SAN DIEGO -- It’s not often that a starting pitcher’s time between starts is of more intrigue than his time on the mound.
But Trade Deadline week is upon us, so the eyes of the Giants’ baseball world will be on Madison Bumgarner for the next few days. For the record, he did indeed depart Petco Park with the rest of his teammates Sunday afternoon, headed to Philadelphia after helping the Giants to a 7-6 victory over the Padres.
The Phillies, Braves, Cubs and Yankees were among the clubs with scouts in attendance as Bumgarner made his last start before the Trade Deadline. They did not get to see vintage Bumgarner, in terms of his mastery of the strike zone, but they did get to see the determined competitor who doesn’t wilt in the face of adversity and who has thrived in so many Octobers.
The veteran left-hander pitched seven innings and allowed four runs on four hits, two walks, a hit batter and a wild pitch. He overcame a 444-foot three-run homer by Hunter Renfroe in the third inning to outperform a string of Padres pitchers on their bullpen day and deliver the Giants their first win by a starting pitcher since July 15.
“He’s not thinking about anything that’s possible or any kind of speculation,” said manager Bruce Bochy. “He’s just trying to win a ballgame. You saw that today. That’s what makes him special. He gives up a three-run homer, but after that, he was nails. He pitched really well.”
Mike Yastrzemski had the second four-hit game of his career, two doubles, two RBIs and two runs, including a tiebreaking run in the sixth inning as the Giants’ offensive output exceeded the four total runs they scored in the previous three games combined. Between Bumgarner and the revitalized offense, the Giants gave Bochy a victory in his final game at his old haunts of San Diego and kept the good vibes of July going.
By winning the series finale, the Giants are 19-5 since June 30. They have not lost a series since the Rockies took two of three at Oracle Park from June 24-26. They have not lost consecutive games since June 26-27 against the Rockies and D-backs.
“Pretty incredible run we’ve been on right now,” Bumgarner said.
Bumgarner then paused, reflecting on the connotation of his word choice.
“I take it back -- I don’t want to call it a run,” he said. “I want us to keep doing it. Let’s go with -- we’ve been playing good, and we want to keep doing that.”
The Giants’ chances to keep winning -- and to improve their position in the National League Wild Card race -- figure to be better if Bumgarner stays than if he’s moved. A source told MLB.com reporter Mark Feinsand before the weekend series that the lefty is likely to stay.
Still, until the Trade Deadline passes Wednesday, there’s always a chance a pitching-hungry contender will make an offer enticing enough for Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi to contemplate a deal. Bumgarner, 6-7 with a 3.74 ERA, is eligible for free agency after the season and is attractive for a team seeking a late-season rental.
Does Bumgarner feel his status with San Francisco has changed thanks to the team’s recent success?
“I don’t care. I’ve got a job to do, and I’m going to do it,” he said after a shoulder shrug.
Does Bumgarner expect his next start to be in a Giants uniform? Just a shrug on that one.
Is he tired of trade questions? “I can handle it,” he said.
That’s no different than when he’s on the mound. He can handle it. Bumgarner’s track record, his stoicism in the face of adversity and his ability to execute when challenged all are reasons his teammates certainly want to see him take his next turn in Colorado late next week.
“He’s the guy you look to when you think of the Giants’ pitching staff,” the rookie Yastrzemski said. “He’s so clutch in the key moments, the key situations of a game. He dials it down. He isn’t fazed by who’s at the plate, how many runners are on base, how many outs there are.
“It’s great for us to have that around. Because when you have that, you have more confidence in yourself to go make a play, more confidence when you step up to the plate. It’s been great to play with him.”
How much will that factor into the front office’s decisions the next few days? A shrug just might have to suffice until Wednesday.