh inning.
Affirming the coordination of his pitching mechanics, Bumgarner said, "If I would have given up six runs, I would have told you the same thing."
Of course, that kind of performance would not have sufficed against Kershaw, who lost to the Giants for the first time since Sept. 13, 2013. Since then, Kershaw was 3-0 with a 1.89 ERA against the Giants in five starts.
"Anytime you're facing him, it's going to be tough to scratch some runs across," said Bumgarner, adding that confronting pitchers of Kershaw's quality is "going to bring out the best in me, for sure. There's no way around that."