It’s rather surprising, but coming into tonight, Madison Bumgarner had never thrown a complete game. 67 starts, most of them good, and yet none of ’em lasted nine innings. He had pitched into the ninth inning on a couple occasions, but never a complete game. In any event, his first career complete game finally came tonight, and he was really as good as ever. Miguel “how is he still in baseball?” Cairo started at second base instead of Brandon Phillips, but this was nevertheless a dangerous lineup — one that has done a lot of damage against southpaws this season. The Reds, you see, have a 117 wRC+ against left-handed pitching this season, which is the best in all of baseball.
And Bumgarner held them to one hit, a single, through nine innings. He only needed to face 29 batters to record 27 outs. Joey Votto, the best hitter on the planet, went 0 for 3 — as did hitters four through seven. The final line: 9 IP, 8 K, 2 BB, 1 H, 0 R. After performances like these, it’s fun to go look at that contract extension. And then to remember that Bumgarner is still only 22 years old.
The Kansas City Royals have this left-handed starting pitching prospect named Mike Montgomery. I admittedly don’t know much about him, but he’s made Baseball America’s top 100 prospect list three years running, so he’s supposed to be pretty good. Interestingly enough, he pitched tonight. He’s struggled at Triple-A the past couple seasons, and tonight was no exception: he lasted 1.1 innings, allowing 11 runs (four earned). Mike Montgomery was born on July 1, 1989, exactly one month before Madison Bumgarner was born.
Anyway, thanks to another brilliant performance from Bumgarner, the Giants have now held their opponents scoreless for 36 consecutive innings. Four straight shutouts. The Giants had never done that before, and it hasn’t been accomplished by any team in nearly two decades. It’s easy to take this pitching staff for granted, but they’re still magnificent. Over the last four years, no team has been better than the Giants at run prevention. It’s been a great run, and they certainly aren’t showing signs of slowing down…
As for the offense, they continue to be competent. Johnny Cueto has been the best starter in the majors over the past couple seasons, if you go by ERA-. The Giants didn’t light him up or anything, but they roughed him up for a few runs, and he was out of the game by the seventh inning. So that was pretty exciting to see. I had a lot of concern about the Giants’ offense coming into the season. I wasn’t sure how Buster Posey would hit after missing most of 2011; I didn’t know if Melky Cabrera was a one-hit wonder; I didn’t know if the Giants would find a way to get Brandon Belt into the lineup on a regular basis, and furthermore, I didn’t know if he’d finally adjust to the majors; and the middle infield just looked like a black hole of sub-mediocrity. Anyway, I’m feeling a lot better about this team’s ability to hit baseballs, especially in comparison to how I felt this offseason.
The Dodgers lost today, so the Giants now have sole possession of first place. The offense has looked fine. The pitching has looked untouchable. And with Matt Cain going up against the Reds tomorrow night, the Giants have a chance of recording their fifth-straight shutout — which would tie a major-league record. In other words, things are rolling.