SAN FRANCISCO -- No matter what happens over the next week or the month after that, Madison Bumgarner will always be identified by what he did during a magical five-year postseason run with the Giants, one in which he often walked side-by-side with two pitchers who are legendary in San Francisco for their own accomplishments.
It's appropriate, then, that at a time when every Bumgarner start seems bittersweet in a way, he is once again standing between Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum.
The trade rumors keep swirling and Bumgarner keeps setting down opposing hitters, and with 11 strikeouts in a 4-2 win over the Rockies he inched past Cain on the franchise's all-time strikeout list. With 1,695, he's one ahead of Cain and just nine from tying Lincecum.
Bumgarner expressed amazement that Lincecum piled up more than 1,700 strikeouts in what seemed like such a short time. He said he might have to send a message to Cain, his mentor and friend. More than anything, he seemed humbled by that kind of company.
"It's pretty special to me to be on any kind of leaderboard or close to the top on certain things for this organization," Bumgarner said. "It's been around a long time and a lot of really good players have come through here, so that's definitely an honor."
With 10 more strikeouts, Bumgarner will trail just Christy Mathewson, Juan Marichal and Amos Rusie on the franchise list, with Marichal the all-time leader (2,281) as a San Francisco Giant. It's not a lock that Bumgarner will get a chance to keep climbing. Every start these days could be his last in orange and black, but on Tuesday the 31,000 in attendance were treated to another throwback performance.
Both pitchers seemed to take advantage of the shadows in the first inning, combining for five strikeouts, but Bumgarner was able to keep his momentum going as the lineup chipped away at Rockies right-hander Chi Chi Gonzalez. Bumgarner struck out a pair in each of the first three innings and was perfect until Ian Desmond hit a flat changeup into the left field seats with one out in the fourth.
Bumgarner struck out at least one hitter in each of his six innings, but a defensive misplay put him on his heels near the end of the rope. With two outs and a runner on second in the sixth, Alex Dickerson lost a pop-up to left in the lights as the Rockies cut the deficit to 3-2. Bumgarner responded by freezing Ryan McMahon with a fastball on his final pitch of the night.
That strikeout gave Bumgarner 11 for the first time since April 2, 2017, which was his last double-digit strikeout performance and a start that came three weeks before the dirt bike crash. Six of the strikeouts came on a curveball that subtly changed speeds throughout the night.
"He had his good fastball but at the same time, the off-speed pitches," manager Bruce Bochy said. "He had a good mix going with good command."
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Bumgarner had something else, too. After a start in Los Angeles last Thursday that was one of the worst of his career, he realized he had become too predictable to one side of the plate.
"These guys are too good to do that to," he said. "The plate is small enough as it is, so you'd better use the whole thing."