Bumgarner cruises before tough 6th in loss

Continuing to seek results, D-backs left-hander displays positives at Coors Field

September 11th, 2022

DENVER -- Madison Bumgarner wasn’t feeling right as he warmed up in the bullpen prior to the D-backs' game against the Rockies on Saturday night at Coors Field.

The burly left-hander had been searching for months ways to rediscover the early-season success that led to a 3.65 ERA over his first 18 starts. He had tinkered with his mechanics, making subtle changes he hoped would be impactful. But it just wasn’t happening.

So before Saturday’s 4-1 loss to Colorado, the way he was feeling was a bad omen.

“I don’t know how many guys feel good throwing in the bullpen when they come here,” Bumgarner said. “Not many. And on top of that, it was just one of those handful of starts in the year where you just don’t feel like the ball is jumping out of your hand … where you don’t feel good and you know it right from the get-go.”

Sometimes, it’s the days when you don’t feel right that things go right. At least at the beginning. Bumgarner started with five scoreless innings, during which he yielded only two hits and walked one in the most hitter-friendly environment in the Majors.

Then came the sixth.

With the D-backs leading, 1-0, Randal Grichuk opened the frame with a double to left-center field. Bumgarner then walked Yonathan Daza. That brought to the plate C.J. Cron, the man who now has the longest home run any Rockies player has hit at Coors Field -- a 504-foot moonshot the night before.

With the count at 2-2, Bumgarner didn’t want to throw what catcher Cooper Hummel was calling for, so he stepped off the mound to reset. The next pitch was to be a fastball up and in, where Cron is known to be vulnerable. The fastball didn’t get high enough and leaked out over the plate, and Cron crushed it over the center-field wall for a three-run homer.

“If I make the pitch, it’s probably a different result,” Bumgarner said. “I just didn’t.”

Aside from that fateful pitch, Bumgarner had a solid night. While his line (four runs in six innings) doesn’t reflect it, the veteran southpaw built nicely upon a step in the right direction during his previous outing, when he gave up three runs (two earned) over five innings against the Brewers.

There has been much discussion surrounding Bumgarner regarding the changes he’s tried to make since his struggles began in mid-July, to no avail. But over his past two starts, including Saturday’s outing, he threw all that away.

“It was just kind of more or less forgetting about it,” Bumgarner said. “The main concern is making pitches. … That’s what I’m going to try to do [moving forward]. I’m not going to read the box score and check the line. I know what happened. I’m just going to keep plugging along and try to have a short memory and make pitches.”

One person who doesn’t have a short memory -- at least when it comes to Bumgarner -- is the man who caught him Saturday. Hummel remembers when he was in high school and looking up to former Giants catcher Buster Posey, hoping to follow in his footsteps.

Hummel fondly recalls watching Bumgarner’s heroics for the Giants, particularly in 2014, when he led San Francisco to its third World Series title in five years with one of the greatest individual pitching performances in postseason history.

“I never thought I’d be catching Bum,” Hummel said. “I thought Bum and Posey would be retiring at the same time. I never thought he’d leave San Francisco. But he did, and now I’m catching him. It’s pretty surreal.”

Hummel said the most impressive element to Bumgarner’s work ethic is his intensity. It gives Hummel supreme confidence that the 33-year-old lefty will find the magic again.

Hummel said Bumgarner located his pitches well Saturday, something that Bumgarner himself said has become his biggest key -- not leaving pitches over the plate, particularly when falling behind hitters. The cutter and the changeup were the two offerings that Hummel said were working well through the first five frames.

“There was really only one pitch I’d want back,” Hummel said.

When asked about Bumgarner’s mentality as this season concludes and the D-backs look ahead to 2023, Hummel said we might just see a MadBum renaissance.

“Feel is really big for Bum right now,” Hummel said. “Just go out there and be the best guy you can be. Those line scores are going to go the right way eventually.

“He was one inning from a really good one today.”