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Cruise Control: Giants 7, Phillies 5

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Severino Gonzalez pitched poorly. Madison Bumgarner cruised. And yet this game was not what you expected. Some might even say Gonzalez outpitched Bumgarner. Not me though.

When you reach one way and momentum drags you another.
When you reach one way and momentum drags you another.
Rich Schultz/Getty Images

At whatever point you discovered today's pitching matchup, you must have felt the outcome was inevitable. Severino Gonzalez entered the game with an ERA over 6.00 and inspires lowered expectations. Madison Bumgarner has proved himself a very good pitcher, if over-valued based on his performance in last season's playoffs. (In case you were wondering: Bumgarner ≠ Kershaw.) The inevitable outcome of that matchup came to pass quickly. But once the matchup ended, which was early, the Phillies played a close game that was within reach in the late innings.

The best thing I can say about Sev's performance today? He threw the most pitches he's ever thrown in an MLB game. Congrats, Sev! 83! Unfortunately, he accumulated those pitches while recording only 8 outs. 8 outs over 18 batters means he allowed 10 to reach base: 7 hits, 1 walk, and 2 hit by pitch. It is very difficult to scatter 10 baserunners over 8 outs and Gonzalez certainly did not do it well. He clumped them in the first and third innings, most of those in the third reaching after the second out. Add an untimely balk into the many hits clumped together and we get his results: 6 runs, all earned.

Interestingly, Gonzalez did a good job with respect to the three true outcomes. He struck out 5, walked just one, and gave up no dingers. Were he another pitcher, we might be tempted to say this outing was a bit of bad luck. Moreover, looking at his stats over his first 5 MLB starts, you might—if you were a strict stattist—be tempted to conclude that he has just been unlucky all season and that going forward we should expect him to turn into a decent if not downright good starter. I mean just look: his FIP is 3.68, he has a 4:1 K/BB ratio, he has an 8% HR/FB%. True, he doesn't induce many groundballs, which should keep his ceiling at mid-rotation starter. But look at all those Ks! And so few BBs! Just give him time! That .463 BABIP cannot but regress to something much lower!

I think anyone who has watched Sev pitch would demur at this analysis. It depends, as any regressive pitching analysis does, on the assumption that Sev has the minimum skills required to be subject to the usual BABIP effects other MLB pitchers suffer. But we don't know that yet and, so far, the evidence cuts against that assumption. It is quite possible that Sev's skill set makes him able to get Ks but not limit good contact. That said, I doubt the .463 BABIP is realistic going forward, but an elevated BABIP certainly is. If the Phillies didn't need a fifth starter I'd like to see Sev return to AAA to work on his stuff. Of course, I don't know whether MiLB work will make a difference. It's worth a shot, however, with such a young pitcher.

On the side, Madison Bumgarner's day was like a drive along I-80 from South Bend to Chicago. It was straight, long, and at a constant speed only briefly interrupted by a couple of potholes. Cue Corey Seidman:

The grand slam was hit by Jeff Francoeur. I have to say I was shocked. I looked away from the game briefly and heard the contact on the ball first. I jerked my head back thinking, "That sounded like a smash." And it was.

Immediately after that tweet Andres Blanco homered, the last pothole in Bumgarner's cruise. If the Phillies were as good at making potholes as the Lake Michigan winters, Bumgarner's afternoon would be as off-kilter as my car's alignment. But, alas, Phillie winters are all too friendly to visitors.

Bumgarner pitched 8 innings and surrendered 5 runs. Yet, the game never seemed in question and he never seemed vulnerable. I don't believe pitchers pitch to the score (at least not as that is usually meant: I'm sure you can define that concept in some way that tracks reality), but this is the kind of game that leads some to believe it.

On the positive side, Dustin McGowan looked good in relief of Sev. Thanks to McGowan's 3 1/3 innings of 3 K, 2 BB, 2 H ball, the Phillies saved their bullpen and were still within reach of a win in their last at bats. McGowan throws hard, has a good slider, and has a third pitch to keep batters off-balance. Let's hope he figures out how to command these pitches and becomes another solid bullpen piece.

I'd like to leave you with a single play microcosm of today's game. But MLB won't let me embed it. So, you'll have to follow this link. (Sadly, this replay comes from the SF feed, which obviously lacks Mike Schmidt yelling, "Ruf Ruf Ruf Ruf!" as Ruf runs into an out at second.)

Comment of the Game: "And then Ruf did his best imitation of a beached whale." --johnny eagle