SAN FRANCISCO -- After the Giants' 4-0 victory Thursday over the Los Angeles Dodgers, Madison Bumgarner restrained himself. That contrasted with a very significant third-inning moment, when he simply let it rip.
Bumgarner gained the distinction of being the first pitcher to hit a home run off Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw. San Francisco's Paul Bunyanesque left-hander, who bats right-handed, added to his resume of prodigious feats (see: 2014 postseason) by yanking the first pitch he saw deep into the left-field seats.
According to Statcast™, the ball traveled a projected distance of 415 feet and left the bat at 105 mph.
Bumgarner's seventh career homer threatened to overshadow his pitching. He lasted 6 1/3 innings, improving to 4-1 with a 1.60 ERA in his past five starts. But the subject in his postgame chat with the media kept returning to his home run.
"I've been working on trying to stay in there and go the other way a little bit in batting practice," Bumgarner said. Then he caught himself. "I'm not trying to talk like I'm some kind of hitter. Just trying to do what we can do," he quickly added.
Bumgarner appreciated the distinction of homering off Kershaw. Before that at-bat, Bumgarner was 1-for-11 with seven strikeouts against Kershaw, a three-time Cy Young Award winner.
"He's the best pitcher in baseball, for sure," Bumgarner said. "To be able to do that and run into one is pretty special."
Kershaw's record fell to 2-3 while his ERA rose to 4.32 with his loss to the Giants. That didn't matter to Bumgarner, who reiterated his sentiments about Kershaw when pressed to elaborate.
"He's having a rough start this year, but that's so small a sample size," Bumgarner said. "You can't take away from what he's done."
Bumgarner acknowledged the impact of his long ball, which opened the scoring.
"Especially in that situation," Bumgarner said, again referring to Kershaw. "Runs are probably going to be at a premium."
Bumgarner has set a high standard for himself at the plate. Last year, he became the second pitcher in Major League history to belt two grand slams in a season, matching the pair Atlanta's Tony Cloninger struck in a single game on July 3, 1966, against the Giants at Candlestick Park. Bumgarner's slams helped him win the Silver Slugger award as the National League's top hitter at his position.
Before Thursday, however, Bumgarner was batting a limp .059 (1-for-17).
"He's been a little pull-conscious, I think," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. Hence Bumgarner's opposite-field approach in BP.
Bumgarner needed no such adjustments with his pitching, particularly against the Dodgers. He's 9-3 with a 1.81 ERA in his past 13 outings against Los Angeles. In six head-to-head matchups with Kershaw, Bumgarner is 4-1 with a 2.27 ERA. Kershaw's corresponding numbers are 1-4, 2.57.