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CLE@SF: Bumgarner fans 11 to earn the victory

SAN FRANCISCO -- It wasn't a premonition. It was a conviction.

The Giants knew that Madison Bumgarner would excel Sunday, long before their Interleague contest against the Indians even began.

"When I got here, I knew he was going to do well," said third baseman Pablo Sandoval.

"I'll go back as far as his last outing," said manager Bruce Bochy. "I knew this kid would bounce back. There was no doubt in my mind."

Dominance replaced doubt, as Bumgarner recovered from a historically dreadful performance to strike out a career-high 11 batters in seven innings and lead the Giants to a 3-1 victory -- completing their three-game series sweep.

The Giants, who lead the National League West by 1 1/2 games over the D-backs, matched a season-best by climbing 10 games above .500 (44-34). They finished their homestand by winning five games in a row, despite averaging exactly three runs per game in that stretch. But that's complemented by the 0.83 ERA that San Francisco's renowned pitchers put together during the winning streak.

Bumgarner (4-9), who allowed one run and six hits, looked nothing like he did on Tuesday, when he surrendered hits to the first eight Twins that stepped in the box. The left-hander ultimately yielded eight runs in one-third of an inning and became the first pitcher since 1900 to allow nine hits and record fewer than two outs in a game.

This time, Bumgarner held Cleveland hitless in seven at-bats with runners in scoring position. As if for emphasis, he concluded his final five innings with strikeouts. Filling in for closer Brian Wilson, who pitched in each of the previous four games, Jeremy Affeldt struck out five of the six batters he faced, hiking the Giants' total to 16.

Part of that was due to the game's 5:10 p.m. PT start, creating a treacherous mosaic of light and shadow for hitters. But part of it could undeniably be attributed to Bumgarner's motivation and skill.

Was he trying to make a point?

"No," Bumgarner said. "I was just trying to make pitches."

The southpaw acknowledged that his performance against the Twins dented his self-assurance, which every pitcher needs.

"I'm not going to say there wasn't any doubt. There was a little doubt," Bumgarner said. "It's tough to forget about a start like that. I tried to put it behind me as best I could."

Bumgarner accomplished that while requiring just one mild mechanical adjustment. He stared on the catcher's target throughout his motion, instead of looking away from Chris Stewart's glove and refocusing on it before releasing the ball.

"I think that's the reason my command was better," said Bumgarner, who threw 78 strikes in 112 pitches.

Bumgarner also benefited from the Giants' steadfast support, which emanated from Bochy's office and permeated the entire clubhouse.

"That gives you a boost of confidence, to know that [Bochy] has that kind of faith in me," Bumgarner said. "My teammates picked me up after that start and helped me through it."

But once Bumgarner took the mound before yet another sellout crowd of 41,978, it was all up to him. As Affeldt said, "You fix the problem, but then you pitch like you never had the problem."

Aside from missing a fourth-inning sign for a squeeze bunt, which enabled Cleveland to trap Bill Hall off third base, Bumgarner had few problems against the Indians, who arrived in San Francisco as the American League Central leaders and left in second place.

After Orlando Cabrera and Asdrubal Cabrera singled to open the fourth inning, Bumgarner retired Carlos Santana on a fly to center field and Grady Sizemore on a groundout before fanning Shelley Duncan.

Bumgarner looked just as resolute while permitting his lone run, which came after a questionable call. After Michael Brantley walked to open the sixth inning, Orlando Cabrera smacked a grounder past third base that was foul, as the Giants insisted and as television replays proved.

But the umpiring crew was undermanned after Hunter Wendelstedt was hit by a foul tip and departed his post in the middle of the second inning. With no umpire down the third-base line, Jerry Layne, filling in behind the plate for Wendelstedt, ruled it a fair ball. That resulted in a double for Cabrera that sent Brantley to third. After Asdrubal Cabrera's groundout drove in Brantley, Bumgarner fanned Santana and Duncan.

"Besides having that mid-90s fastball, he had a pretty good cutter, too," said Indians manager Manny Acta. "He was able to cut right into the right-handers' hands and away from the lefties. Not to take anything away from him or our guys, but it's also pretty tough to see the ball here at this time of the day. Some of the guys were complaining about it, but everybody out there had pretty good stuff."

Stewart nevertheless managed to line a two-out, two-run double off Cleveland starter Fausto Carmona (4-10) that opened the scoring for the Giants in the second inning. They represented the first Major League RBIs recorded by Stewart, who has spent most of his 10-year professional career in Triple-A.

The Giants added a run in the third inning on consecutive one-out singles by Brandon Crawford, Sandoval and Aubrey Huff, breaking a streak of 15 home starts in a row in which Bumgarner received two runs or fewer from his offense.

Given Bumgarner's sustained excellence, it didn't matter.

"That was awesome," said Affeldt, who converted his second save. "That was probably bigger than just a good outing for him. I think it was a big part of his maturing process. I think everybody, I'm sure from the coaching staff to the players and the front-office personnel, is pretty proud of him." Comments