Bumgarner dominates as Giants roll past Braves
Blanco comes off bench to rack up four RBIs, including three-run double
By Chris Haft / 5/11/2013 9:30 PM ET
SAN FRANCISCO -- Watching Madison Bumgarner toy with the Atlanta Braves, Gregor Blanco made a safe assumption.
"I said there's no way I'm going to play today, the way he was pitching," said Blanco. The Giants led and Bumgarner was cruising, so Blanco figured he'd remain on the bench.
Blanco was correct about Bumgarner maintaining his dominance. He was wrong about himself.
Providing ample support for Bumgarner, Blanco drove in a career-high four runs to help the Giants pull away to a 10-1 victory.
Contributing a bases-loaded double in the fifth inning and a run-scoring triple in the eighth, Blanco helped the Giants score four runs in each frame and record their second straight lopsided victory over the National League East leaders.
"They have as good a shot as anybody of playing October baseball," Bumgarner said of the Braves. "When you play a team like that, you want to play your best baseball, too."
Bumgarner did more than his share to meet that standard. He pitched seven innings and struck out a season-high 11. The 23-year-old left-hander struck out at least one batter in each inning he worked en route to achieving his 10th career double-digit strikeout performance.
"He's nasty. To me, he's one of the best lefties in the game," said Braves third baseman Chris Johnson, who struck out three times against Bumgarner. "He throws his cutter into righties and makes righties feel uneasy. Then he throws his two-seamer away and his slider. His changeup was good. With a guy like that, you can't really do too much."
Bumgarner capitalized on the Braves' free-swinging tendencies.
"They swing a lot and swing hard, so you have to keep mixing it up," Bumgarner said, crediting backup catcher Guillermo Quiroz for steering him through Atlanta's gauntlet. "I felt like I tried to mix it up the whole game, not get stuck on one or two pitches. I wasn't planning on doing it this way, but it worked out to where I was able to break out the curveball in the third or fourth inning -- I kind of saved it -- and then the changeup after that."
Until Blanco emerged, the Giants' most impressive hitting was executed by Pablo Sandoval, who homered in the first inning, and Brandon Crawford, who lined a fourth-inning RBI double. Crawford knew that left-handed batters such as himself were hitting an NL-low .082 against Braves starter Paul Maholm. But the Giants shortstop refused to dwell on that fact.
"I can't go into it thinking, 'This guy has really good numbers,'" Crawford said. "You take yourself out of it mentally."
The Giants clung to a 2-1 lead when Marco Scutaro, who lengthened his hitting streak to 11 games with a third-inning single, began their fifth-inning outburst with a one-out triple. It was a sinking liner that eluded right fielder Justin Upton, who was charging toward the ball. Maholm hit Sandoval with a pitch before Buster Posey hit an opposite-field double over the glove of a leaping Upton, scoring Scutaro.
Moments earlier, Braves right-hander Cory Gearrin began warming up, prompting Giants manager Bruce Bochy to inform Blanco that he would bat for right-handed-swinging Francisco Peguero if Atlanta changed pitchers. After Maholm intentionally walked Hunter Pence to load the bases and set up a potential double play, Gearrin indeed entered the game. Blanco lined Gearrin's second pitch into the right-center-field gap to clear the bases.
Often, pinch-hitters prepare for an at-bat with the intensity of a surgeon, limbering up with calisthenics and practice swings. But Blanco impetuously opted for the jump-in-the-pool approach.
"No swing, no stretch, nothing," said Blanco, who stayed in the game to play left. "It was pretty much from the bench to that swing."
The Giants piled on four more runs in the eighth, courtesy of Blanco's RBI triple, Quiroz's run-scoring double and Brandon Belt's two-run single.
Thus, in a four-inning stretch, Blanco amassed seven total bases and accounted for five runs. Talk about instant offense.
"It wasn't in the plans," Blanco said. "But that's baseball, and it's fun."
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.