SAN DIEGO – Madison Bumgarner ascended a major league mound again in the Giants’ 5-3 loss Saturday afternoon, and it hardly mattered that his team was buried by 27 games in the NL West.
The only distance that matters to Bumgarner is 60 feet, 6 inches. Every waking moment provides an opportunity to beat someone at something. This is the pitcher who turned patio furniture roping into a competitive sport.
So when Bumgarner stared down the San Diego Padres and struck out the first three batters he faced, you had to wonder: could he just go ahead and pitch every inning in the rest of this Giants season?
Of course, he cannot. He didn’t stay perfect on the mound at Petco Park, either. Matt Szczur hit a solo home run in the third inning. Then Bumgarner hung a curveball that Jabari Blash hit for a two-run shot in the fourth.
And while the Giants are no longer waiting for their ace to return, they’re still waiting for their first victory in a game that he started this season.
Joe Panik hit a tying home run in the sixth inning but the Giants couldn’t push ahead, and then a familiar face spoiled Bumgarner’s return. Padres catcher Hector Sanchez connected for a two-run home run against Steven Okert in the ninth inning to send the Giants to their fifth loss in five Bumgarner starts this season.
Jabari Blash hit a leadoff single against Cory Gearrin and the Padres executed a sacrifice bunt before Sanchez, who toted a .154 average into the game, connected on a 407-foot drive to left field.
The game was lost much earlier, though.
The Giants came within a millimeter of handing Bumgarner a 6-0 lead in the second inning.
They scored twice in the first against Jhoulys Chacin despite squinting into a mix of golden sky and shadow, as Hunter Pence lined a two-run single. They loaded the bases in the second inning, too, but Buster Posey’s deep drive to left field settled in Szczur’s glove with his back against the wall.
Chacin’s back was against something firm as well. He was approaching 60 pitches through two innings, and it appeared the Padres bullpen would be tasked with soaking up innings.
But the Giants stranded Brandon Crawford following a leadoff double in the third, and they didn’t get another runner to second base until Panik hit a tying home run in the sixth.
Bumgarner was starting for the first time since he separated his pitching shoulder April 20 in a dirt bike accident.
He was not in midseason form, which was to be expected. His fastball averaged 89-90 mph but he had enough movement with his cutter and curve to keep the Padres off balance. He worked a seven-pitch second inning and only paid for the two home run balls.
Bumgarner allowed three runs on four hits and a walk in seven innings. He struck out five.
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