Madison Bumgarner’s grind, D-backs’ unconventional offense defeat Twins

Jun 17, 2022, 10:38 PM | Updated: 10:59 pm

PHOENIX — It has not been the best six-ish weeks for Arizona Diamondbacks (31-35) starting pitcher Madison Bumgarner but it hasn’t put his team in a position to fail.

The 32-year-old in his last seven outings coming into Friday night had a 4.69 ERA and 1.39 WHIP across 40.1 innings after his first six appearances produced a 1.50 ERA and 1.13 WHIP in 24.0 innings.

For the positives, Bumgarner threw at least 5.0 innings in all seven of those starts, with none of them reaching over five earned runs, and his average amount of earned runs was three.

The trend continued in Friday’s 7-2 win over the Minnesota Twins (37-29), with the bonus of real run support for Bumgarner.

“I feel like I gave up a lot of hits and I feel happy we won the game,” Bumgarner said. “I actually felt pretty good about how I threw against a good team that I haven’t seen very much of. Just happy with the end result.”

The left-hander allowed a season-high nine hits with a walk but it only resulted in two runs (both earned) on the board for Minnesota.

The first two pitches of the game from Bumgarner were less than encouraging.

Catcher Carson Kelly set up low and away to Minnesota’s Byron Buxton before the pitch went a foot inside and waste high. At the 1-0 count, Bumgarner left a fastball over the heart of the plate that Buxton turned into a projectile headed 20 rows up the seats behind left field.

Buxton’s homer left the bat at 113.0 mph and traveled 446 feet. It was probably the hardest-hit dinger I will see this year and the numbers back it up. Entering play on Friday, there were 1,988 home runs in MLB this year and only 57 were mashed at least 113 mph, per Baseball Savant. Make it 58.

Later that inning, a Gary Sanchez infield single — yes, I’m serious — was followed by a fortunate ground-rule double from Luis Arraez. Arraez, the league’s current leader in batting average and one of the toughest outs in baseball, forced a full count after falling behind 1-2 and then got a cutter right down the middle that should have scored a run.

Bumgarner got Twins first baseman Jose Miranda to fly out to end the first, limiting his damage to one run.

The second inning had a Buxton double crushed 107.6 mph. An inning-opening double in the third via Minnesota’s Gio Urshela reaching 106.0 mph led to Urshela scoring after back-to-back singles by Arraez and Miranda.

At that point in a 2-2 game, nine of the 15 at-bats against Bumgarner resulted in a ball going at least 96.6 mph off the bat into the field of play. That is very loud contact.

Unsurprisingly, that brought on a mound visit after the RBI for Miranda, and Bumgarner walked the next batter to load the bases with one out.

Bumgarner, though, would escape with a ginormous inning-ending double play. His pitch count through three innings was at 60 and could have been a whole lot worse if not for that. Lovullo had a noticeably long conversation with Bumgarner once he came back to the dugout.

Bumgarner then proceeded to send down nine of his next 10 batters to grind out six innings.

“I thought Bum after some early runs really settled in, gave us six innings and kind of controlled the game from the third inning on,” D-backs manager Torey Lovullo said.

A two-run homer from Jordan Luplow in the first inning covered the pair of runs Bumgarner gave up, and then Lulpow went deep again in his next at-bat to put the D-backs ahead 3-2 in the third.

Things got weird in the fourth inning for Arizona’s next three runs.

With runners on first and second and no outs, second baseman Jake Hager in the eight-hole laid down a terrific bunt toward third base to beat Minnesota’s shift.

Twins starter Devin Smeltzer picked it up, and as pitchers will do from time to time, skied it over his first baseman’s head to score two. That included Alek Thomas running through a stop sign and barely beating the throw at home plate, the second instance in the last couple days of that working out for Arizona (much to the chagrin of Lovullo, I’m sure).

Shortstop Geraldo Perdomo joined in on the bunting fun to move Hager to third the next at-bat.

That put the leadoff hitter Kelly up, and after a pop-up down the first base line fell between three Twins fielders that should have been an out, Kelly slapped an outside pitch to right field that was hit 64.3 mph and blooped into some space for an RBI single.

An inning later, Daulton Varsho scored for the D-backs after getting a single out of yet another successful Arizona bunt.

A situational outfielder batting third with a .169 average mashing two homers and four more runs that were helped by bunting played a part in one of the D-backs’ better offensive games of the season. And all of it was without Ketel Marte (left hamstring) against a lefty that kept David Peralta out of the lineup.

You won’t see that every day. But hey, as they say, all wins count the same. And to a point Lovullo made, that’s a high level of execution required that essentially dares the opposition to match it.

“We put the ball in the right place, made them play baseball,” he said.

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Madison Bumgarner’s grind, D-backs’ unconventional offense defeat Twins