MadBum, Giants cruise to move one game back of LA

Four-run first, lefty's seven shutout innings cut NL West deficit in half

MadBum, Giants cruise to move one game back of LA

SAN FRANCISCO -- While awaiting Clayton Kershaw's appearance for the Los Angeles Dodgers on Sunday, connoisseurs of left-handed pitching received a worthy opening act Friday from the Giants' Madison Bumgarner. Not that it came as a surprise.

If Kershaw ranks as the planet's best left-hander, Bumgarner at least deserves his own satellite. The Giants' ace delivered another soaring performance in the opener of a critical three-game series against the Dodgers, limiting them to three hits in seven innings as San Francisco tightened the National League West race with a 9-0 triumph.

The decision trimmed first-place Los Angeles' NL West lead to one game over the Giants, who remained the league's hottest team with a 13-3 record since Aug. 26. Facing a Dodgers squad that entered the game with the Majors' best road record (43-28), San Francisco lengthened its AT&T Park winning streak to 10 games, one short of the standard set in July 2003.

Asked to describe the Giants' current confidence level, Bumgarner said, "I feel like it's as good as it can be. It's been that way for a while now. ... We've got a lot of guys who have been here and done this before, so they know what to expect and what it's like, coming up to finish off September and hopefully the postseason."

The Giants sustained the offense that has characterized their surge, illustrated by their 67-14 edge in scoring during their home winning streak. They scored four first-inning runs off Dodgers left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu (14-7), who then departed with a sore throwing shoulder. Joe Panik's one-out double preceded Buster Posey's RBI double and Hunter Pence's run-scoring single. With two outs, Joaquin Arias grounded an RBI single to right field before Gregor Blanco's walk prolonged the inning for Brandon Crawford's run-scoring double.

Crawford added a two-run homer in the fifth inning, ending a stretch of 147 at-bats without a longball. Pinch-hitter Travis Ishikawa made the score truly lopsided with a three-run "Splash Hit" in the seventh inning off former Giants right-hander Kevin Correia.

"It took me eight years to finally do it," said Ishikawa, who's in his second tour of duty with San Francisco.

It all provided Bumgarner (18-9) with ample support as he tied Kershaw, Cincinnati's Johnny Cueto and St. Louis' Adam Wainwright for the Major League lead in victories. The 25-year-old Bumgarner, who's younger than each of the Giants' 10 September callups, struck out nine batters to hike his season total to 208. That's the most by a Giants left-hander since the franchise moved to San Francisco in 1958.

"It's a nice accomplishment," said Bumgarner, who eclipsed Ray Sadecki (206 strikeouts in 1968). "This team's been around for a long time. They've had a lot of really good players and talent come through. It's hard to believe, really."

It wasn't so remarkable for Bumgarner's teammates, who watched him handle the bulk of the Giants' ninth shutout victory at home.

"There are a lot of good pitchers in the National League this year, but I think he should be up there in the Cy Young voting," Crawford said. "He's done this all season."

Bumgarner repelled the Dodgers' most serious scoring threat in the fifth inning, which he generated by walking Justin Turner to load the bases with two outs. Turner had an admirable plate appearance, forcing Bumgarner to throw 12 pitches. By contrast, Bumgarner needed just three pitches to retire Adrian Gonzalez, representing the potential tying run, on a fly ball to center field.

San Francisco's subsequent offensive outburst dashed the Dodgers' lingering hopes for a comeback and left them contemplating their fluctuating fortunes. Not since Aug. 4 have they led the Giants in the West standings by only one game.

On Saturday night, the Giants' Tim Hudson will oppose L.A.'s Zack Greinke.

"Now it's like a mini one-game playoff," Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis said. "You're only as good as the next day's starting pitcher."

Chris Haft is a reporter for Read his blog, Haft-Baked Ideas, and follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.