SAN DIEGO -- Madison Bumgarner has silenced skeptics all season, but now the naysayers have nothing left to say after his performance in the Giants' 5-4 loss Thursday to the San Diego Padres.
Doubts about Bumgarner's stamina for 2015 proliferated after his record-setting workload in last year's postseason. At the very least, he'd endure fatigue and become an ordinary pitcher. At worst, he'd sustain a serious arm injury.
Instead, Bumgarner has been as strong as ever. Lapsing during his seven-inning effort only when he yielded Derek Norris' three-run, second-inning homer, Bumgarner held the Padres to three hits. He also struck out nine to increase his season total to a career-high 228. With one start remaining, possibly two, he has amassed 212 2/3 innings, placing him within reach of last year's regular-season total of 217 1/3. He threw a season-high 120 pitches against the Padres, eclipsing the 117 which he totaled in his previous start last Friday against Arizona.
The 26-year-old left-hander is proud to serve as the Giants' rock, perhaps the biggest constant they can count on.
"Personally, I want to be able to do that," Bumgarner said. "They have confidence in me to do that. I think that's uplifting to everybody."
The Giants, who can officially be eliminated from the National League West race by the Dodgers as early as Saturday, would have left Petco Park feeling more buoyant had they maintained the 4-3 lead they owned when Bumgarner left the game. That would have improved his record to 19-8 and increased his chances of reaching the coveted 20-win plateau.
"It's tough to lose games like this, especially with Bum going for 19," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "We were fighting to get him a win."
With 10 games remaining, Bumgarner can make as many as two more starts if he pitches the final game of the season. But, as physically tough and resilient as he is, he won't tax himself to secure a 20th win.
"We'll be smart about it," Bochy said.
"It'll probably depend on a number of circumstances," Bumgarner said. "Right now, the only thing on my mind is [facing] the Dodgers on Tuesday night."