Skip sublime, go ridiculous, almost three years later

Between the end of the 2014 National League division series and this Memorial Day, Bryce Harper hadn’t batted against Hunter Strickland. During that NLDS, Harper faced Strickland twice and took him deep twice, both mammoth blasts, one of them a splash hit in the deciding Game Four:

This is the second of the almost three-year-old bombs Harper hit for which Strickland wanted his revenge . . .

This is the second of the almost three-year-old bombs Harper hit for which Strickland wanted his revenge . . .

Now the Giants are truly Bummed out

Despite how it looks, Madison Bumgarner isn't about to try self-flight with his two wings. He has enough trouble balancing on two wheels.

Madison Bumgarner’s wings—well, the shoulder bone of his left one—got clipped when his dirt bike hit the skid in Denver . . .

Boys will be boys, but that sometimes includes getting a little reckless on their off-duty time. Last fall, Indians pitcher Trevor Bauer sliced a thumb with one of his hobby drones and was almost useless to the Indians’ push to break their World Series drought. Now it’s springtime and Madison Bumgarner, on a day off, sprained a bone in his pitching shoulder and bruised a few ribs—breezing along on a dirt bike in Denver until he hit a slippery spot.

Opening Day: Cy Ruth versus two blown saves

Maybe they should have left Bumgarner in for the ninth . . .

Maybe they should have left Bumgarner in for the ninth . . .

Wouldn’t you love to have known the dialogue between Giants manager Bruce Bochy and his Opening Day starting pitcher and Cy Ruth Award candidate Madison Bumgarner, when Bumgarner wasn’t pitching during their not-pretty 6-5 loss to the Diamondbacks? Rumour has it that it went something like this:

Bochy: Bum, it’s not that we don’t need the runs, but would you kindly remember that your job with this team is not to do your impersonation of Henry Aaron every other time up?

Bumgarner: Skip, just don’t look at me!

Melancon’s straw stirs the closers’ market drink

Melancon goes to the Bay to begin fixing the Giants' broken bullpen . . .

Melancon goes to the Bay to begin fixing the Giants’ broken bullpen . . .

We talk much, and often hyperbolically, about the worst kept secrets in baseball. But in 2016, the Giants’ bullpen was an easy candidate for the absolute worst-kept secret in the game. In a word, the Giants’ pen was a wreck populated by arsonists.

They went from baseball’s near-best record at the All-Star break to lucky to be in and win the wild card game against the Mets. Few thought they were better than long shots to keep their too-often spoken even-season championship streak alive.

Anything possible? Including the impossible?

Baez slashes home what proves the game-and-set-winning run . . .

Baez slashes home what proves the game-and-set-winning run . . .

This is the kind of thing that used to be done to the Cubs, not by them. The Giants went to the bullpen in Game Four of the division series Tuesday night. Leading by three runs. Their mission: save it and force the set to a Game Five in Wrigley Field.

Mission aborted by four Cub runs in the ninth with only one out on the board. Season aborted by a bullpen that began to look like it was finding itself in the postseason until they lost each other, the plot, and the ball game.

Gillaspie strikes again

With the Giants five outs from elimination, Kid Gillaspie turns Game Three around with a two-run triple . . .

With the Giants five outs from elimination, Kid Gillaspie turns Game Three around with a two-run triple . . .

It was almost as if the Giants willed themselves to say, “How dare you bash our MadBum for three, you miscreants!” But this time, this eighth inning, nobody in a Cub uniform made a fatal mistake or a terrible pitch or a careless error.

This time, this eighth inning, this Game Three of this National League division series, the Cubs threw the best they had at the Giants, who threw the best he had at Kid Conor Gillaspie.

Self-surviving Giants send Mets home three bucks short

Gillaspie, who'd just hit the slider near the ceiling over the right field fence for three and, ultimately, a date between the Giants and the Cubs . . .

Gillaspie, who’d just hit the slider near the ceiling over the right field fence for three and, ultimately, a date between the Giants and the Cubs . . .

The Mets survived everything thrown at them in 2016 and came up three bucks short. The Giants survived themselves and, at the eleventh hour, punched their ticket to Chicago for a division series showdown with the Cubs.

And until Jeurys Familia threw the wrong pitch to a no-name number eight hitter named Conor Gillaspie, who had to step in for injured Eduardo Nunez late in the season, the National League wild card game threatened to go to extra innings and maybe beyond no matter who might be the last man standing on the mound.

The calls of the wild and a wild Dodger ninth

Gonzalez launches the game winner . . .

Gonzalez launches the game winner . . .

You could hear Dodger Stadium groan in the top of the third Monday night. An unearned Giants run that began with a steal and ended with a wild pitch was not supposed to happen when the Dodgers—behind Clayton Kershaw, yet—got crack number four at Madison Bumgarner this season.

You could hear the ballpark groan a little through the howls as the Dodger seventh ended, and Bumgarner and Yasiel Puig had a little debate following the inning-ending out Puig made on a checked-swing infield grounder. A debate apparently provoked by Bumgarner himself.

The Dodgers’ opening shutout streak was fun while it lasted . . .

Hunter Pence and Company

Hunter Pence and Company: Joe Panik (12), Denard Span (2) and Angel Pagan (16) greet Pence as he finishes his grand slam circuit . . .

All good things must come to an end, even in baseball. But so must all bad things, in due course. For the San Diego Padres, the latter can’t happen soon enough. For the Los Angeles Dodgers, the former happened a little too soon for comfort.

The Padres at this writing remain in search of their first run of the season. Presumably, they’ll take it any way they can get it when they meet the Colorado Rockies this weekend. Preferably right out of the chute, just to have done with it.

Monte Irvin, RIP: The nice guy finished first, after all

Monte Irvin taking a swing for the Giants, circa 1951 . . .

Monte Irvin taking a swing for the Giants, circa 1951 . . .

If the decision had been up to the Negro Leagues’ club owners and the Brooklyn Dodgers, Monte Irvin would have been the first African-American to re-break baseball’s unconscionable colour line in the 1940s. Irvin—who died Monday night at 96, following a long and distinguished baseball life—was the one who turned the opportunity down.