All it took for the San Francisco Giants to show a little life for the first time in the 2016 edition of the annual Bay Bridge Series was a pitcher, hitting – intentionally – for the first time in a Major League park since Ferguson Jenkins in 1976.
The Giants – who have lost the last three in a row to the struggling cross-Bay rival Oakland Athletics by a combined score of 28-15 – struck back with a 12-6 win in the East Bay on Thursday, and did it behind Madison Bumgarner, who touched off the decisive six-run rally in the third with a double to center field.
"He got us started," said manager Bruce Bochy. "He smoked that ball, and we needed something to ignite this offense, and he did it when he started the inning with a double."
Bumgarner went 1-for-4 on the night, and despite turning in a decidedly un-Bumgarner outing on the mound (6.1 IP, 4 ER, 2 HR allowed), gave the visiting Giants the spark they needed at the plate, victimizing Oakland rookie Dillon Overton.
"It seems to work out that way a lot, this year," Bumgarner said. "If the game's going kind of slow, then a pitcher gets a hit, it kind of opens the floodgates for us."
Over the span of 13 pitches in the top of the third, Overton gave up a single, a walk, a double, a ground-rule double and two home runs, wiping out Marcus Semien's career-best 16th tater – a solo job in the bottom of the first – that had put the A’s ahead in the bottom of the first.
Bumgarner slugged a dead-straight 88-mph fastball on a 1-0 offering from Overton to deep center, where it hit off the heel of Billy Burns's mitt and dropped for a leadoff double.
"I was just happy to get a hit," Bumgarner said. "A lot of people had a lot to say about what we did today, and I'm just glad it worked out for us."
After a walk to Denard Span, Angel Pagan blooped a fly ball down the left field line, where a charging Coco Crisp saw the ball bounce just under his mitt as he went into a slide. Brandon Belt then sent another missive to center, bouncing a ground-rule double over Burns’s head to plate two.
A three-run tater off the bat of catcher Buster Posey and then a solo job by Brandon Crawford put the finishing touches on the barrage, before Bumgarner fittingly popped out to second to end the rally he began.
Bumgarner’s double was the first hit by a pitcher who was intentionally in the starting lineup in an American League park since Ferguson Jenkins, in 1974. Other than a Joe Maddon slip-up filling out a lineup card in 2009 that forced Andy Sonnanstine to take up a bat for the Rays, the last pitcher to (intentionally) hit in a designated hitter game was in 1976, when Ken Brett – who hit.262/.291/.406 for his career -- did it twice for the White Sox.
The move by Giants manager Bruce Bochy was the first time a National League manager has let his pitcher hit in an interleague game. Bumgarner came in with 11 home runs in his previous 183 at-bats (13 career), and despite hitting .175, had two circuit shots on the season, coming into Thursday’s game with a .718 career OPS over the last three seasons.
Bochy brought Bumgarner into his office two days ago, and told him that he was considering having the slugging southpaw hit, instead of using a designated hitter. Bumgarner welcomed it, since, as a National League pitcher, it didn't interrupt his normal routine.
"I do want to say, I went to him," Bochy said. "I like his presence in there. He gives you good at-bats. He's a pitcher, but he's imposing, he's dangerous and he's won a few games for himself."
The Giants added another two runs in the top of the fourth, when Pagan cashed in a leadoff double by Span with a two-bagger of his own into the left-field corner, spelling the end for Overton, who threw 73 pitches in 3.0 innings of work, allowing eight runs, all earned. Pagan finished the game 2-for-4, with two runs, two walks and two RBIs.
Reliever Andrew Triggs fared no better, when first he entered.
A slow bouncer up the third base line on Triggs’s first pitch to Posey brought a charging Danny Valencia in, but the Oakland third baseman had no play off the barehand, as Pagan advanced to third and Posey chugged in safely at first.
With a 1-1 count, Crawford shortened up and tapped a roller through the left side, between Valencia and the third-base bag, to add another run to the Giants’ tally.
Former A’s first-round draft pick Grant Green – promoted from Triple-A by the Giants just before Thursday’s game – then got caught out on his front foot on a Triggs curve, striking out to end the frame. Green (.294/.321/.437 at Triple-A Sacramento) went 2-for-4 in his Giants debut.
Oakland (35-44) added a run in the bottom of the fourth on a double high off the wall by Billy Butler, and a line-drive RBI single up the middle by Jake Smolinski, his 16th RBI of the season.
In the bottom of the seventh, Yonder Alonso knocked Bumgarner out of the game with his third homer of the season – turning a full-count 92-mph fastball into a two-run screamer over the 330-foot sign in right, cutting the lead to 8-4.
A's reliever Fernando Rodriguez walked the bases loaded with two outs in the top of the ninth when he issued a free pass to Conor Gillaspie, and then proceeded to walk in two runs, before being lifted for Marc Rzepczynski, who promptly gave up a low liner up the middle, through the shift, by Belt (2-for-5, R, 4 RBIs), bringing home two more runs.
Oakland, though, fought back in the bottom of the frame, when a two-out, line-drive double down the left field line by Burns put two men in scoring position for Coco Crisp. The veteran DH sent a liner into the right center field gap, where Pagan and Jarret Parker got tangled up, allowing two runs to score. Semien, though, struck out on a check swing against righty Derek Law to end the game.
With the win, San Francisco increased its lead to 6.0 games, and at 50-31, became the third team to 50 wins in the Majors this season, following the Chicago Cubs and Texas Rangers.
"To lose three in a row, going to get swept, these guys were fighting," Bochy said.