PITTSBURGH (AP) – The San Francisco Giants brought in Marlon Byrd to help an offense in serious need of jolting.
Maybe finding a way to get Madison Bumgarner in the batter’s box semi-regularly would help too.
Bumgarner smashed his fifth homer of the season and Byrd drilled his 20th in his first game with the defending World Series champions as San Francisco held off the Pittsburgh Pirates 6-4 on Friday night to climb within 1 1/2 games of the Los Angeles Dodgers for first in the NL West.
Bumgarner homered in his last start and added a pinch-hit single on Tuesday. Facing Pittsburgh’s Jeff Locke, Bumgarner crushed a fastball 418-feet over the wall in left field in the second inning, a two-run shot that gave the Giants an early four-run lead and all the cushion the 2014 World Series MVP would need to improve to 15-6.
“That homer he hit was loud,” Byrd said. “He can swing it. That’s like having nine hitters up there when he’s pitching.”
Of course, Bumgarner is in no danger of losing his day job even if he wasn’t quite as sharp as he was in his last appearance at PNC Park, a four-hit shutout in the 2014 NL Wild Card game last fall that served as the springboard to one of the greatest postseasons in baseball history and propelled the Giants to a third championship in five years.
He labored through the first two innings before retiring 14 straight at one point before leaving with one out in the seventh. Bumgarner gave up three runs on six hits with a walk and six strikeouts as the Giants improved to 17-3 in Bumgarner’s last 20 starts after Aug. 1.
“Command wasn’t as good as we would have preferred but it certainly was good enough to compete,” Bumgarner said.
Then again, the way Bumgarner is swinging the bat at the moment, near perfection on the mound is hardly required. He leads all pitchers in batting average (.254), home runs (five) and RBI (nine) and even came off the bench against St. Louis on Tuesday and delivered a pinch-hit single in a 2-0 victory.
This time around, he had plenty of help. San Francisco came in averaging just 1.5 runs through the first four games of its current road trip but bettered that in the first inning alone against Locke (6-8). Byrd, batting fifth behind Buster Posey, wasted little time winning over his new teammates.
The 37-year-old is no stranger to packing his bags. It’s part of the deal when you play for nine teams across 14 years. He needed all of one at bat to become a hit with the Giants, drilling a Locke offering into the seats in left to cap a three-run first. Byrd has homered at PNC Park for five different clubs during his nomadic career.
“I don’t even know what uniforms they are,” he said. “It just means I’ve been around a long time.”
Byrd hit a deep two-run shot to left against Locke in the first. He later singled and doubled and is hitting .361 against Pittsburgh this season, with six home runs.
“He’s hit the ball all over the ballpark and out of the ballpark against us,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said.
Michael Morse had two hits and scored twice for Pittsburgh, which didn’t go as quietly against Bumgarner as it did last October. The Pirates touched him for runs in the first and second before he settled down to retire 14 straight at one point before leaving after giving up a run in the seventh on a sacrifice fly by pinch-hitter Neil Walker.
Pittsburgh pulled within 6-4 on an RBI single by Aramis Ramirez in the eighth but reliever Josh Osich got pinch-hitter Pedro Alvarez to hit a roller to first base to get out of it. Santiago Casilla worked the ninth for his 30th save as San Francisco beat the Pirates for just the second time in their last 10 meetings.
“I don’t care if I get the win, if we get the win when I start I feel the same way everybody feels,” Bumgarner said. “Especially this time of year. You’ve got to win every game you can win.”
JAY-HAY IS BACK
Pittsburgh’s Josh Harrison went 0 for 2 in his return from a lengthy stay on the disabled list due to surgery on his left thumb. Harrison, who went down on July 5, struck out, grounded out and was hit by a pitch before being pinch-hit for in the seventh.
San Francisco’s Mike Leake returns from a stint on the disabled list Saturday when he makes his second start for the Giants since coming over in a trade from Cincinnati. Leake strained his left hamstring in a loss to Texas on August 2.
Pittsburgh All-Star Gerrit Cole will try to break out of an August funk. Cole is 0-3 with a 4.70 ERA in four starts this month, including a 4-1 loss to Arizona on Monday.
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