In their respective careers, one just a tad longer than the other's, A.J. Burnett and Madison Bumgarner have had streaks where they produced Cy Young-caliber performances. While neither tops the list of the game's best current starting pitchers, each has shown reasons why they may need to. So, if heading into tonight's ballgame, somebody had said that the two would lock horns for a classic pitcher's duel, there would be no reason to be surprised. Couple that with an off-and-on fit of steady rain and intense lightning, and you'd find yourself in the middle of a contest severely lacking in the offensive department.
The Game: In his return to the Phillies lineup, Carlos Ruiz doubled in his first at bat. Aside from that, a couple of singles were the only pieces of offense for the team to speak of through seven. Luckily enough, A.J. Burnett was on top of his game, matching Bumgarner pitch-for-pitch. His biggest trouble came in the sixth inning, when he dealt with three different baserunners, but allowed none of them to score. He'd power through a strong eight innings of work, falling just one pitch shy of his record at 131 thrown. In total, he'd give up just four hits to match four free passes, as well as six strikeouts.
The rains began to fall in the fourth inning and caused a near hour long delay. However, neither pitcher exited, and Bumgarner continued to pitch along side Burnett. Bumgarner's one advantage over A.J. was hit pitch count. While Burnett was already well over 100 pitches going into the eighth, Bumgarner was at just 70, and was primed to throw all nine frames. He would allow to consecutive base hits to Carlos Ruiz and Domonic Brown, and it suddenly seemed the home squad had the perfect chance to score. Darin Ruf sacrificed himself to move both runners over, but Andres Blanco struck out next to record out number two. Grady Sizemore was then called upon to pinch hit for Burnett, and after a seven pitch bout, Sizemore flew out to Michael Morse in right field to end the inning.
The lack of clutch hitting would eventually bite the Phillies. After pitching two innings last night, Jonathan Papelbon would enter the game to replace his teammate. The first batter he faced, Mike Morse, would be hit by an inside fastball. Adam Duvall and Tyler Colvin each made outs two leave just a baserunner on second following a stolen base. But an intentional walk to Brandon Crawford and an unintentional walk to Hector Sanchez loaded the bases for Hunter Pence. Papelbon got Pence into a 2-2 count, and threw a slider that just crossed Pence at the knees, but was called a ball. Two pitches later, Pence roped a ball into right field for a base hit. Two runs would score, and when Byrd's throw went into the Giants dugout, a third run was awarded by the umpires. It would be Papelbon's second consecutive game with at least an earned run allowed.
Santiago Casilla would get the nod for San Francisco to close the ninth inning. Jimmy Rollins did manage to record a one out double off Casilla that just fell short of being a solo home run. After Chase Utley grounded to first to move Rollins over to third, Marlon Byrd broke through with a single up the middle to break the shutout. However, Carlos Ruiz flew out to end it, and the Giants walked away with a 3-1 victory.
Impact: Unfortunately for the home squad, Madison Bumgarner was absolutely outstanding tonight, holding his opponent scoreless through eight innings of work. Had the team been able to muster even a handful of runs against the young Giant, perhaps A.J. Burnett would have walked away with a victory. Instead, we're now left with Papelbon's second straight blow up, and this squad seems to be losing all of their momentum at a rapid pace.
Up Next: Tomorrow is shaping up to be an even bigger pitcher=heavy contest. Tim Hudson, whose career has found new life with the Giants, will take on Cole Hamels and the Phillies in some afternoon baseball action.
Andrew Gillen, Managing Editor of Philliedelphia.com