The San Francisco Giants are in full-blown grind-it-out mode as the first half of the 2014 MLB season comes to a close, dropping 10 of their final 32 games to tumble back toward the pack in the ultra-competitive National League. The Giants’ recent struggles were mostly nonexistent on Sunday as slugging pitcher Madison Bumgarner belted his third home run of the season while also pitching into the seventh inning, aiding San Francisco to a much needed 8-4 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks.
The Giants’ eight-run outburst was important for several reasons. Most importantly, it reminded them that they’re capable of slapping a crooked number on the scoreboard. San Francisco hadn’t scored more than five runs in a game since a 6-4 win over the D’Backs on June 21. They had been shutout five times in their 12 previous games and hadn’t scored eight runs in a game since an 8-0 shellacking of the St. Louis Cardinals on June 8.
San Francisco owns the worst record in baseball over the final five weeks of the season’s first half. Their offense has been unwatchable at times, despite consistently dominant pitching efforts. Entering today, the Giants were owners the of the eighth-best team ERA (3.39) in all of baseball. They ranked third in team WHIP (1.17) and seventh in batting average against (.240). The Giants have had chances to win at a rate closer to their .667 win percentage through 63 games than they have but simply haven’t gotten the job done.
The Giants did what they needed to on Sunday. 2012 NL MVP Buster Posey crushed a clutch two-out grand slam to give his team a 4-1 lead in the fifth inning. Bumgarner added another in the sixth to become the first pitcher to bash two grand slams in a single season since Tony Cloninger of the Atlanta Braves did so in 1966. According to Elias Sports, this marked the first time in MLB history that a team’s pitcher and catcher both hit a grand slam in the same game.
The orange and black weren’t after historic home run feats on Sunday. They simply needed a win, and they needed it badly. Bumgarner began the day with an 0-3 record and 7.50 ERA in his previous three starts. Even though he didn’t have his best stuff, he was able to do enough to keep the Giants in the game to the point where the offense busted out.
San Francisco remains tied with the arch-rival Los Angeles Dodgers in the loss column as the first half comes to an end. For the Giants, their up-and-down ride through 95 games has been bittersweet, but they’re in position to make a serious run at the NL West crown in the second half.