OAKLAND, Calif. — In an effort to avoid a four-game sweep at the hands of their Bay Area rivals, the San Francisco Giants will buck 40 years of baseball tradition.
Giants ace left-hander Madison Bumgarner will start Thursday against the Oakland A’s at the Oakland Coliseum, and he will bat in place of a designated hitter.
Bumgarner will become the first starting pitcher to bat intentionally in place of a designated hitter since Ken Brett did so twice for the Chicago White Sox in 1976. Since the DH rule was adopted by the AL in 1973, the only other pitchers knowingly penciled into the batting order in games at AL parks were the Rangers’ Ferguson Jenkins in 1974 and the Athletics’ Ken Holtzman in 1975, according to the San Jose Mercury News.
The Tampa Bay Rays were forced to use pitcher Andy Sonnanstine instead of a DH in a 2009 game, but that was due to a lineup-card mistake.
Bumgarner, who is hitting .175 (7-for-40) with two homers and five RBIs this year, will get to bat against A’s rookie left-hander Dillon Overton due largely to the Giants’ lack of right-handed-hitting options. Though he pitches left-handed, Bumgarner bats right-handed.
Overton, coming off a win in his major league debut Saturday in Anaheim, is excited to face off with Bumgarner the pitcher.
"He’s one of the best pitchers in baseball, and I’ve watched him for numerous years on TV, and I’ve taken some pointers from him," Overton said. "It will definitely be special to be able to throw against him. It will be fun."
Overton had 28 family members from Oklahoma and Texas cheering him on Saturday due a 7-3 victory against the Los Angeles Angels.
It was a thrilling start to his career, even though he allowed solo home runs to Mike Trout, Kole Calhoun and Albert Pujols. Those were the only runs Overton allowed in 5 2/3 innings. Now he gets to make his home debut on a day the A’s will attempt to complete a sweep of the Giants.
"Being a home-grown guy in this organization, it will definitely be special to throw here finally in front of our home crowd," Overton said Wednesday.
After beating the Giants two times at AT&T Park, the A’s defeated them 7-1 on Wednesday night at the Coliseum. Beating Bumgarner to cap the sweep won’t be easy for Oakland, as he is 8-4 with a 1.99 ERA in his career against the Athletics.
"He’s been awesome," Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford said of Bumgarner. "All of his pitches have been sharp. He’s using the cutter and fastball like always, but he’s really been mixing in that curveball and been throwing that really well this year, and I think that’s probably the biggest difference."
Bumgarner had gone 7-0 with a 1.27 ERA over 10 starts before hitting what for him was a rough patch. He has lost back-to-back starts despite allowing a total of just four runs to the Pittsburgh Pirates and Philadelphia Phillies in that stretch.
After watching his team commit three errors and lose yet another infielder to an injury Wednesday night, Giants manager Bruce Bochy took little solace in the fact that Bumgarner would be on the mound for the series finale.
"We just have to clean it up," Bochy said. "That’s the one thing we were doing very well is catching the ball. You deal with the streaks where you have trouble scoring runs, but the one thing we should be consistent at is catching the ball. We’re a pretty good team defensively, and that’s gotten away from us."
Giants starting second baseman Joe Panik (concussion) went on the seven-day disabled list Wednesday, joining starting third baseman Matt Duffy (left Achilles strain) and backup infielders Kelby Tomlinson (left thumb sprain) and Ehire Adrianza (fractured left foot).
Now infielder Ramiro Pena, who started in Panik’s place Wednesday, could be headed to the DL. He sprained his left ankle in the third inning in a collision with right fielder Mac Williamson as they pursued a pop fly. Pena, who was charged with an error, stayed in the game until being replaced by a pinch hitter in the fifth.
"He’s pretty sore," Bochy said. "X-rays were negative. We’ll get an MRI tomorrow. He’s looking at (missing) five to seven days. I think it’s pretty evident we’re going to have to get somebody to help out here."
Overton’s personal rooting section will be decidedly smaller Thursday than it was Saturday, but he still will have six to eight family members at the game.
"My wife’s going to be here, my grandparents will be here and my cousin and uncle will be here," Overton said. "And I just found out today my mother-in-law and my wife’s grandpa will be here."
They should see a much more relaxed pitcher on the mound.
"Since I’ve already had one outing, I think it will be a little easier to not be so star-struck when I go out there this time," said Overton, a second-round pick in 2013 out of the University of Oklahoma. "Just easier to stay focused and be ready to do what I need to do. I think it will be fun, and I’m looking forward to it."