SAN FRANCISCO -- His velocity fell short of its peak. He didn't deliver another of those Paul Bunyanesque clouts that delights fans. And the "L" next to his name in the box score always looks unfamiliar.Nevertheless, the plurality of zeros on the scoreboard and the sheer presence of the man
SAN FRANCISCO -- His velocity fell short of its peak. He didn't deliver another of those Paul Bunyanesque clouts that delights fans. And the "L" next to his name in the box score always looks unfamiliar.
Nevertheless, the plurality of zeros on the scoreboard and the sheer presence of the man himself erased any doubt: This was Madison Bumgarner, all right. And though Bumgarner absorbed the decision in San Francisco's 3-2 loss Tuesday to the Arizona Diamondbacks, his performance provided hope for the Giants, whose five-game winning streak dissolved as they welcomed back their ace left-hander.
Recovered from a fractured left pinkie finger, Bumgarner lasted six innings and sustained a respectable performance in his regular-season debut. But Patrick Corbin and the D-backs bullpen combined to limit San Francisco to five hits through the first eight innings.
Bumgarner sustained a respectable effort, yielding two runs and eight hits while walking none and striking out three. His most significant lapse occurred in the second inning, which began with doubles from Ketel Marte and Chris Owings that scored a run. Kristopher Negron then recorded an RBI single on a dribbler that trickled past third baseman Evan Longoria and shortstop Brandon Crawford.
Bumgarner's fastball reached 91 mph; about 2-3 mph below its usual level. But it's generally assumed that the four-time All-Star and 2014 postseason hero will regain his usual form as the season progresses.
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Giants manager Bruce Bochy rated Bumgarner's stint as "solid." Said Bochy, "He did a nice job, for his first start back. That was a good effort. … You get your guy back, it's a lift for everybody -- the rotation, the club. He's still going to build strength and stamina."
Bumgarner's typical competitiveness remained constant.
"You know you're going to get his best bolt every time out," Giants catcher Buster Posey said.
Center fielder Chris Owings, who grounded an RBI double and scored to account for both of Arizona's second-inning runs, noticed Bumgarner's diminished velocity yet expressed respect for him.
"I felt like we had a really good plan and a really good approach," Owings said. "Not a lot of strikeouts from the offense with him and I thought that was a big deal. We kind of jumped on him a little bit early and when he threw strikes. Getting those two runs early really helps out. Putting the ball in play against him takes it to our advantage, just a little. He's so good out there that we got a couple of cheap hits and it kind of puts the pressure on them a little bit."
Bumgarner felt no pressure. He adjusted by throwing more changeups.
"They [the D-backs] were pretty aggressive," Bumgarner said. " ... I kind of saw that right away."
The adoration for Bumgarner also was evident. He drew repeated ovations, including one as public-address announcer Renel Brooks-Moon delivered the lineups to the AT&T Park crowd and referred to Bumgarner by saying, "Batting ninth, the man who needs no introduction."
Bumgarner appreciated the reaction.
"I was definitely glad to be back," he said.
There wasn't much to be said about the Giants' offense, either. Mac Williamson doubled and scored on Crawford's double in the fifth inning, but otherwise, San Francisco's offense mostly remained silent. Other than the fifth, San Francisco mustered two hits before Alen Hanson's pinch-hit double and Posey's RBI single generated a run in the ninth. The Giants used a trio of walks to load the bases with two outs in the seventh, but D-backs reliever Yoshihisa Hirano coaxed Posey's harmless fly ball on a 2-0 pitch to end the threat.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Giants right-hander Mark Melancon maintained his effectiveness since overcoming a right elbow flexor sprain and missing the season's first 56 games. Keeping the score close, Melancon blanked Arizona in the seventh inning, his second shutout inning in as many appearances since being reinstated from the disabled list. Melancon struck out two batters, complementing his season-opening effort Sunday against Philadelphia when he struck out the side.
D-backs first baseman Paul Goldschmidt is hitting .429 (12-for-28) with two homers and five RBIs against the Giants this season, compared to a combined .188 (35-for-186) average with six home runs and 15 RBIs against every other team.
MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
With one out in the Giants' ninth, Hanson hoisted a drive to the right-field corner, where Negron dove for the ball. The D-backs challenged the "fair" ruling, which was confirmed after a replay review. Hanson had a double and soon scored, but it wasn't enough for the Giants.
The Giants will conclude the series and the relatively brief homestand Wednesday with a 12:45 p.m. PT clash against the D-backs. Chris Stratton, who ended a month-long slump in his last start with six shutout innings against Philadelphia, will start for the Giants against fellow right-hander Clay Buchholz. The Giants are 5-1 in Stratton's outings at home and 4-2 on the road.
Chris Haft has covered the Giants since 2005, and for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat and listen to his podcast.