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Giants encouraged by Madison Bumgarner, but remain winless in his starts

SAN FRANCISCO – The Giants’ season didn’t die on opening day, when Madison Bumgarner combined a quality start with a two-homer performance for the ages and yet the bullpen blew it all at Arizona.
But here is a sure way to sniff the putrefaction:
It’s late July, and the Giants still haven’t won a Bumgarner start.
They tried and failed again Thursday night in a 5-2 loss to the San Diego Padres – a team full of rebuilding parts and Rule 5 draftees that have been remarkably effective at keeping the Giants in last place.
The Giants have lost 15 of 20 games to the Padres since last year’s All-Star Game. Bumgarner, asked for any explanation, offered little insight.
“I don’t know,” Bumgarner said. “We’re not winning ballgames now, and we’ve got to start doing it. There’s no magic to it.”
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The Giants hoped that getting back Bumgarner three months after his dirt bike accident would imbue the team with confidence and restore some of their swagger. It’s been the same Bumgarner. It’s also been the same team.
Hunter Renfroe hit a two-run home run in the second inning, and after the Giants rallied to tie in the sixth, Cory Spangenberg took Bumgarner deep for a two-run shot in the seventh.
“That’s his last hitter there, and the ball left the ballpark,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “It was similar to his last game. The numbers don’t look as good, but he threw the ball well. They’re solid outings. We’ve just got to score a few more runs for him.”
The Giants have scored 10 runs for Bumgarner in his six starts. That part shouldn’t be a surprise from one of baseball’s least productive lineups.
At least Bumgarner appears to be throwing with the same arm action and delivery as he did before he separated his shoulder in an April 20 dirt bike accident – an injury that forced him to miss three months.
No matter what the Giants do to address the lineup this offseason, a healthy Bumgarner is crucial to any hopes of being a contender in 2018.
“I really felt good both times,” Bumgarner said. “I really felt better than what the box score says. That’s what is most frustrating.”
Bumgarner has pitched 13 innings over his two starts against the Padres since returning from the disabled list and all seven runs allowed have come on home runs. Oddly enough, the Padres hit three of their four home runs on curveballs. Bumgarner didn’t give up a single homer on that pitch last season.
“Honestly, I don’t feel it’s much different,” said Bumgarner, who threw five curves Thursday and watched two leave the yard. “For whatever reason, it hasn’t worked the last two starts.”
It would be unfair to expect Bumgarner to be in midseason form, for all the time he’s missed. Still, it’s remarkable that his fastball is peaking at over 92 mph and he hasn’t appeared to lose steam while approaching 100 pitches.
“It’s encouraging he’s healthy … (but) he’s still working on some things,” said Bochy, remarking on the four home runs allowed.
Bumgarner has pitched well enough to win. But the Giants could do next to nothing against Jhoulys Chacin, who might be pitching his way into a trade to a contender.
“He’s been tough on us, and I’m not just talking about this year,” Bochy said. “Next to (Clayton) Kershaw, I don’t know who’s tougher on us.”

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