Every angle favored the Giants against the Cubs on Friday.
The Giants were 12-2 in Madison Bumgarner’s last 14 home starts. The Cubs were 2-9 against left-handed starters, and they were facing a very good one.
And hey, the Cubs are having a pretty bad century.
The Giants did what good teams do. They played crisply against an obviously inferior team, then barely survived for a 4-3 victory. Melky Cabrera stayed sizzling into June, Angel Pagan put himself into the club record book and Bumgarner took a shutout into the ninth inning.
But he allowed consecutive singles to start the ninth, and even though he’d thrown just 102 pitches, Giants manager Bruce Bochy didn’t let him try for his first career complete game.
The game got interesting in a hurry. Santiago Casilla entered, served up a three-run homer and only retired one of the next three hitters. What’s worse, he walked off the mound with the assistance of a trainer after he tried to make a play on Darwin Barney’s infield chopper.
Javier Lopez entered with the tying and go-ahead runners on base and got a ground ball and a fly out to preserve Bumgarner’s victory and Bochy’s head from the postgame rotisserie.
The Giants are four games behind the reeling Los Angeles Dodgers – their smallest deficit in the NL West since May 8.
Starting pitching report
Bumgarner entered with a streak of three consecutive losing decisions. He snapped it emphatically while setting a season high with 11 strikeouts.
Bumgarner got ahead with his fastball and used his changeup and curveball to keep the Cubs consistently off balance. He needed strikeout stuff in the first inning when Cubs leadoff man Tony Campana singled, advanced on a balk and stole third base with one out. Bumgarner struck out the side to strand him.
He allowed consecutive singles in the second inning but used a double-play grounder and a strikeout to escape. He didn’t allow another runner into scoring position until the ninth.
Over his last three starts, Bumgarner has 28 strikeouts in 21.2 innings.
Casilla was wild from the outset. He missed very high while falling behind Soriano, then paid for a mistake in the zone as the Cubs made it 4-3 with one swing. It was the third homer allowed by Casilla this season; he allowed just one all of last year.
After a ground out and a double, Barney hit a tapper to the left of the mound. Casilla planted awkwardly and threw across his body while bouncing his throw. He appeared in obvious pain and walked off the field with assistant trainer Mark Gruesbeck.
Lopez entered with runners at first and second and did not blink. Steve Clevenger’s ground out advanced both runners, and then pinch hitter David DeJesus flied out. The Giants outfield joined in a celebratory hip check and Lopez recorded his second save in three seasons with the club.
At the plate
Cabrera used a day off to rest, but not to rest on his laurels. Following an impossibly good 51-hit May, Cabrera kicked off June with a single and a triple in his first two at-bats.
The Giants got their No.2 hitter on base in front of Cabrera, too. Ryan Theriot continues to show life since he came off the disabled list, reaching base in each of his first four plate appearances with a double, two singles and a walk.
Leadoff man Gregor Blanco, who entered with a .401 on-base percentage, led off the first inning with a walk and scored easily when Theriot ripped a good, down-and-in pitch for a double down the left field line. Cabrera’s single moved Theriot to third and Buster Posey hit a sacrifice fly to shallow center field. The Giants had the Cubs well scouted; third base coach Tim Flannery sent Theriot, who scored easily on center fielder Tony Campana’s noodle arm.
Theriot and Cabrera ignited the Giants for another two-run rally in the third. Theriot lined a single and Cabrera got the barrel on an outside curveball, lifting it over Campana’s head for a triple. It was his seventh of the season; he’s already just five away from matching the San Francisco-era franchise record of 12 set by Willie Mays in 1960 and matched by Steve Finley in 2006.
Posey followed with a single up the middle to score Cabrera and give the Giants a 4-0 lead.
Pagan already has his own place in the Giants record books. When he blooped a single in the third inning, he extended his home hitting streak to 25 games – the longest by a Giant going back at least to 1918, when data is available.
Pagan was hitless in the home opener but has hit safely in every game at AT&T Park since then. He accepted a line of handshakes and hugs in the dugout after he was erased on a double-play grounder.
All of Bumgarner’s strikeouts didn’t lull his infielders to sleep. They turned a pair of double plays behind the left-hander.
Cabrera had the other highlight, when he cut off a single and threw a photon to second base to prevent a Cubs runner from thinking two. Theriot and shortstop Brandon Crawford shared a look of disbelief.
It wasn’t as rosy for the Cubs, who probably couldn’t have beaten the squad of potential draftees the Giants worked out on the same field a day earlier. Two Cubs infielders let Joaquin Arias’ foul pop drop in the second inning. And Starlin Castro was thrown out trying to steal in the third when Joe Mather apparently missed a sign and took a strike down the middle. Castro slowed up and appeared confused as he was tagged on the chest.
The Giants announced 41,100 paid. It’s the 110th consecutive regular-season sellout at AT&T Park. Cubs fans are not entitled to a refund.
The Giants and Cubs continue their four-game series with a 4:15 p.m. game Saturday. It’ll be right-hander Matt Cain (5-2, 2.79) vs. right-hander Matt Garza (2-3, 4.22).
It seems almost cruel, but with a victory, Cain would even his career record at 75-75. The criminally unsupported All-Star pitcher hasn’t been .500 for his career since May 31, 2007, when he was 22 years old and took the mound with a 17-17 record.