NEW YORK -- Prior to Thursday, the last time Madison Bumgarner toed the rubber at Citi Field, he powered through the 2016 National League Wild Card Game with what his manager recalled as "a maniacal focus." Much has changed since that brisk night two Octobers ago, when Bumgarner outdueled Noah
NEW YORK -- Prior to Thursday, the last time Madison Bumgarner toed the rubber at Citi Field, he powered through the 2016 National League Wild Card Game with what his manager recalled as "a maniacal focus." Much has changed since that brisk night two Octobers ago, when Bumgarner outdueled Noah Syndergaard to blank the Mets, adding another dominant postseason performance to a resume already full of them. A lot has changed, but not his comfortability pitching in Queens.
Flash forward to Thursday afternoon, and another NL Cy Young Award-caliber Met, Jacob deGrom -- who is battling through one of the best pitching seasons in modern history -- stood in between Bumgarner and a win. No matter. Flushing may be where deGrom calls home, but nowhere on the Major League circuit is Bumgarner more dominant. And it's difficult to dominate a game more than Bumgarner did Thursday's 3-1 win.
"That's what you need when you're going against an elite pitcher like deGrom: You need your guy to step up," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "It's a pretty good recipe."
By striking out eight over eight innings of one-run ball, Bumgarner outdueled deGrom while the Nationals' Max Scherzer and the Phillies' Aaron Nola squared off merely 100 miles to the south, in Washington, D.C. The effort came a day after Bumgarner endorsed deGrom for the NL Cy Young Award over Scherzer and Nola, saying of the righty's pedestrian record, "I don't think it should affect his candidacy at all." Bumgarner then punctuated his dominant outing by driving in the deciding run on an RBI double off deGrom, sinking that record back to .500.
"We've seen that a few times in his career, where he throws a great game and does something with his bat," Bochy said. "There was a time when I said, 'This brings back memories.'"
The image that kept coming back to Bochy, as Bumgarner carved through another Mets lineup, was from that prior battle with Syndergaard. Thursday's marquee matchup also lived up to its billing. Though they'd stretch their lead with Evan Longoria's homer off Tyler Bashlor in the eighth, the Giants managed only one run off deGrom outside of Bumgarner, on a passed ball in the third. The Mets righty fanned 10 over six innings, but Bumgarner was better.
"Most of the time, this is going to be the kind of game it's going to be, one way or the other," Bumgarner said. "You know the margin for error is pretty slim."
Knowing that he probably couldn't give up a run and have a lead, Bumgarner retired 10 of his first 11 hitters and held the Mets scoreless until Todd Frazier's solo homer in the seventh. That snapped a stretch of 33 consecutive scoreless innings for Bumgarner at Citi Field, where he improved to 6-0 with an 0.59 ERA in six career starts, including the postseason.
"I don't know if it just worked out that way or what it is, but everybody has their own parks they like pitching at," Bumgarner said. "For whatever reason, this one has been good to me."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Duggar digs out a run: The circumstances that led to the Giants' first run felt fitting for the matchup, as San Francisco etched its first tally off deGrom without a hit. Hitting in the No. 9 hole behind Bumgarner, Steven Duggar walked to lead off the third before swiping second off deGrom and catcher Devin Mesoraco. He advanced to third on a groundout and scampered home when Mesoraco couldn't glove a high fastball Longoria swung through. Bochy smirked when discussing the passed ball, which made the run off deGrom unearned.
"We call those RTIs -- runs thrown in," Bochy said. "You take that stat, especially off a tough pitcher like that. That's what you're hoping for with a man on third. If something happens, with his speed, he can score."
Bumgarner battles in seventh: Bumgarner's biggest obstacle came in the seventh inning, after Frazier's home run cut the Giants' lead to one. He then hit Jose Bautista with a pitch and allowed a single to Jeff McNeil, putting runners on first and second with no out. At that point, Bumgarner resolved to "not let the game speed up" on him, he said. He coaxed a double play out of Kevin Plawecki and struck out Michael Conforto on a 3-2 fastball to win a nine-pitch at-bat and strand the tying run at third.
"I was trying to get [Conforto] with [the breaking ball]," Bumgarner said. "We got him a couple times earlier with it. He was battling. I tried to go fastballs up, and he was fouling them off. Tried to go curveballs down, he was fouling those off, too. Just decided to go fastball up and in and find a hole there."
Bumgarner's strikeout of Conforto continued a streak of head-to-head dominance against the Mets outfielder, whom Bumgarner has now struck out in five of six career matchups. The home run from Frazier, though, continued some history of another kind. It boosted Frazier's lifetime batting average against Bumgarner to .400 (6-for-15). His .867 slugging percentage ranks fourth among active players (minimum of 15 at-bats) against the lefty.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Don't Panik, please: Two athletic plays by second baseman Joe Panik kept the Mets off the bases on the afternoon. Panik lunged to rob McNeil of a hit in the fourth that stranded a runner in scoring position to end the inning. Then in the ninth, he snatched a Wilmer Flores line drive to help Will Smith notch his 11th save.
HE SAID IT
"He was still really good. If he'd won, we'd be talking about how good he was. That's just the nature of the beast, I guess. I'm sure he expects it from himself, but it's unrealistic for a guy to go out there and throw a shutout every time." -- Bumgarner, on deGrom
Giants lefty Derek Holland apologized after Thursday's win for an interview he gave on Wednesday afternoon on MLB Network's Intentional Talk.
Holland brought club massage therapist Haro Ogawa on camera with him, calling him his "hype man," bowing multiple times to him over the course of the interview. Holland called it a "bit" intended to be funny, but he received criticism for the appearance due to racial insensitivity.
"I didn't want it to turn out the way that it did," Holland said. "It was not meant to be that way. I apologize for what I've done and what I've caused, and now it's become a distraction to the team, and I don't want that. I don't want to have offended anybody. I apologize for doing that."
Holland said he apologized to Ogawa, as well as team bullpen catcher Taira Uematsu, who is also Japanese. Uematsu, who did not appear on camera, watched the segment from the Giants clubhouse, along with many players.
"They understand I was just doing a bit, but obviously it was too far," Holland said. "I want everybody to understand that was not the intention. If we're going to blame anybody, it needs to be me. I want to be held accountable for everything I've done and caused with all of this. It's embarrassing. We were just trying to have some fun. We were trying to entertain, bring it to a different level and make the interview a little more exciting, and I obviously crossed the line with that. Those were not the intentions, so I apologize for what's come about with this.
"This is all on me, and I apologize for what I've done. Whatever I have to do to take care of this situation, I will do it."
Dereck Rodriguez (6-1, 2.25 ERA) is set to return from the disabled list and start Friday at 7:15 p.m. PT, when the Giants begin a nine-game homestand with a three-game set against Texas. The rookie right-hander missed two starts with a minor right hamstring strain that he suffered during a benches-clearing skirmish with the Dodgers earlier this month. Veteran righty Andrew Hutchison (2-2, 5.71) will oppose for the Rangers, who will visit AT&T Park for the first time since 2012. Before that, the two teams last squared off in San Francisco during the 2010 World Series.
Joe Trezza is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @joetrezz.