LOS ANGELES -- Madison Bumgarner was on the field for about an hour before batting practice on Tuesday, mixing conversation in with his usual work. The ironic thing about Bumgarner's fiery moments against the Dodgers is that he might actually have more friends in Los Angeles than anywhere else other than San Francisco.
Bumgarner and Clayton Kershaw have formed a friendship over the years, and during just about every one of the rivals' six matchups a year the two aces can be seen deep in conversation before batting practice. Outfielder Joc Pederson is another Dodger who has gotten to know Bumgarner well.
But between the lines, it's a different story.
Whether it's exchanging words with Alex Guerrero, barking at Max Muncy, battling Kiké Hernandez -- who hits Bumgarner like nobody else can -- or trying repeatedly to fight Yasiel Puig, Bumgarner's starts against the Dodgers have always taken on an extra level of intensity.
Bumgarner has fun with all of that, and the Dodgers do, too. They might come close to blows on occasion, but the next day, Bumgarner and the Dodgers are always just fine, and appreciative of how competitive their matchups are. Kershaw told J.P. Hoornstra of The Orange County Register that the Dodgers know what Bumgarner has brought to the rivalry games.
"When you think about the Giants, coming up with me it was like (Tim) Lincecum for a long time, for a couple years. Then it was Matt Cain for a few years," Kershaw said. "Bum's been the longest-tenured guy. That's just a credit to him. We all have good times ribbing him back and forth, between our clubhouse and theirs. When it comes down to it, I know everyone in here has a ton of respect for what he's done. Any team that gets him is getting one of the best competitors we've got."
Kershaw's last comment refers to swirling trade talks, and this very likely will be Bumgarner's last appearance in the storied rivalry. His work on the mound has exceeded the drama he has brought to the games. In 35 appearances against the Dodgers, Bumgarner has a 15-13 record, 2.52 ERA and 1.05 WHIP. The ERA drops to 2.34 in his 21 appearances at Dodger Stadium.
If this is the last one for the Giants, it has been a hell of a ride in all respects.