The defending World Series champs, hoping to make a repeat postseason appearance, have just started their most precarious month of the season. And, despite starting a 10-game road trip with a 3-3 record, they will surely take anything they can get as they try to simply survive through the dog days of summer.
The San Francisco Giants finished their road series against the Atlanta Braves with a much-needed 6-1 victory on Wednesday, behind a strong performance by staff ace Madison Bumgarner (7.1 IP, 9 K, 1 ER, 116 total pitches), earning his 12th win of the season.
It wasn’t easy for the 26-year-old throughout a balmy 86-degree night at Turner Field. Battling the evening heat and a bevy of eager young hitters, Bumgarner allowed only two hits through five innings. Atlanta’s bats woke up afterwards, and even scored a run off of MadBum in the seventh. But No. 40 threw 81 pitches for strikes, silencing Atlanta’s bats for the majority of the game.
Meanwhile, rookie 2B Kelby Tomlinson provided all the offense the Giants needed to take the game going away. Continuing his trend of hot hitting – one that saw his first major league hit on his very first at-bat – Tomlinson went 2-for-4 on the night, batting in three runs for the majority of the team’s offensive punch. While Rookie of the Year candidate Matt Duffy and RF Hunter Pence provided insurance runs in the seventh, it was Tomlinson – who took over for an injured Joe Panik (back) on Monday – that made his presence felt during the Giants’ series in Atlanta.
Having won their three-game road series against the Braves, the Giants must move on to the Windy City and Wrigley Field, where they will face off against the Cubs in a four-game series starting on Thursday.
It should be noted that Bumgarner, who threw 116 pitches in Wednesday’s start, was gunning for even more repetitions on the mound. After all, despite the vast workload he has had to endure over the last 18 months, he is well-aware – as is the rest of the current pitching rotation – of how important it was to eat as many innings as possible, to save the bullpen.
At this point of the season, they will be needed as much as ever, and considering their most recent struggles – notably, failing to hold leads in the 9th and 12th innings on Monday in Atlanta – it’s obvious that they will need as much help as they can get down the stretch. Hopefully with a fresh arm in the rotation, in the form of recently-acquired Mike Leake, early appearances by the bullpen won’t be needed as much.
While way too early to make a clear judgment, it is at least encouraging to see the production from Kelby Tomlinson. The bespectacled 25-year-old – who bears a slight resemblence to a certain famous cinema fireballer (or a talented Matt Damon character, depending on who you ask) – is the first rookie since Fred Lewis in 2006 to go 3-for-3 in his first three career at-bats.
He looked like he was in midseason form when he slapped his first single on Monday – much to the chagrin of his wife and father-in-law in the stands – and his three RBIs on Wednesday continued that trend. If Panik is forced to miss significant time, it will be interesting to see how Tomlinson handles the pressure-packed, day-to-day grind of August in the major leagues.