Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Madison Bumgarner’s outing against the Washington Nationals on Sunday was closer to the team’s expectations for him than his first three starts this season.
Bumgarner lowered his 11.20 season ERA to 8.68 by pitching five innings of one-run ball and striking out five as he helped the D-backs beat the Nationals 5-2.
“It feels really good for things to go the way they went,” Bumgarner said in a Zoom press conference after the game. “We’re by no means there yet, but it’s nice to see it transition the way that I want it to go.”
The 31-year-old southpaw cruised, allowing just two hits to a well-rounded Nationals offense led by Juan Soto and Trea Turner.
Turner’s solo home run in the third inning was the only run off Bumgarner on the day.
Bumgarner has had a mystifying start to the 2021 season by allowing 17 earned runs in 13.2 innings of work in his first three starts.
Those starts were startling coming off the worst season of his career. Sunday was just the third time in 13 games in a D-backs uniform in which he allowed fewer than two runs.
On Friday, pitching coach Matt Herges spoke about how the team is trying to simplify the approach for Bumgarner. It seemed to work against Washington, as he gave Arizona a chance to win.
“Solid day for Bum. Working hard for this day,” said manager Torey Lovullo. “There was a lead breaking ball that was helping him win counts. … The cutter looked like it had some depth in the hitting zone. … There was less predictability.”
Arizona’s offense chipped in early with solo home runs from Josh Rojas and Carson Kelly. Rojas had an excellent day, hitting the first leadoff home run of his career and using 35 total pitches over his five at-bats. He had two hits and a walk.
Rojas scored three runs in the game. Pavin Smith hit an RBI double to drive him home in the seventh, and then Rojas came around from second base in the ninth when a pickoff attempt at first base sailed into the outfield.
“I knew that he was in a good enough spot fundamentally to make some subtle, key tweaks or an adjustment that was gonna have him have some success,” Lovullo said. “He sees the ball, he surveys the strike zone and that’s why he was leading off today.
The newest Diamondback is already looking good, too. Nick Heath, who had two hits in 13 at-bats over the entirety of last season with the Kansas City Royals, went 3-for-4 in his Arizona debut after being traded Saturday.
With the victory, Arizona split the series with the Nationals.