(The Sports Xchange) - Madison Bumgarner struck out 12 batters in just six innings on Thursday, pitching the Giants to a 9-1 victory over the Chicago Cubs and earning his 16th win of the season.
Marlon Byrd hit a three-run homer in the third innings while second baseman Kelby Tomlinson hit his first major-league homer, an eighth-inning grand slam, for the Giants to give Bumgarner all the support he needed.
San Francisco (68-59) remain 2-1/2 games behind the NL West leading Los Angeles Dodgers.
The Cubs now head to Los Angeles to face Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw in the opener of a three-game series on Friday.
Chicago (73-53) fell 3-1/2 games behind idle Pittsburgh (76-49) in the battle for the NL’s first wild-card spot.
“You’ve got to learn how to understand and bounce back from a loss,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “The way you do that: You’re maybe upset for about 30 minutes and you move on.”
Bumgarner only surrendered two hits, both of which came in succession in the second inning, when Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo singled and then scored on a double by second baseman Starlin Castro.
Other than one walk later in the inning and another in the fifth, the Cubs had no other baserunners against the reigning World Series Most Valuable Player, who left after throwing 98 pitches.
“We had a chance to give him a break,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said when asked why he removed Bumgarner early.
“We’ve been riding him pretty hard this month.”
The double-digit strikeout effort was his third of the month, with the others, 12 against Houston on Aug. 11 and a season-best 14 against Washington on Aug. 16, coming in complete games.
Bumgarner (16-6), who is not scheduled to pitch again in August, will finish the month with 53 strikeouts and just five runs allowed in 37-2/3 innings with an 1.19 ERA.
“Man, I don’t know. I‘m just going out there and competing,” he said.
“Right now, my body feels good. Command feels good. That’s the main thing. Delivery feels right. Then everything falls into place.”
Byrd produced a majority of the Giants’ early scoring with his home run in a four-run third. It was his 21st of the season and gave Bumgarner a 5-1 cushion.
“It was good to see the offense break out like that,” Bochy said. “Getting a cushion like that is what made the move (to replace Bumgarner early) possible.”
Cubs starter Dan Haren (8-9) was replaced one out into the seventh, having allowed five runs and six hits in 6-1/3 innings. He walked three and struck out four.