Not bad for a Mad Bum

Those in attendance, as well as the millions watching around the world, were yesterday fortunate enough to experience a slice of sporting history. No, not Germany winning the World Cup Final, though I have to admit that Mario Götze’s goal was pretty special. I’m talking about Madison Bumgarner and Buster Posey hitting grand slams in the same game for the San Francisco Giants, thus becoming the first starting pitcher and starting catcher in MLB history to both hit a grand slam in the same game.

It is only the third time in the San Francisco era that the Giants have hit two grand slams in the same game. Willie McCovey and Dick Dietz did it against the Expos in 1970, as did Bill Mueller and Jeff Kent in 1998 against the Dodgers. Posey hit his second career (regular season) grand slam in the 5th inning, while Bumgarner’s came just an inning later as he delivered a rocket (or should that be snotrocket?) to left field. “Mad Bum” became just the second pitcher in MLB history to hit two grand slams in the same season. Perhaps not as impressive as the first guy, Tony Cloninger, who hit two slams IN THE SAME GAME for the Braves against the Giants in 1966. But impressive nonetheless.

Madison Bumgarner’s batting is noteworthy mainly because there are few pitchers that can hit that well. The concept of the “all-rounder” in cricket doesn’t really exist in baseball, at least not at the very top level of the game. In the National League, the pitcher is usually the weakest batter and almost always bats at the very bottom of the order, while in the American League, the pitcher doesn’t bat at all, having a designated hitter do the job instead. I liken it to the football goalkeeper who has a defender take the goal kicks on his or her behalf (or put another way, I don’t like the designated hitter rule). The DH is also used for interleague games played at an American League park, so Bumgarner has been DH’d for several times in his career. This includes the 2010 World Series (Aubrey Huff hitting a respectable 1 for 4 with 2 RBI, but no grand slams) and once this season (Michael Morse 2 for 4, also with no grand slams). I wonder if Giants manager Bruce Bochy will consider letting Bumgarner hit during the road trips to Kansas City and Detroit later in the season?

Back to yesterday’s game. Having hit a double earlier in the game, Bumgarner hit for 6 total bases, the first Giants pitcher to do so since Brad Hennessey in 2005. Incidentally, 2005 was also the same season that the Giants last played a game in which all of their runs came from grand slam(s); Michael Tucker’s slam led to a 4–2 victory over the Colorado Rockies. Bumgarner’s slugging percentage of .550 would put him eighth in the whole of MLB, were he able to replicate his batting form as an everyday player rather than the one day in five when he pitches.

With all the hype around his hitting, it is easy to forget about Bumgarner’s day job. Having lost his last three starts, he really needed this win. It wasn’t a vintage performance (giving up 4 earned runs on 10 hits in 6.1 innings), and he needed some help from the field, but he managed to get the all-important ‘W’. Thanks to the slams by both Posey and himself, he had decent run support too, something the Giants have often lacked recently.

It has been a strange first half of the season for the Giants, a season that they started very strongly, not least because of the barrage of home runs they were hitting. The team had a record of 42–21 on 8 June, but key injuries (Angel Pagan, Brandon Belt) and loss of form saw them win just 10 of their next 32 games. At least the Giants can head into the All-Star break – or as commentator Mike Krukow put it so wonderfully, “Baseball Christmas” – on a positive note. Despite their recent woes, the team are just one game behind the Los Angeles Dodgers, which should make for a fascinating second half in the race for the National League West.

Sources: MLB.com and Baseball Reference. Please let me know if you find any factual errors in this article.

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