1. Madison Bumgarner gives up two runs, but he's still pretty good. Bumgarner was going for his seventh straight start with one earned run or fewer as he aimed for Christy Mathewson's club mark of eight such games in a row, accomplished way back in 1901. That was 24 years before zippers were first used on clothing! Anyway, Bumgarner saw his streak end, but he still had a great game, with eight strong innings in pitching the San Francisco Giants to a 3-2 win over the Brewers. Lucky for us, ESPN Stats & Info dug up another franchise mark: Bumgarner is the first Giants pitcher since Juan Marichal in 1965-66 to record 11 consecutive starts of two earned runs or fewer. So there's that.
Bumgarner's presence at the plate played a part in the go-ahead run in the seventh, as Will Smith threw two wild pitches -- respecting Bumgarner's hitting ability by throwing off-speed pitches -- that allowed Angel Pagan to advance to third and then home. Bumgarner drew two walks, singled and probably fed the seagulls after the game.
With a 1.91 ERA, Bumgarner is finally having the monster regular season he has never really had. That's a little unfair, as he has been a terrific pitcher for a long time, with a 3.04 career ERA entering the season. But his highest career WAR (pitching only) was 4.8 in 2015; his highest standing in ERA was fifth in the NL in 2013. It's going to be tough to beat Clayton Kershaw for the Cy Young Award, given what he's doing, but Bumgarner is having the best regular season of his career.
The Brewers just threw Madison Bumgarner curveballs with the count 2-0 and 3-1. Bless that lumberjack and his feats of strength.— Drew F (@DrewGROF) June 15, 2016
2. Hello world, meet Jameson Taillon. The Pirates drafted Taillon with the second overall pick back in 2010 -- one pick ahead of Manny Machado -- and it's been a tough road to the majors for the talented right-hander, after he missed the past two seasons with injuries, including a Tommy John surgery. In his second major league start, Taillon took a no-hitter into the seventh inning against the Mets before Curtis Granderson broke it up with a ground ball single in the Pirates' 4-0 victory. Taillon finished his first big league win, gave up two hits and allowed zero runs in eight innings, a professional high. He also got 15 of his 24 outs on the ground, which is a testament to the movement on his fastball:
I always thought Taillon was a little overhyped as a prospect. His minor league numbers were never dominant, but when he returned this season, he appeared to return with elite command. He walked just six batters in 61 2/3 innings at Triple-A, where he allowed just two home runs. As you can see from the location map above, he likes to pitch inside to right-handed batters and away to lefties. Maybe he won't be a big strikeout guy, but if he gets grounders and limits home runs, he has a chance to be very good. Unfortunately, the Pirates did finally place Gerrit Cole on the DL. Although it's expected to be a short stint, we'll have to wait a couple weeks before the Pirates can headline Cole and Taillon as their 1-2 punch.
3. Five-out saves are trending up. Please, more of these: It's OK to use your closer before the ninth inning. In the opener of the Orioles-Red Sox series at Fenway, Buck Showalter -- the best handler of a bullpen, in my opinion -- used Zach Britton for five outs to close a 3-2 win (his second five-out save). Also, Joe Maddon used Hector Rondon for five outs in a 4-3 win over the Nationals. Rondon did give up a game-tying sac fly in the eighth, but he got the win after the Cubs scored in the top of the ninth. Another relief usage I liked: John Farrell's using Craig Kimbrel in the ninth with a 3-2 deficit. That's still a high-leverage situation -- more so than a three-run lead -- but managers rarely use their closers when trailing. Good move by Farrell to keep the Red Sox down a run.
Speaking of Britton: He doesn't seem to get enough attention when we talk about the best closers in the game, but he's right up there with Wade Davis, Aroldis Chapman and the other great ones. He has a 0.96 ERA and has limited batters to a .128/.172/.193 batting line.
4. Orioles are bashing. Machado and Jonathan Schoop homered Tuesday, as the Orioles continued to mash in June. This is exactly what Dan Duquette envisioned with his offseason moves:
That record of 58 home runs in a month is shared by the 1987 Orioles and 1999 Mariners, who both reached the mark in May.
5. Circle this game. Maybe Terry Francona should have gone with the five-out save. With two outs in the bottom of the eighth, Salvador Perez hit a two-run home run off Bryan Shaw to give the Royals a crucial 3-2 victory over the Indians. Francona, perhaps placing too much emphasis on Perez's 1-for-12 career mark against Shaw (too small of a sample to mean anything), stuck with a guy who has now allowed seven home runs in 25 1/3 innings, instead of using closer Cody Allen, who hasn't pitched since Thursday.
"I don't want an alternative," Francona told reporters after the game. "That would not be a smart move on my part. He's been a good pitcher for us, and his stuff's good. We can't run away from guys when they have a tough week. That doesn't make sense to me."
You know what doesn't make sense to me? Using a struggling pitcher instead of your closer, who hasn't pitched in five days, for one additional out beyond the norm.