Slugging aside, Bumgarner dazzles on mound

Giants ace racks up 11 K's, takes perfect game into 6th inning of opener

Slugging aside, Bumgarner dazzles on mound

PHOENIX -- In the eyes of many, Madison Bumgarner's power probably obscured his precision Sunday. But his excellence on the mound must not be overlooked.

As he did by homering twice, Bumgarner delivered a record-setting performance with his pitching in the Giants' season-opening 6-5 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks. He walked none and struck out 11, eclipsing the club's Opening Day record of 10 established by Hall of Famer Juan Marichal against the Milwaukee Braves in 1962.

Bumgarner lasted seven innings while allowing three runs and six hits.

"That's the best I felt in a long time," said Bumgarner, who retired the first 16 D-backs he faced before Jeff Mathis tripled.

Bumgarner's historic Opening Day

Statistical evidence supported the theory that Bumgarner simply threw harder than usual.

Statcast™ tracked 26 pitches from Bumgarner that reached or exceeded 93 mph. By contrast, the highest number of pitches he threw in a game at that velocity last season was six.

"His fastball was jumping," Giants catcher Buster Posey said. "His command of it was really good, especially for his first start. I thought he expanded with the curveball when he needed to."

Said D-backs shortstop Chris Owings, who struck out in each of his three plate appearances against Bumgarner, "I think, for me, he was really feeding off our adrenaline. I was up there and I kind of got away from what I've been doing all Spring Training."

Bumgarner's first strikeout

The outcome could have awakened bitter memories, since Bumgarner left eight games last year with the Giants ahead -- before the bullpen blew the lead. But Bumgarner, who joined Marichal and Tim Lincecum as the only Giants in the San Francisco era (since 1958) to start at least four consecutive season openers, remained his implacable self.

"Obviously, I would have liked to come away with a win," he said. "But that's not how this game works all the time."

Not even Bumgarner's slugging could rock his unshakable sense of perspective.

"I try to be level-headed, even-keeled," he said. "It's obviously pretty special for the chance to do that, for that to happen. But my job's on the mound."

For a while, Bumgarner literally did his job to perfection. He retired A.J. Pollock on a popup with his very first pitch of the season. Then he struck out the side in the second inning. Though he yielded his three runs in the sixth, Bumgarner maintained his assertiveness by beginning and ending the inning with strikeouts.

Nice work for the latter-day Babe Ruth. You'll recall that the Sultan of Swat was a top pitcher for the Boston Red Sox before moving to the outfield and becoming a full-time hitter.

"That's one of the more impressive games I've ever seen by anybody," Giants closer Mark Melancon said.

Chris Haft has covered the Giants since 2005, and for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.