MadBum sees improvement with 5 scoreless

September 20th, 2020

The D-backs fell to the Astros, 3-2, on Sunday afternoon at Minute Maid Park. But a bigger development for them was the step forward that left-hander took.

Bumgarner tossed five scoreless innings in his best start of the year, taking a no-decision. A five-inning outing would normally not be a big deal for Bumgarner, but 2020 has been like no other for the southpaw, who came into the game with an 8.53 ERA over his first seven starts and having to answer constant questions about his diminished fastball velocity.

“He did a great job of controlling the zone, throwing all pitches, hitting his spots,” D-backs manager Torey Lovullo said. “He gave us five scoreless and handed off to the bullpen. That was a real, real encouraging sign. I know speaking to him for a couple minutes after the outing, he was real encouraged by the results. Really, ultimately, we know what a competitor he is, we know what his expectations are. I know he has been battling through some frustration. Super encouraged by our conversation and the results today.”

This outing, Bumgarner’s command was sharp, his velocity was up a bit and he held the Astros to a pair of hits and a walk while striking out a season-high seven.

“I'm just glad to see some of the things I'm doing showing up now,” Bumgarner said. “That was the main thing about today.”

And what were those things?

“Made some adjustments to what I was doing -- not physically, mentally,” Bumgarner said. “Thought process and all that. Did things a little different, and it showed up.”

That was as specific as Bumgarner wanted to get so as not to tip off the Rockies, who he will face in his final start of the year.

“You’re not getting this out of me,” Bumgarner said with a smile. “I’m keeping this right here. I’m going to keep that to myself.”

Bumgarner averaged 88.9 mph on his four-seam fastball, per Statcast, his highest average of the season. However, he said he has stopped paying attention to his velocity for now and is instead focused on making pitches. An even better number for him was the 86.4 mph average exit velocity he allowed, which was his lowest of the year.

In his previous start, Bumgarner held the Angels to one run through the first four innings. In the fifth, the Halos hit him hard and scored five runs. Lovullo then sent him back out for the sixth, and the Halos scored another two runs as Bumgarner matched a career high with eight earned runs allowed on a career-high 13 hits in 5 1/3 innings.

It was a decision that Lovullo felt bad about, and he approached Bumgarner afterward.

“The last outing he had, it was painful for me to ask him to go back out there and give up eight runs -- that’s something I want to avoid at all costs,” Lovullo said. “In my postgame discussion with Bum, he was like, ‘Don’t worry about it, man, I deserved it. If I’m going to go out there and make those pitches, I deserve to give up eight runs.’”

This time, though, Bumgarner had thrown 80 pitches through five innings when the D-backs decided to go to the bullpen (which gave up three runs over the three frames).

The decision was not made by Lovullo, who was ejected in the fourth by home-plate umpire Adam Hamari for arguing balls and strikes. Instead, it was a collective one by bench coach Luis Urueta, who was working as the acting manager, quality-control coach Robby Hammock and pitching coach Matt Herges.

“I wasn’t expecting Herges to come up and have that, ‘Let’s talk a little bit’ [conversation],” Bumgarner said. “I also understand where we’re at in the year and understand that they’re keeping track of all the work that we’re putting in in between, and I think that was the driving factor there.”