Bumgarner, Pence star in Giants' victory
Left-hander pitches eight scoreless innings despite rain delay
PHILADELPHIA -- Known for their energy and durability, Hunter Pence and Madison Bumgarner looked ready Wednesday night to tow the Giants into October.
Bumgarner lasted eight innings on a evening when the pitching staff needed an extended effort from its starter. And the tireless Pence ignored the fatigue both teams surely shared by providing a bases-loaded, ninth-inning double that accounted for San Francisco's scoring in its 3-1 triumph over the Philadelphia Phillies.
The Giants (57-44) are in an enviable position entering Thursday's series finale. They own the National League's best record, as well as a two-game lead over second-place Los Angeles in the West race. With six victories in its last seven games, San Francisco will enter its three-game weekend showdown against the Dodgers at AT&T Park with no worse than a one-game edge in the division standings.
June's collapse is beginning to recede in the Giants' collective memory.
"It looks like we're playing a different kind of ball now than when we weren't doing so good," Bumgarner said.
Count on the unsinkable Pence to provide a necessary boost.
One day after the teams endured a 14-inning struggle, they reconvened at Citizens Bank Park and appeared destined for another extra-inning affair as Bumgarner matched zeros with Phillies starter A.J. Burnett.
Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon (2-2), who blew a save opportunity Tuesday, set up San Francisco's fifth victory in a row over Philadelphia by hitting Michael Morse with a pitch to open the ninth. Adam Duvall and Tyler Colvin struck out, but after pinch-runner Gregor Blanco stole second base, Papelbon intentionally walked Brandon Crawford and walked Hector Sanchez to load the bases. That brought up Pence.
After taking a close 2-2 pitch, Pence guided Papelbon's next delivery inside the right-field foul line to send home all three runners. Santiago Casilla allowed a run in the ninth before securing his seventh save of the season.
"Honestly, that was just a well-placed ball," said Pence, whose .350 lifetime batting average against the Phillies ranks second among active players. "It wasn't like a crushed ball."
It might not have been Pence's biggest moment of the night, either. During pregame stretching, he pretended to administer CPR to the Phillie Phanatic, the famed mascot who was lying motionless nearby.
"I just didn't want him to die," Pence said.
Bumgarner (12-7) needed no such assistance while delivering a highly efficient effort that featured zero walks and only five hits allowed. The left-hander ignored the possible negative effects of a 59-minute rain delay in the fourth inning to win his third consecutive start spanning an 11-day stretch. After Carlos Ruiz doubled with one out in the second inning, Bumgarner retired 16 of the next 17 batters he faced.
By working deep into the game, Bumgarner allayed the fears of Giants general manager Brian Sabean and manager Bruce Bochy, who discussed which Minor Leaguers they might rush onto the roster to provide help for a bullpen that logged 15 innings in the series' first two games. Bochy acknowledged that he might have been forced to remove Bumgarner for precautionary purposes had the delay lasted several minutes longer.
"He gave us everything we needed and more," Bochy said of Bumgarner, who's 8-2 on the road.
The Phillies launched an eighth-inning rally as Ruiz and Domonic Brown singled, but Bumgarner responded by retiring the next three hitters.
Asked if he summoned additional motivation to stop the Phillies in the eighth, Bumgarner said, "I'm sure you probably do get a little extra adrenaline. It's probably hard to realize it at the time, but knowing [those] could be the game-winning runs or the game-losing runs -- if you're going to get beat, you want to get beat on your best stuff. You don't want to try to conserve pitches."