Lo, the Madison Bumgarner Era Begins -- But Will It Be Any Good? And Can *Any* Pitcher Save This Giants Team?
Baseball-wise, the situation was just as grim. You don't like to hear the terms "back spasms" and " 25-year-old" in the same breath, especially when that 25-year-old is Tim Lincecum. Without a healthy staff ace, this team and its anemic offense have as much chance of making the postseason as Lincecum does of sparking a hairstyle trend.
I'm sure Madison Bumgarner, the 20-year-old lefty phenom called up in a pinch to replace Lincecum, is less than thrilled that the takeaway from his Major League debut is "It isn't his fault the team lost the game" -- but, there you go. With this team, he may have to get used to that.
After watching him toss 78 pitches over five and one-third innings and leave with a 3-2 lead, fans have no idea if they just witnessed the birth of the next Steve Carlton or the next Steve Trout. Bumgarner pitched in the 80s to very low 90s, and was tagged for a pair of long solo home runs, but didn't lose his composure. For a man who turned 20 last month and was asked on short notice to fill the spot of the Giants' best starting pitcher since Juan Marichal in a pressure game, he performed exceedingly well under the circumstances. But no one left AT&T Park breathing fire and bellowing "Tonight, I've seen the future!" (Not even Frank Chu, who sat next to us on Muni on the way home and agreed that it was a very tough loss). It was an admirable, if not electric, performance.
Sadly, we saw the present -- a weak-hitting Giants team unable to take yet another winnable game, leading to the wasting of yet another good performance from its pitching staff. Making matters even worse, divisional rivals Los Angeles and Colorado both won while the Giants dropped a game Lincecum was scheduled to start.
Anyhow, here's what we do know about Madson Bumgarner, no question -- he likes to hit. He curled his 6-foot-4 frame into the batter's box like he owned it, and, in his second plate apearance, smoked a line drive that forced San Diego Padres left fielder Chase Easley to make a running over-the-head grab on the warning track. Other than Aaron Rowand's home run, it may have been the Giants' hardest-hit ball of the night.
In any event, it's too soon to write this Giants team off. But with games against Colorado and Los Angeles coming up, it's a make-it or-break-it week for the team. Bumgarner did everything the team asked him to do -- but if he's forced to make any more relief starts for Lincecum, the team's fate is dire indeed.
Perhaps he'll be called upon to pinch hit. That line-drive of his -- that was electrifying.