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Madison Bumgarner pitches scoreless 5 innings in bounce-back performance

HOUSTON, TEXAS - SEPTEMBER 20: Madison Bumgarner #40 of the Arizona Diamondbacks pitches in the first inning against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park on September 20, 2020 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)

The Diamondbacks fell to the Houston Astros 3-2 to close the series, but after months of anticipation, Arizona got a glimpse of what they hoped Madison Bumgarner would be when they signed the left-handed pitcher to a five-year, $85 million contract.

In Sunday’s game against the Houston Astros, Bumgarner allowed just two hits, walked a batter and did not allow a run over five innings. He threw 80 pitches.

“We made a lot of good pitches. Still made some mistakes, nobody’s going to go through an entire game without it,” Bumgarner said. “We made some adjustments to what I was doing. Not physically, mentally, adjustments, just thought process and all that. Did things a little different and it showed up.”

It was quite the bounce-back performance from earlier games this season, particularly Bumgarner’s last start. In that Tuesday outing, Bumgarner allowed five runs in the fifth inning and then two more in the sixth.

Despite coming out of the game after five innings Sunday in a game in which Bumgarner told media his arm did not feel tired, both manager Torey Lovullo and the pitcher rejected the idea that his performance in the final two innings Tuesday played a role in the decision to remove him early against the Astros.

“(It had) no impact on this decision,” Lovullo said. “I think everybody was very careful about the progress that he’s making. He’s such an important piece of this puzzle and he’s been busting his butt to have a good outing. I think the collective effort was to … allow him to step off the mound after (two) hits in five really dominant innings to keep building on that next time.”

Bumgarner’s retired his final nine batters faced and 13 of the last 14.

His fastball sat in the 88-90 miles per hour range, a slight improvement over the 88.3 mph he has averaged this season. His cutter was also effective, and three of his seven strikeouts came off that pitch.

It was Bumgarner’s first scoreless outing of the season. Since his first game back from his back injury on Sept. 5, the southpaw had given up 12 runs in 14.1 innings.

The D-backs led 2-0 when Bumgarner was taken out for the bottom of the sixth.

“Eighty pitches, walking off the mound with a really positive, good feeling about the outing was the best strategy,” Lovullo said.

Lovullo said before the game he plans to give Bumgarner one more start in his first season in Arizona.

Despite his performance, the bullpen was not able to hold the lead.

Astros right fielder George Springer hit an inside-the-park home run in the sixth inning after center fielder Daulton Varsho mistimed his jump at the wall and then right fielder Kole Calhoun failed to back him up.

The next inning, Springer hit another home run, this one going over the wall. It tied the score at two.

In the bottom of the eighth, the Astros loaded the bases with one out. A sacrifice fly drove in the go-ahead run.

That one-run Astros lead would stick, and the D-backs closed the series with a 3-2 loss.

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