SAN FRANCISCO -- The nearer Madison Bumgarner comes to embracing baseball immortality, the more he proves how difficult it is to attain.
Once more, Bumgarner approached joining the select list of no-hit pitchers by throwing his fourth career one-hitter Sunday in the Giants' 4-0 triumph over the Arizona Diamondbacks at AT&T Park. Jake Lamb's eighth-inning single shattered Bumgarner's bid for history.
The baseball gods are teasing Bumgarner (10-4). A Giants pitcher has thrown a no-hitter in each of the previous four years -- Matt Cain (2012), Tim Lincecum (2013 and '14) and Chris Heston (2015). Bumgarner has virtually paralleled this streak by fashioning a one-hitter in four of the last five seasons.
Preceding Sunday's gem were similar efforts on June 28, 2012, against Cincinnati; Aug. 26, 2014, against Colorado and Sept. 12, 2015, against San Diego.
"It shows you how difficult it is" to throw a no-hitter, Giants manager Bruce Bochy said.
Bumgarner's teammates were convinced it would happen this time.
"His stuff was really good from the get-go," shortstop Brandon Crawford said. Citing Bumgarner's strikeout of Jean Segura to open the game, Crawford noted, "That's a pretty tough guy to strike out. From the first batter of the game, you could see his stuff was sharp."
"Definitely one of the more dominating performances," he said. "He throws strikes and he gives you something to hit. He was just making really good pitches and he's got movement on all of his balls. Even his straight four-seam has some movement. His curveball was really sharp and very well-located."
Bumgarner's confrontation against the D-backs marked the fourth time he entered the eighth inning with a no-hitter. Through seven innings, Arizona's lone baserunner was Lamb, who sped to second base when his fifth-inning fly to right field traveled in and out of the sun, prompting the ball to go in and out of Gregor Blanco's glove.
So much for the perfect game -- a rarity, ironically enough, that Blanco preserved for Cain with his running grab of Jordan Schafer's long seventh-inning drive.
"I didn't have the ball at any point," said Blanco, who glimpsed it long enough to run to where he thought it might plummet.
Bumgarner ignored that inconvenience by striking out Brandon Drury for one of his 14 strikeouts, which matched a career high. One inning later, the All-Star selection allowed himself to entertain dreams of a no-hitter.
Having experienced this sort of thing before, the left-hander acknowledged such seductive thoughts creep into his head "once you get through six or seven innings." Nothing eventful occurred until Lamb's next at-bat, when he pulled his relatively soft but clean hit into short right field.
Bumgarner remained unfazed.
"When you get through seven [innings] and you go out there and you have six more outs to go, you feel like you have a pretty good chance, given the way the game's been going," he said. "It hasn't worked out for me. But that's all right. I'll take the complete-game shutout anytime."
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.