Ace fans 11 and homers, becoming active pitcher HR leader
By Chris Haft
ATLANTA -- The facts involving Madison Bumgarner's power hitting are impressive. The combination of his pitching and his slugging is no less captivating.
Bumgarner smashed his 13th career homer in the fifth inning of the Giants' 6-0 series-finale victory Thursday over the Atlanta Braves, breaking a tie with Baltimore's Yovani Gallardo for the most among active Major League pitchers.
According to MLB.com research, five of Bumgarner's homers put the Giants ahead -- including Thursday's drive off Braves starter Aaron Blair, who yielded subsequent two-run homers to Joe Panik and Buster Posey in San Francisco's six-run fifth inning.
Bumgarner has also hit 11 homers dating back to Opening Day 2014. No other pitcher has more than four since then.
These aren't just cold, hard, soulless statistics, because they also create a pas de deux with Bumgarner's pitching.
For the the third time, Bumgarner struck out at least 10 batters in a game in which he homered. He struck out 11 Braves in 7 2/3 innings on Thursday, duplicating performances he delivered on June 12, 2012, against Houston and Aug. 16, 2015, against Washington.
Bumgarner owns a 9-1 record and a 2.94 ERA (29 earned runs in 88 2/3 innings) in games when he homered. That improves to 6-0, 1.26 since the start of last season.
This prompted a question: Does Bumgarner's pitching feed off his hitting, and vice-versa? He knows that standing tall on the mound, not crouching in the batter's box, made him a baseball legend in the 2014 postseason.
For instance, when informed that he had pulled ahead of Gallardo on the pitchers' home run list, Bumgarner said: "That's pretty cool, but I'm not getting paid to go up there to hit. I'm getting paid to pitch. I wouldn't trade the pitching for the hitting. The pitching's obviously No. 1."
That's fine with the Giants. Bumgarner (7-2) has won six consecutive decisions in an eight-start stretch; his ERA during this span is 1.11.
"Today was the first time in probably a year and half that I had it pretty much rolling," said Bumgarner, who has complained about mechanics despite his recent excellence.
Yet Bumgarner would never neglect what he does at the plate.
"Whatever they want me to do, I want to do it and do it well," Bumgarner said. "If the situation calls for a bunt, I'm going to try to get it down, and I'll be happy about getting the bunt down and doing something productive. If I get a chance to swing and try to do some damage, then I also want to do something productive. It worked out for us today."
"Whether he's pitching or hitting, he gets ready for it," said Giants manager Bruce Bochy.
That's partly why Posey, Bumgarner's batterymate, respects the left-hander so deeply.
"[Bumgarner] motivates me with how hard he works and his preparaton between starts," said Posey, who has collaborated with Bumgarner in 45 consecutive games -- a Major League high for a starting pitcher and catcher. "If he feels adamantly about me catching him, I feel like I owe that to him."
Chris Haft has covered the Giants since 2005, and for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.