OAKLAND -- No matter how many hours passed or how many innings piled up between Madison Bumgarner's premature exit and the conclusion of the Giants' 4-3, 11-inning Interleague loss Saturday to the Oakland A's, the evening's most lingering element remained the San Francisco ace's inexplicable loss of control.Bumgarner lasted five
OAKLAND -- No matter how many hours passed or how many innings piled up between Madison Bumgarner's premature exit and the conclusion of the Giants' 4-3, 11-inning Interleague loss Saturday to the Oakland A's, the evening's most lingering element remained the San Francisco ace's inexplicable loss of control.
Bumgarner lasted five batters into a nightmarish fifth inning, which featured four of his career-high six walks. His truncated outing ended his stretch of 89 consecutive starts in which he worked at least five innings. It was the National League's longest such streak.
"Obviously, you guys know I don't care about any kind of streak except for a win streak," Bumgarner said. "The whole idea is to go late into games. This worked out well for me for a while. This is a hard game, it's not a walk in the park by any means."
Thus, Bumgarner was long gone when the end came for the Giants, who competed diligently to force extra innings.
With the score tied at 3, Giants left-hander Will Smith retired the first two batters he faced in the 11th before Matt Chapman singled to prolong the inning. Chad Pinder also singled. Up came Jonathan Lucroy, Smith's former Milwaukee teammate. He sliced a single to right-center field, sending home Chapman with the winning run.
During and after the extra-inning suspense, one question remained: What happened to Bumgarner? Through four innings, he blanked Oakland on one hit while striking out five.
"I just couldn't find the zone," he said. "I was trying to throw strikes, I wasn't trying to pitch to corners. Just was one of those times where I couldn't do it, I guess. I didn't do it. Weird situation, you just kind of lose your feel for a minute and let the inning get away from you."
Bumgarner maintained that faulty pitching mechanics were not an issue. Nor, he insisted, was he a victim of the tendency of Oakland's hitters to erode pitchers' effectiveness with a patient approach.
"I just didn't throw strikes. That's it," Bumgarner said. "I'm trying to get ahead, trying to throw strikes and put guys away fast. I just couldn't do it there in the fifth. I don't think it had anything to do with them. I'm not trying to take anything away from them, but we've got to throw strikes. I've got to put the ball over the plate."
A's manager Bob Melvin echoed Bumgarner -- and elaborated in intriguing fashion.
"You've got to make him throw it over the plate," Melvin said. "He pitches a little differently now. There's a bunch of cutters and curveballs and changeups. It's a little different from a guy who used to come after you with fastballs. ... The key to that game was making him work and getting him out of there."
Bumgarner's trouble in the fifth began when he walked leadoff batter Matt Olson on four pitches. Then came a dose of bad luck: Chapman's bloop single, which fell between second baseman Alen Hanson and right fielder Andrew McCutchen.
Bumgarner walked the next three hitters on 3-2 pitches, forcing in a pair of runs and prompting his removal from the game. Sam Dyson relieved Bumgarner and promptly induced Mark Canha's double-play grounder, which enabled a run to score.
Limited by A's starter Trevor Cahill to Brandon Belt's fourth-inning home run, the Giants narrowed the difference to a single run on Hunter Pence's seventh-inning RBI single.
The Giants pulled even with two outs in the ninth against A's closer Blake Treinen. Hanson swung and missed at strike three, but reached first base as the ball eluded catcher Josh Phegley.
Pence, who went 3-for-5, lined a double just inside first base to score Hanson. The A's challenged, claiming that since the ball scooted into the Giants' bullpen, Pence's hit should have been categorized as a ground-rule double that held Hanson at third. But a replay review confirmed that the "live-ball" call on the field stands. The A's loaded the bases in their half of the ninth with one out before Reyes Moronta coaxed Marcus Semien's inning-ending double-play grounder to force extra innings.
"That was a hard-fought game on both sides," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "It was a battle."
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Shortstop Brandon Crawford made a sixth-inning play on Olson's foul popup that was unbelievable. Except it wasn't unbelievable, because Crawford recorded the out. Racing into the A's bullpen, Crawford danced around the mounds to maintain his footing and his balance. With his back facing home plate, Crawford caught the ball to complete a successful journey into mostly foreign territory.
The A's might have sealed their victory earlier in the 11th inning were it not for Crawford. He ranged into short center field to make a sliding, scooping catch of Dustin Fowler's bloop that appeared destined to fall for a hit.
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As the ball scooted toward their bullpen, the Giants instantly sized up the possibilities. So they quickly got the heck out of the way when Pence's ninth-inning double crossed into their territory and enabled Hanson to score the tying run from first base.
The A's were thinking, too. There was no argument that Pence's hit was a double. However, they wanted it officially called a ground-rule double, which would have held Hanson at third. Fortunately for the Giants and unfortunately for the A's, the replay review confirmed that the "live ball" ruling on the field stands.
Right-hander Johnny Cueto (3-1) will test his Interleague success in Sunday's series finale when the Giants confront Oakland in a 1:05 p.m. PT contest. Cueto owns a 16-7 record with a 2.68 ERA in 33 career Interleague starts. That includes a 2-0 record and an 0.75 ERA in a pair of Interleague outings this year against the Mariners and Angels. Left-hander Sean Manaea (9-6), Oakland's leading winner, will oppose Cueto.
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.