Stats & Info: Madison Bumgarner


AP Photo/Chris SzagolaMadison Bumgarner two-hit the Mets on Sunday for his second career shutout.
Entering Sunday’s game, Bartolo Colon was looking to make history for the New York Mets as they hosted the San Francisco Giants, going for his 200th career major league win. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, he would’ve been just the third pitcher to get his 200th win in a Mets uniform, joining Orel Hershiser and Pedro Martinez.

But it was Madison Bumgarner who stole the show, throwing a two-hit shutout with 10 strikeouts on just 94 pitches. It was Bumgarner’s second career shutout. He also one-hit the Reds back in June 2012.

Bumgarner’s shutout was very efficient. More than half of his pitches (55 percent) were fastballs, the highest percentage he’s had in an outing since the 2011 season. Mets hitters were 1-10 with four strikeouts and no hard-hit balls against his fastball.

He also threw nearly 80 percent (79.8) of his pitches for strikes. That’s the second-highest percentage he’s had in a game in his career. The highest came in a 2011 start in which he pitched just one-third of an inning.

Back on Friday, Ryan Vogelsong threw a two-hitter against the Mets in a win. According to Elias, this was just the third time a team has ever had two complete-game two-hitters or better in the same series against the Mets. The others were by the 1965 Dodgers (Sandy Koufax and Claude Osteen) and the 1963 Dodgers (Koufax and Don Drysdale).

The Giants' offense also came alive in the game, putting up nine runs with four homers. The long ball has been lacking for San Francisco recently. Over their previous 10 games entering Sunday, the Giants mustered just two home runs, going 3-7 over that 10-game stretch while averaging 2.3 runs per game.

Hunter Pence had a pair of home runs for the Giants out of the leadoff spot. He’s the first Giant with a multi-home run game since Brandon Crawford did so back on May 4. He’s also just the second Giants leadoff hitter with a multi-HR game in the past five seasons, joining Nate Schierholtz.

Buster Posey added four hits and three RBIs for the Giants. Over his previous 10 games, he was just 8-for-34 with one RBI.

Top stats to know: Giants at Phillies

July, 23, 2014
Jul 23
12:25
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Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Madison Bumgarner will take his sparkling road record to the hill tonight against the Phillies.
Tonight, Wednesday Night Baseball features the San Francisco Giants hitting the road to take on the Philadelphia Phillies (7 PM, ESPN and WatchESPN).

The Giants enter tonight’s game with a one-game lead in the NL West over the Los Angeles Dodgers, but the lead stood at nine-and-a-half after games on June 8. Since then, the Giants have been nine games under .500, while the Dodgers have put up a 23-15 mark.

Part of the Giants recent struggles have come at the plate, as they’ve been shut out in six of their last 25 games, and held to two runs or fewer in 13 of those contests.

It’s part of an offensive decline that’s been in effect for the Giants since winning the 2012 World Series. Their batting average and on-base percentage have each dropped in each season since, leaving them ranked 22nd in batting average and 25th in on-base percentage this season entering Wednesday’s games.

Luckily for the Giants, they’ll send Madison Bumgarner to the mound tonight to face the lefty-heavy Phillies lineup. This season, no left-handed starter has a better strikeout-to-walk ratio than Bumgarner, who has 40 strikeouts against just three walks. Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Ben Revere and Domonic Brown are among the Phillies regulars who are left-handed.

Bumgarner has also been much better at home than on the road, going 7-2 with a 1.94 ERA on the road, compared to just a 4-5 mark with an ERA of 5.22 in his home park.

He’ll also be facing a Phillies lineup that is having one of the worst seasons in recent franchise history. A team that once leaned on its offense is now batting .238 with a .300 on-base percentage, which would be the worst marks for a Phillies team since the early 1970s. And this season, only the San Diego Padres have a lower slugging percentage.

Who has struggled for the Phillies? Nearly all of their sluggers have tailed off:

• Ryan Howard: .377 slugging percentage would be the lowest mark of his career (previous lowest is .423).
• Domonic Brown: .606 OPS is sixth-worst in the majors among qualified players. -1.6 Wins Above Replacement is second-worst in majors among qualifiers.
• Chase Utley: 47.25 at-bats per home run is more than double his career average of 23.5.

The Phillies find themselves in last place, four games back of the Miami Marlins for fourth in the NL East. The Phillies haven’t finished last place in their division since 2000. That 13-year streak since finishing in last place in the division is the eighth-longest in all of the majors.

Bumgarner shows power ... with his bat

July, 13, 2014
Jul 13
9:57
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Madison Bumgarner is making opposing pitchers pay for pitching him inside.
Perhaps San Francisco Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner would make for a suitable last-second entrant into Monday’s Home Run Derby.

Bumgarner became the second pitcher in major league history to hit two grand slams in a season, clubbing his second in the Giants’ win over the Diamondbacks on Sunday.

The only other pitcher with two in a season is Tony Cloninger, who did so against the Giants, hitting both in one game on July 3, 1966.

The Elias Sports Bureau also noted that Bumgarner and Buster Posey are the first pitcher-catcher each to hit a grand slam in the same game. It marked the third time that the Giants hit two grand slams in a game since moving to San Francisco. The last instance was in 1998 (the hitters were Bill Mueller and Jeff Kent).

How he has hit: Madison Bumgarner
Bumgarner entered the season with two career home runs. He now has three in 40 at-bats this season. He has already matched his single-season high for hits in a season with 11.

Bumgarner now has more grand slams in his career than Prince Fielder, who has 288 career home runs, but only one grand slam. The Elias Sports Bureau notes that's the most home runs of anyone with fewer than two grand slams.

Bumgarner (the hitter) has owned the inside part of the plate this season. He has seven hits, including Sunday's grand slam, and has made only six outs on pitches that were on the inner third of the plate, or off the inside corner.

From 2009 to 2013, he totaled seven hits and 70 outs against those pitches.

Bumgarner’s 12 RBIs this season are the most for a Giants pitcher since Hall-of-Famer Juan Marichal had 15 in 1966.

How he's pitched
Bumgarner is in a little bit of a slump on the mound. He allowed four runs in 6⅓ innings on Sunday. Sunday's win did snap his three-game losing streak, but he's now 1-3 with a 7.03 ERA in his past four starts.

Perhaps over the All-Star break, he'll be able to regain the success he had with his slider. Opponents hit .224 against it prior to this four-game struggle. They have 21 hits and are batting .488 against it in these past four games, including five hits on Sunday.

Kernels: Lots of big numbers in last week

July, 13, 2014
Jul 13
8:52
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Our weekly look at the interesting and unusual in MLB noticed a lot of crooked numbers this week.

4: Hits and RBI for Tampa Bay Rays rookie Kevin Kiermaier on Wednesday. He's the third player in Rays history to have four hits including a grand slam, joining B.J. Upton in 2011 and Carl Crawford in 2007, and no player in franchise history had put up four hits and four RBI from the ninth spot in the order. He's also the first player in the live-ball era (anywhere in the batting order) to have four hits, one of them being a grand slam to score all four of his team's runs.

5: Hits by Charlie Blackmon in the Colorado Rockies' loss on Saturday. Blackmon, of course, had a six-hit game earlier this year, making him the first player with one of each in a season since Raul Ibaņez did it in 2004. The three players to do it before that: Nomar Garciaparra, Tony Gwynn and Sammy Sosa.

6: Baltimore Orioles runs in the 11th inning on Monday. The Orioles had not scored six or more, in an inning numbered 11 or higher, since June 25, 1970, when they scored six times in the top of the 14th and defeated the Boston Red Sox 13-8.

Manny Machado capped the inning with a two-run homer for his fifth hit of the day. That was two days after Nelson Cruz's five-hit game in Boston. The last time two Orioles had five-hit games in such proximity to each other was back in 1974, when Tommy Davis and outfielder Rich Coggins did it on back-to-back days (July 25-26) against Cleveland.

Machado joined Gregory Polanco (June 13) as the only players this year to have a five-hit game that included an extra-inning homer. But it was a first in franchise history (to 1901).

8: Extra-base hits by the Chicago White Sox in back-to-back games on Tuesday and Wednesday. They hadn't done that once at Fenway since 1980, and they became the first visiting team to do it in back-to-back games in Boston since June 1964. The New York Yankees collected 17 extra-base knocks (four from Tony Kubek and three from Mickey Mantle) in consecutive wins by scores of 10-6 and 8-4.

9: Inning in which Andrew McCutchen hit a game-tying homer on Saturday. Two innings later he went deep again as the Pittsburgh Pirates hung on to defeat the Cincinnati Reds 6-5. Elias tells us he is the first player in franchise history to hit both a tying homer and a go-ahead homer in the ninth inning or later of the same game.

The Reds hadn't surrendered a tying homer in the ninth and a go-ahead homer in extras to the same player since Jeff Heath of the Boston Braves connected on August 27, 1949. (Honorable mention, however, to Matt Adams, who hit two go-ahead homers against them last season.)

12: Hits collected by the Seattle Mariners on Wednesday despite scoring just one run. The hits were spread over eight innings, with 11 of them being singles. It was just the second time in franchise history that Seattle had 12 hits in a game and scored only once; the other was a 6-1 loss to the Angels on April 18, 2005.

13 and 15: Runs scored by the Los Angeles Angels, first against Colby Lewis and in the entire game, on Thursday. Lewis was the first starter to allow 13 runs or more in an outing of less than three innings since Pat Caraway of the White Sox did it in 1931, and the first in franchise history to allow 13 or more in any outing.

The Angels scored 13 in the first three innings for the first time in a quarter-century (April 1989 against Seattle), while Kole Calhoun and Mike Trout became the second pair of one-two hitters in team history to each have four hits. Luis Polonia and Junior Felix did it in Milwaukee on September 2, 1991.

14 and 16: Runs scored by the Detroit Tigers in games this week. It was the first time Detroit had scored at least 14 runs twice in a three-game span since August 1993, when it won three straight from Baltimore, 15-1, 15-5, and 17-11, at Tiger Stadium.

Kernels: Fun times on Friday

April, 13, 2014
Apr 13
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Several times a season, a day comes along that has so much stuff packed into it, we don't need to look at the rest of the week. Consider that all of the following happened in seven hours on Friday:

Welington Castillo hit a three-run homer in the 11th to lead the Chicago Cubs to victory over the St. Louis Cardinals. It was the Cubs' second extra-inning homer this season (Anthony Rizzo, April 2), matching their recent average for an entire year (eight in the previous four seasons). Trevor Rosenthal, who allowed the one on Friday, also gave up a walk-off to Rizzo in 2012, and is the only active pitcher to allow two extra-inning homers to the Cubs.

Madison Bumgarner hit a sacrifice fly in the 3rd inning to put the San Francisco Giants on the board, then a grand slam in the 4th to take the lead for good over the Colorado Rockies. Giants pitchers have hit only two slams since the franchise moved to California (Shawn Estes, 2000), and it was the first home run by any Giants pitcher since Bumgarner hit one at Coors Field in 2012.

It was the first pitcher grand slam to turn a deficit into a lead since Chris Hammond of the Marlins hit one in a 1995 game against the Houston Astros.

Bumgarner's five RBIs were the most for any pitcher since Chris Carpenter had a three-run homer and a double for the Cardinals on October 1, 2009. Other than Estes (who also had five when he hit his slam), the last Giants pitcher to do it was Dave Koslo who homered twice against the Phillies on July 7, 1949.

Yu Darvish retired the first 15 Astros batters before Matt Dominguez singled to start the 6th. That would be the only hit Darvish allowed, but because his Texas Rangers also failed to score, he did not pick up a win. The longest 0-0 tie in the history of the Rangers' stadium was finally broken by Robinson Chirinos' walk-off single in the 12th.

Matt Harvey was the only starter last year to throw eight or more innings of one-hit ball without winning. Only one other pitcher in Rangers history had done it while also recording nine strikeouts: Pete Richert in 1965. Chirinos' hit was the team's first 1-0 walk-off since Rusty Greer singled home Mike Lamb on August 25, 2000.

The Toronto Blue Jays had just three singles, but turned two Baltimore Orioles errors into a pair of fourth-inning runs and won 2-0. It was the first time in franchise history that they'd won a road game on three or fewer total bases (they've done it six times at home). The Orioles were also the first team this year to lose a game allowing zero earned runs, something they've done just three other times in the past 20 seasons.

Grant Balfour relieved Tampa Bay Rays starter David Price. He issued three walks, threw a wild pitch, and still got a save, becoming the first pitcher to do that since... Grant Balfour, last season with Oakland. There have only been 38 saves since 1969 to include that line, and Friday's was the first for the franchise. Balfour is the only pitcher with two of the 38.

Andrew Cashner of the San Diego Padres threw the season's first complete game, a one-hit shutout of the Detroit Tigers which featured 11 strikeouts. It was the 20th complete-game one-hitter for the only remaining team to never throw a no-hitter, and their first with double-digit strikeouts since Kevin Brown in 1998.

Naturally the night couldn't end without the season's first "plunk-off"-- a game-ending hit-by-pitch with bases loaded. New York Mets reliever Jeurys Familia hit Hank Conger for a 5-4 Los Angeles Angels win. It happens, on average, slightly more than once a year (24 in the last 20 seasons, though none in 2013), but Friday's was just the fifth in the Angels' 54-season history. They hadn't seen one since the Pirates' Brad Havens hit Wally Joyner (scoring Claudell Washington) on July 23, 1989.

Bumgarner with a bounceback, flashback

October, 26, 2012
10/26/12
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US Presswire/Kyle TeradaMadison Bumgarner returned to past success in his Game 2 win.

The formula for the 2012 San Francisco Giants through the first two games of the World Series was the same as it was in the first two games of the 2010 World Series.

For the second time in three years, the Giants beat a former Cy Young Award winner in Game 1 (Cliff Lee in 2010, Justin Verlander in 2012), then pitched a shutout in Game 2.

Here's a closer look at how they handled the Detroit Tigers on Thursday night.

It’s a Mad, Mad, Madison World
Two years removed from a brilliant scoreless start in the World Series against the Texas Rangers, Madison Bumgarner came through with a pitching gem for the Giants.

Bumgarner joined Tom Glavine (1995 Braves) and Roger Clemens (2000 Yankees) as the only pitchers since 1950 to have a World Series line of at least seven scoreless innings, allowing two hits or fewer, with eight strikeouts.

The Elias Sports Bureau notes that Bumgarner became the fifth pitcher (and second Giants pitcher) to start his World Series career with at least 15 straight scoreless innings.

The only other Giants pitcher with that sort of streak is Christy Mathewson, whose 28-inning streak spanned from 1905 to 1911.

The two hits allowed by the Giants were the fewest they’ve allowed in any of their 107 World Series games.

It marked the second straight year that a team pitched a two-hitter in the World Series (the Texas Rangers threw one against the St. Louis Cardinals last season).

The last time a National League team held an American League team to two hits or fewer in a World Series game was in Game 6 of the 1995 World Series, when the Atlanta Braves beat the Cleveland Indians.

The Giants and Braves are the only NL teams to shut out an AL team on two hits or fewer in a World Series game in the past 41 seasons.

Bumgarner won on the strength of his slider, which he threw 34 times.

The Reds and Cardinals combined for six hits against the slider in his previous two postseason starts (both losses), but in Game 2 it netted 11 outs against just one hit and one walk.

Bumgarner set the tone for that with the first two outs of the game, when he struck out Austin Jackson looking and Omar Infante swinging with a slider.

That made him the third Giants pitcher to start a World Series game with a pair of strikeouts, joining Hall of Famers Mathewson and Carl Hubbell.

Bumgarner went to a two-strike count against 10 hitters, striking out eight of them (he walked the other two). This was the first start of his career in which an opponent failed to put a two-strike pitch from Bumgarner in play.

Tigers' bats silenced
The Tigers' two hits were their fewest in a World Series game since 1940. They’ve been shut out twice this postseason after being shut out twice in the entire regular season.

The Tigers are 4-for-19 with men on base in the first two games of this series. Prince Fielder is 0-for-4 in those situations, with a popout and lineout in Game 1, and a fly out and ground ball double play in Game 2.

Tigers hitters have had trouble hitting the fastball in this series.

They missed on 21 percent of their swings against heaters in Games 1 and 2. In their AL Championship Series sweep of the Yankees, they missed on only 14 percent of their fastball swings and hit .364 in at-bats that ended with that pitch.

They are 2-for-18 against fastballs in this series.

Quirk of the Night
This marked the first World Series game in which a go-ahead run scored on a ground ball double play in the seventh inning or later.

It marked the first with a go-ahead ground ball double play in any inning since 1981, when then-Dodgers catcher Mike Scioscia hit into one against the New York Yankees.

Tigers put best 'Fist' forward in Game 2

October, 25, 2012
10/25/12
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Elsa/Getty ImagesDoug Fister will try to even up the series for the Tigers in Game 2 tonight.
The comeback kings needed no rally in Game 1 as the San Francisco Giants jumped out to an early lead and cruised to the victory over the Detroit Tigers. The Giants have not trailed in a week, dating back to an 8-3 loss in Game 4 of the NLCS, and have won four games in a row in blowout fashion.

So the National League champs are a lock to take a commanding 2-0 lead in the World Series? Not so fast. As many baseball fans know, momentum is as good as the next day’s starting pitcher. And, based on the numbers, Detroit appears to have the advantage in Game 2 tonight. But that was true in Game 1, right?

Doug Fister Stats to Watch
Fister is making his first career World Series start but has shown the ability to shine in the postseason spotlight, going 2-0 with a 1.75 ERA in four starts on this stage.

Fister has been on a roll since the All-Star break, with an 8-4 record and 2.52 ERA in 17 starts including the postseason. This comes after a mediocre start to the season during which he posted a 4.75 ERA with just two wins in 11 starts in the first half.

An improved fastball has been the key to his turnaround.

Since the break, opponents are hitting more than 100 points lower in at-bats ending in a fastball compared to the first three months of the season.

Righties have fared even worse; they are hitting just .184 against Fister’s heater since mid-July after tagging the pitch for a .338 average and .873 OPS in the first half.

Madison Bumgarner Stats To Watch
Bumgarner, on the other hand, has faded down the stretch. He is 2-6 with a 6.85 ERA in his last nine starts, including 0-2 and an 11.25 ERA in two postseason outings.

The pitch that batters have taken advantage of most is his fastball, which is down a mile-per-hour from where it was before those nine starts.

Bumgarner has been unable to establish his fastball early in the count, which has led to him falling behind more batters and the results have not been favorable.

His fastball first-pitch strike percentage is just 56 percent in his last nine starts, 10 percentage points lower than in his first 25 starts.

Opponents have a 1.118 OPS after reaching a 1-0 count against Bumgarner in his last nine starts, compared to .731 in those situations before.

Looking Ahead
How important is Game 1? Teams to go up 1-0 in the World Series have won the series 63 percent of the time in major-league history, including eight of the previous nine years.

Game 2 might be even more crucial. According to Elias, 50 teams have taken a 2-0 lead in a best-of-7 World Series, and 40 went on to win the title. The last team to erase a 2-0 deficit in the Fall Classic was the 1996 New York Yankees, who won four games in a row after dropping the first two against the Atlanta Braves.

Giants, Cards matchup not over 'til its over

October, 14, 2012
10/14/12
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If there is one thing you can predict about the NLCS this year, it’s that no lead will be safe.

Both the St. Louis Cardinals and San Francisco Giants staged epic comebacks to reach baseball’s final four:

•  Cardinals became the first team in major-league history to overcome a deficit of more than four runs in a winner-take-all game when they rallied from six runs down to beat the Washington Nationals in Game 5 of the NLDS

•  Giants became the first team ever to erase a 2-0 deficit in a best-of-five series by winning the final three games on the road when they beat the Cincinnati Reds in the NLDS

Lance Lynn Stats to Watch
Lynn is making his first start since September 30 when he gave up four runs over 5⅓ innings against the Nationals. He has made four relief appearances in the playoffs but hasn’t fared much better with three runs and four hits allowed in 3⅔ innings.

Lynn’s fastball averaged a career-high 96.1 MPH in his last outing in Game 4 of the NLDS but it wasn’t fast enough to get Jayson Werth out in the ninth inning. Werth homered on a 96-MPH heater to give the Nationals the walk-off win and force a decisive Game 5.

It was the first home run allowed by Lynn on a pitch of at least 95 MPH in his career. He had thrown 371 pitches of 95-plus MPH in his career before the pitch that Werth hit, and opponents had managed just 11 hits in 106 at-bats (.104) ending in a pitch that fast against Lynn.

The Giants have a .777 OPS against pitches of at least 95 MPH this season, well above the major-league average of .681. Among the Giants’ regulars, Pablo Sandoval (1.150 OPS) and Brandon Belt (1.145 OPS) have the best chance to tag Lynn’s high heat in Game 1.

Madison Bumgarner Stats to Watch
The Cardinals faced Bumgarner twice this season and beat him both times. St. Louis was 31-17 in the regular season when the opponent started a left-handed pitcher, compared with 57-57 against right-handed starters.

In his two starts against the Cardinals this year, Bumgarner struck out 10 and allowed 10 hits over 13⅓ innings. However, he allowed seven runs, all earned, as five of the 10 hits he allowed went for extra bases.

Bumgarner’s fastball was effective in those two starts against the Cardinals, netting him 18 outs and just one hit allowed in at-bats ending in the pitch. However, the Cardinals crushed his offspeed offerings, going 9-for-29 with five extra-base hits.

Stat of the Game
This is the first time in major-league history the previous two World Series champions are playing each other for the right to go the World Series, according the Elias Sports Bureau.

Alex Cobb's groundball dilemma

September, 12, 2012
9/12/12
12:55
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(The Baltimore Orioles host the Tampa Bay Rays, Wednesday at 7ET on ESPN2.)

At 79-62, the Baltimore Orioles are three wins away from their first winning season since 1997, when they went 98-64 and lost to the New York Yankees in the ALCS.

Baltimore already has won 10 more games than it did last season, which was Buck Showalter’s first full season as the Orioles’ manager. In his previous three managerial stints (1992-95 Yankees, 1998-00 Arizona Diamondbacks, 2003-06 Texas Rangers) Showalter’s teams improved by at least 12 games from his first full season to his second.

Offensively, the Orioles have been riding the hot bat of Mark Reynolds. In September, Reynolds leads all of baseball in home runs (7) is second in slug percentage and third in OPS. B.J. Upton has been just as hot for the Rays. His slug percentage is first in baseball this month and his OPS ranks second.

Baltimore will be opposed by 24-year-old Alex Cobb. After going 8-13 in his first 21 career starts, the Rays are 7-0 in Cobb’s past 7 starts.

Cobb threw his first career shutout on August 23. Only four players younger than Cobb have thrown a shutout this season -- Clayton Kershaw, Trevor Cahill, Madison Bumgarner and Henderson Alvarez. He’s one of just 10 pitchers in Rays history to throw a shutout before the age of 25.

Cobb has a groundball rate of 58.1 percent, which is the second-highest among American League starters. However, Cobb is 3-1 with a 2.17 ERA when his groundball rate is below 50 percent, and 6-7 with a 5.00 ERA in 14 starts when his groundball rate is 50 percent or higher.

Baltimore's bats better get to Cobb early, because he gets stronger as the game goes longer. Cobb has posted a 5.50 ERA in the first three innings of his starts. From the fourth inning on, Cobb’s ERA is 3.10.

Cobb is part of one of the best pitching staffs in baseball:
• Tampa Bay’s 3.25 team ERA would be the best by an American League team since the 1990 Oakland Athletics (3.18)

• 2.52 team ERA since the All-Star break would be the second-best by an AL team since the first All-Star game in 1933. (The lowest is 2.37 by the 1972 Los Angeles Angels.)

• The entire staff leads the league in strikeouts (1,176), ERA (3.25) and opponents’ batting average (.231). The only AL team to claim that triple crown in the past 25 years is the 1999 Boston Red Sox.

Dodgers look to solve Bumgarner's fastball

August, 20, 2012
8/20/12
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Justin Edmonds/Getty ImagesMadison Bumgarner's .222 opp BA vs his fastball is the lowest average among all lefty starters.
The San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers meet Monday night (ESPN2, 10 ET) with the NL West lead on the line. The Dodgers lead the NL West by a half-game over the Giants despite scoring fewer runs than all but four teams in the National League. Those four teams -- the Chicago Cubs, Miami Marlins, Houston Astros and San Diego Padres -- are a combined 99 games under .500.

The Giants continue to attempt to fill the gap left by Melky Cabrera's suspension, and will certainly miss his play on the road this season. Cabrera leads the majors in road batting average at .367, and is second in slugging percentage (.595), behind only Josh Hamilton.

Aside from Cabrera, Giants outfielders have not produced at a high level this season, batting just .255 with a .389 slugging percentage.

The Giants still have a considerable weapon on offense in Buster Posey, however. He leads the majors in batting (.424) and OPS (1.246) since the All-Star break, and his 4.9 wins above replacement this season ranks fifth among NL position players.

What's been the key? He's crushing the fastball, batting .554 since the break, and is having no trouble with the changeup either (.533).

Madison Bumgarner, who will get the nod for the Giants, will be looking to baffle the Dodgers with his heater, a pitch that has been lethal this year. Bumgarner is allowing the opposition to bat only .222 off his fastball this season, the lowest average among all left-handed starting pitchers.

Opposing Bumgarner will be Clayton Kershaw, who has excelled in two-out situations so far this season; his .166 opponent batting average with two outs is beaten only by Felix Hernandez among starters. What's more, Kershaw will be going to work in Dodger Stadium, a venue he has thrived in. For his career, he has just a 2.44 ERA at home, the lowest among all active starting pitchers, minimum 400 innings.

The Dodgers have struggled since jumping out to a 32-15 record through May 27th. Since that date, they've posted just a 35-40 record while averaging 3.7 runs per game (4.5 prior). Matt Kemp has been a significant reason why the Dodgers remain in a battle for the division title, however. He's batting .345 with runners in scoring position this season, and has a .324 average since the All-Star break.

Kershaw and the Dodgers have shut out the Giants in two straight games, and according to Elias, the Dodgers have never shut out the Giants in three consecutive games in their 123-year history. The last time the Dodgers shut out any team in three consecutive games was when they zipped the Atlanta Braves in three straight in 1971.

Nationals walk off with wild win over Reds

April, 12, 2012
4/12/12
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Most frequent pitch locations for Gio Gonzalez vs Reds on Thursday.
Click here to create your own Gonzalez heat maps
Don’t look now, but the Washington Nationals have zoomed to the top of the NL East following their 3-2, extra-inning win over the Cincinnati Reds on Thursday afternoon.

The Nationals improved to 5-2, their best start since moving to Washington, and also win their first home opener since 2008. This is just the second time in the last 15 seasons the franchise has won five of its first seven games. In 2001, the Montreal Expos were 6-1 after seven games.

The Nats took a 2-0 lead into the ninth inning but Brad Lidge blew the save, allowing two runs on two hits and two walks. Lidge had allowed just one run over his previous 16 appearances dating to August of last year.

The Nationals won it in the 10th inning thanks to a wild outing by Reds reliever Alfredo Simon. Simon hit Ryan Zimmerman to lead off the inning and Zimmerman eventually came around to score four batters later on Simon’s wild pitch with Roger Bernadina at the plate.

This was the Nationals’ fifth win on a game-ending wild pitch since moving to Washington in 2005. Entering Thursday, the Nats had lost their last six extra-inning games against the Reds and were 0-5 in one-run games versus Cincinnati over the last two season.

Gio Gonzalez got a no-decision but deserved the win, tossing seven scoreless innings with seven strikeouts and just two hits allowed.

Gonzalez had success going low as Reds hitters went 0-for-11 in at-bats ending with pitches down in the zone or below. Gonzalez also did a good job finishing off batters, allowing zero hits in 13 at-bats that reached a two-strike count.

Around The Diamond
• The Minnesota Twins came back from a six-run deficit against the Los Angeles Angels thanks to home runs from both Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer. It was the first time that Morneau and Mauer homered in the same game since July 6, 2010.

Matt Garza
Garza
• Matt Garza fell one out short of a shutout when he was pulled after 119 pitches in the ninth inning of the Chicago Cubs 8-0 win. Garza had his slider working, throwing 31 of them, as the Milwaukee Brewers were hitless including five strikeouts in nine at-bats ending with the pitch.

• The Detroit Tigers improved to 5-1 this season with a win over the Tampa Bay Rays. Austin Jackson scored a run and has now crossed home plate in all six games this season, the longest streak to start the season by a Tiger since Darrell Evans scored in the first eight games in 1986.

• Madison Bumgarner took a no-hitter into the sixth inning as the San Francisco Giants beat the Colorado Rockies 4-2. Bumgarner recorded a career-high 14 ground-ball outs (including a double play) with eight of them coming in at-bats ending in sliders.
The San Francisco Giants and Atlanta Braves open a four-game series in Atlanta at 7 ET on Monday Night Baseball on ESPN.

San Francisco makes its first trip to Atlanta since clinching the 2010 National League Division Series over the Braves, which began the Giants' march to the World Series title.

Chances are if this game is close late in the game, the winning team just might close out the game in its final at-bat. Among all National League teams, the Braves (20) and Giants (18) have the most wins in their last at-bats this season.

On the mound

Madison Bumgarner takes the mound for San Francisco, hoping this turn on the hill is much better than the last time he faced the Braves. On April 22, Bumgarner allowed four runs (three earned), four hits, two walks and two strikeouts in only 2⅔ innings of work in a 4-1 loss.

A major key to success for Bumgarner has been getting through the third inning without too much damage, something he didn’t do back in April (allowed all four Atlanta runs to score). In innings 1-3, Bumgarner has allowed 42 ER in 69.0 IP (5.48 ERA). But in innings 4-9, he has allowed just 15 ER in 76⅓ IP (1.77 ERA).

Tim Hudson will take the mound for Atlanta. In his past six starts against the Giants, Hudson is 4-0 with a 2.70 ERA, and in his past three starts against San Francisco, he’s allowed only four earned runs in 23⅔ innings.

Hudson thrives with David Ross behind the plate, winning nine of 10 decisions this season. Ross has served as Hudson’s personal catcher since June 15, well before Brian McCann was injured, and the numbers demonstrate exactly why that move was made.

Matchups

As a member of the Philadelphia Phillies from 2006 to 2007, Aaron Rowand hit .315 with a .368 on-base percentage and .454 slugging percentage in 29 games against Atlanta. However, since joining the Giants, Rowand is hitting only .250 with two HRs with a .316 OBP and .426 slugging percentage in 21 games against the Braves.

Dan Uggla went 0-for-3 in the Braves' 6-5 loss to the Chicago Cubs on Sunday, snapping his 33-game hitting streak. Uggla was struggling before the streak began, hitting only .173 (he raised his average to .232 before the streak ended). Since 1900, among single-season hit streaks of at least 30 games that did not begin the season, Uggla had the fourth-lowest BA.

Stat of the game

This stat comes courtesy of the Elias Sports Bureau: Atlanta’s Chipper Jones has not walked in his past 53 plate appearances. That’s the longest such streak of his career; his previous high was 49 plate appearances without a walk in June 1995 (his rookie season).
The San Francisco Giants go for the sweep of the Cleveland Indians tonight at 8 ET on ESPN. The Giants won the first two games by just one run each, improving to 22-11 in games decided by a single run, which is easily the best mark among NL teams and tied with the Rays for tops in MLB.

Despite being under .500 at the beginning of May, and enduring a recent five-game losing streak which had dropped them out of first place in the NL West, the Giants are 43-34 heading into tonight’s game. That means they are already ahead of last year’s World Series-winning pace, when they were just 40-37 in their first 77 games.

The Indians got off to a blazing start this year, winning 30 of their first 45 games. The team’s success was built on a starting rotation that had a 3.60 ERA during the first 45 contests, combined with an offense that averaged more than five runs per game and hit .321 with runners in scoring position.

However, the Indians have struggled of late, losing 20 of their last 30 games. During this losing stretch, the starters have posted a 5.19 ERA, while the offense is averaging just 3.1 runs per game and hitting .190 with runners in scoring position.

The pitching matchup features two players trying to bounce back from recent struggles. Fausto Carmona is 1-6 with a 9.73 ERA in his past seven starts, and has allowed at least four runs in eight straight starts. His 8.55 ERA in June is the worst among qualified starters.

Carmona has been hit hard over his past seven starts, with more than 25 percent of his balls in play resulting in line drives, compared to only 10 percent in his first nine turns.

Carmona enters the game with a 4-9 record, looking to avoid becoming the fifth Indians pitcher in the past 25 years to have double-digit losses before the All-Star break, and the first since Paul Byrd in 2008.

Madison Bumgarner made history -- in a bad way -- in his last start on June 21 against the Twins, becoming the first pitcher in the modern era (since 1900) to allow nine hits and record less than two outs in a game.

Bumgarner, with a 3-9 record, is also trying to avoid his 10th loss this season. He would be the fifth Giants pitcher over the past 25 seasons to have 10 losses before the All-Star break, and the first since Barry Zito in 2008. He’ll have to overcome his struggles in San Francisco, where he is 0-5 this season and has just one home win in 16 career starts.

If the game is close in the late innings again, the Giants might have the edge, but not by much. They lead the majors with 14 wins in their last at-bat, while the Indians have 12 last-at-bat victories, ranking second in the AL. The Giants have the third-best bullpen ERA in the majors (2.96), while the Indians’ relievers are just behind them with a 2.97 ERA.

--Jeremy Lundblad contributed to this post
Madison Bumgarner
Bumgarner
After going at least six innings and allowing no more than three runs in each of his previous 10 starts, Madison Bumgarner allowed eight runs and didn't even make it out of the first inning Tuesday. The red-hot Minnesota Twins, who have won eight straight games after their 9-2 victory, tagged Bumgarner for nine hits including eight straight to start the game.

The Twins alternated singles and doubles on those first eight hits until Bumgarner recorded his first and only out with a strikeout of pitcher Carl Pavano.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that's tied for the most consecutive hits with no outs in the first inning in MLB history. Prior to Tuesday, six other teams accomplished the feat -- the Cubs did it against the Pirates on September 8, 2009, the only other occurence this century. The previous five occurences came during a 17-year span from 1973 to 1990.

Of those previous six teams to accomplish the feat, only the Phillies against the Cubs on August 5, 1975 had as many extra base hits as the Twins did as part of their first eight hits. The Phillies also had four.

Elias also tells us that Bumgarner is the first pitcher since 1900 to allow nine hits AND record less than two outs in a game. Furthermore, he's also the first Giants starting pitcher since 1900 to allow eight or more runs without getting out of the first inning.

The Twins meanwhile improve to an MLB-best 15-3 in June after going a combined 17-36 in April and May. The eight-game win streak is their longest since they won eight from July 24 to August 1 last season.

The Giants loss is their fifth straight and their longest losing streak since they lost seven from June 26 to July 2 last season.

Early-season struggles plague Bumgarner

April, 27, 2011
4/27/11
11:00
AM ET
Through four starts, San Francisco Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner has given up 25 hits and 15 earned runs in 17⅓ innings pitched. His walk rate also is higher and strikeout rate lower than last season.

Madison Bumgarner
Bumgarner
Coming off a rookie season where he threw 214⅓ innings between Triple-A Fresno and San Francisco, it would be easy to blame his early struggles on arm fatigue. However, his average fastball is actually up from 91.2 mph in 2010 to 92.1 mph.

If velocity isn’t the problem, what is?

For starters, his slider has been hittable. Opponents are hitting .471 (8-for-17) against it, compared to .248 last season. Bumgarner’s changeup was his second-best pitch in terms of opponent batting average in 2010 (.206), but he hasn’t used it much this season (3.9 percent of pitches this season compared to 9.6 percent in 2010).

Last season, Bumgarner pitched well to both sides of the plate. This season, he has been successful working away (.182 opponent batting average), but has struggled inside (.333).

Bumgarner experienced the shortest outing of his career on Friday when he allowed four runs (three earned) in the third inning before being pulled. It was not the first time this season he struggled in that inning. Opponents are hitting just .143 against him in the first and second innings, but .611 (11-for-18) against Bumgarner in the third inning. These numbers aren’t skewed by one bad start, either. He’s given up three or more hits in the third inning in each of his four starts.

Other factors to consider are independent of Bumgarner. At .377, his opponent batting average on balls in play (BABIP) is up more than 60 points from 2010, which can be attributed to bad luck and/or poor fielding, or hanging more pitches inside the zone.

According to Fangraphs, his fielding independent pitching (FIP) this season is 5.24, more than two points lower than his ERA (7.79). FIP provides a more accurate way to measure a pitcher's talent level based on things he can control, such as strikeouts, walks, home runs and hit by pitches.

While his poor start is disappointing for the Giants, he showed last season he can bounce back from a rough month. In August, he recorded one win in five starts and posted a 5.29 ERA, but followed that with a 1.13 ERA in five September starts and a 2.18 ERA in the postseason.

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