video thumbnail

Belt launches two-run homer into McCovey Cove

SAN FRANCISCO -- While the Giants will end the season Wednesday afternoon with just one player having enough at-bats to qualify for the batting title, the majority of their rotation has been the model of consistency.

Even after their World Series run and subsequently shortened offseason, Matt Cain threw 221 2/3 innings, Tim Lincecum tossed 217 and Ryan Vogelsong unexpectedly emerged to average more than six innings per start -- and likely would have racked up 200-plus had he begun the year in the rotation.

The Giants added Madison Bumgarner to the 200-innings club Tuesday night at AT&T Park as he allowed two hits over seven frames in his final start to lead the Giants past the Rockies, 7-0, in the penultimate game of San Francisco's title defense before a sold-out crowd of 42,370.

"From last year and earlier this season, you've seen the growth of this kid," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "He's got presence out there. He's got poise. He keeps coming at you."

The Giants will enter the final day of the regular season with four of the 11 lowest qualified ERAs in the National League. Vogelsong (2.71) is fourth behind Clayton Kershaw, Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee. Lincecum (2.74) is fifth, Cain (2.88) is eighth and Bumgarner (3.21) is now 11th.

And the 22-year-old left-hander closed out his year in typical Bumgarner fashion, striking out nine and walking none on 94 pitches as his record improved to 13-13. A .500 winning percentage seemed unfathomable when he was tagged with a loss in each of his first six starts, or when he fell to 3-9 after a historically awful start against the Twins on June 21 in which he recorded only one out.

But Bumgarner wasn't concerned about his record, nor should he have been, really, given the sparse run support he received much of the way.

What mattered to him was surpassing 200 innings. He did that, finishing with 204 2/3 on the year. He wants to be a workhorse, cut from the Cain mold. And after the season he had, it's probably safe to say he already is.

"I wanted to get to 200 innings. That was a big deal for me. I wanted to do that," Bumgarner said. "I think anybody wants to finish strong. Not any more important than any other game, but you just want to throw well. It's a lot easier going into the offseason when you throw good."

In his first full season in the Majors, the lefty finished with 191 strikeouts to just 46 walks. That gives Bumgarner the best strikeouts-to-walks ratio (4.15) among Giants starters and the second-highest mark on the team, behind only Sergio Romo's outlandish 13.80.

And Bumgarner got the support as he needed, bringing his career record to 17-2 when receiving three or more runs. He has lost once over his last 20 starts when supported by at least three runs. And with Tuesday's win, the Giants moved to 45-0 on the year when leading by three or more runs this season.

The opening salvo came in the first inning due largely to Rockies right-hander Alex White's seemingly nonexistent command. Andres Torres fell behind 0-2 then took four straight balls to draw a leadoff walk, advanced to second and third on wild pitches and scored on Mike Fontenot's sacrifice fly to left field.

"We did not pitch, and when you don't pitch, you can't win at this level," Rockies manager Jim Tracy said. "You combine that with the fact that we got three hits, maybe we're fortunate that we only got beat 7-0."

The bulk of Bumgarner's backing came from a trio of young, lefty hitters: Brandon Belt, Brandon Crawford and Conor Gillaspie. Nearing the end of his up-and-down rookie campaign, Belt slammed a two-run homer off White and into McCovey Cove in the fourth inning -- his first Splash Hit and the Giants' fifth this season.

Even if it came in the final series of the year, Belt enjoyed the kind of night many people expected more often when he was named the Giants' Opening Day first baseman. He went 3-for-3 with a homer and a walk, made a nice running grab in left-center field and displayed some heads-up baserunning by taking second base on an errant pickoff throw at first base in the sixth.

"It's just been a weird season. I've had a lot of days like that where I'll feel good before the game, then I'll get in the game and it feels like something goes wrong and I can't figure out why -- probably thinking about it too much," Belt said. "Every time I have one of these days, it's usually because I come out here and relax and don't really think about anything. I just go out there and hit. It's nice to end the season with a game like that."

Crawford went 2-for-3 with a walk, a double and an RBI triple that scored Belt in the sixth inning. Two outs later, the 24-year-old shortstop broke for home on a wild pitch and scored. And Gillaspie wrapped up the scoring with a bizarre, albeit thoroughly entertaining, first career homer -- an inside-the-park job in which he tripped while rounding third and slid headfirst into home.

But even the young offensive stars of the game couldn't help but gush about the even younger pitcher who dominated opposing hitters Tuesday night and throughout the year.

"He looks like a veteran out there. He does a great job and keeps his poise," Belt said. "He's awesome -- that's all you can say about him, pretty much. All we had to do was score a couple runs, and that was good enough for him."

MLB.com Comments