PHOENIX – Madison Bumgarner leaned back against the bench in the Giants dugout, a towel wrapped around his left arm and his perfect game intact through five innings.
In these moments, baseball decorum demands isolation for the starting pitcher. Yet there was Buster Posey to one side, saying something to make Bumgarner blink and smile. And there was Brandon Crawford on the other side, providing a laugh track.
“I say a lot of things to dig at him,” Posey said. “So I’m not sure which one it was.”
The Giants couldn’t just ignore Bumgarner. Not when he was in the midst of one of the greatest power shows in baseball history. Not when he became the first pitcher in major league lore to hit two home runs on opening day.
“Babe Ruth didn’t do it?” Posey said. “That’s what we were calling him. We were calling him the Great Bambino in the dugout.”
Two blown saves and a 6-5 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks could not prevent the Giants from giving full throat to praising Bumgarner, who struck out 11 in seven innings in addition to hitting those solo shots off Arizona’s Zack Greinke and Andrew Chafin.
“I mean, for us in the dugout, we’re just shaking our heads because it’s not supposed to be that easy,” Posey said. “He makes it look easy, but there’s a method to his madness. He works at it. He takes it extremely seriously and the results are proof of that.”
Greinke knew to pitch Bumgarner carefully. He issued a walk in the second inning. But he paid for a two-strike fastball at the belt, as Bumgarner sending a low line drive screaming into the seats in left-center field to give the Giants a 2-0 lead.
It was just the second home run by a pitcher on opening day in the past 25 years, joining the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw and the one he hit against the Giants in 2013.
It was the first home run hit by a Giants pitcher on opening day in the club’s San Francisco era; four pitchers accomplished it as New York Giants, with Johnny Antonelli the last to do it in 1956.
It also was just the third home run that Greinke had ever surrendered to a pitcher. Bumgarner owns two of the three.
The Diamondbacks’ Jeff Mathis broke up Bumgarner’s perfect game with a triple in the sixth, and A.J. Pollock hit a tying, two-run home run.
But as quickly as Bumgarner lost the lead, he provided another one. Facing Chafin in the seventh, he crushed a high drive that cleared the Diamondbacks bullpen in the left field corner.
“You might get that pitch 10 more times and foul it off or swing and miss the next 10,” Bumgarner said. “But that was two good at-bats for me right there.”
Bumgarner joined the Mets’ Noah Syndergaard as the only pitchers in the last decade to homer twice in a game. He also became the first Giant to do it since Jim Gott in 1985.
And with 16 career home runs, Bumgarner tied then moved past Antonelli and Hal Schumacher to become the franchise’s all-time leader in home runs by a pitcher.
“I was just laughing,” first baseman Brandon Belt said. “It’s pretty hard to believe. You expect him to get one every now and again. You don’t expect him to drop two in the first game.
“It’s incredible. There’s not much I can say. Just laugh it off. I mean, I’ve seen what he can do to those fastballs and he did it today.”
The history was impressive. The sheer physics were wondrous. Both of Bumgarner’s home runs left the bat at 112 mph.
Just 14 major league players hit two home runs that hard all last season, according to StatCast. Bumgarner did it on opening day.
He also owns the four hardest hit home runs by a pitcher in the two years for which StatCast data is available.
“I was hoping his spot would come up again,” said Bochy, “so he’d get one more at-bat and could go for three.”
Bumgarner’s two homers might have distracted from the fact that he was even more overpowering on the mound while striking out 11 on just 88 pitches in seven innings. He struck out the side in the second inning on just 10 pitches. His nipping fastball approached 95 mph, a level of sizzle he usually doesn’t approach without that October adrenaline.
“That’s the best I’ve felt in a long time,” said Bumgarner, who claimed to struggle with his mechanics most of last season even as he set career highs in innings and strikeouts while placing fourth in the NL Cy Young Award balloting.
“I’m definitely a lot closer. The struggle is once you get it, to keep hold of it, to not lose it.”
Words that apply to the Giants bullpen, too.