Madison Bumgarner fans 11 as Giants shut out Cubs

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Madison Bumgarner is doing his best to keep the Giants in the race.

He allowed two hits and matched his career high with 11 strikeouts over eight innings in a 4-0 victory over the Cubs on Wednesday.  It was just his ninth win of the season, but the Giants did improve to 9-4 in his last 13 starts.

Bumgarner himself is 9-12 with a 3.43 ERA.  That’s because the Giants have scored a total of 88 runs in his 28 starts, an average of 3.14 per game.  It’s low even by their standards: they’re averaging 3.43 runs per game when he doesn’t start.

But Bumgarner is coming into his own.  He’s up to 157 strikeouts in 173 1/3 innings for the season.  He’s 11th in the NL in K/9 IP, sixth in HR/9 IP and 7th with a 3.83 K/BB ratio, all at the tender age of 22.

Bumgarner doesn’t fare quite so well in the ERA rankings, in part because he had maybe the worst start by any major leaguer this season: eight earned runs and nine hits in one-third of an inning against the Twins back on June 21.  But he’s had 13 starts in which he’s allowed one or no earned runs.

It seems obvious that he’ll have to keep it up if the Giants are going to have any chance of overtaking the Diamondbacks in the NL West.  Fortunately, he’s looking like the game’s youngest stopper at the moment.

Battle of the Aces: Max Scherzer takes on Clayton Kershaw tonight

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I hope you don’t have any plans tonight at around 10PM Eastern time, because that’s when we get a pitching matchup for the ages as Max Scherzer will take on Clayton Kershaw at Dodger Stadium. When they meet tonight it will be the first time two pitchers with three or more Cy Young Awards have matched up since 2006. That year, and in 2005 and 2000, Roger Clemens faced Greg Maddux. In 2001 Clemens faced Pedro Martinez.

Kershaw won his hardware in 2011, 2013 and 2014, with an MVP award in 2014 to boot. Scherzer collected trophies in 2013, 2016 and 2017. Each has started the 2018 season in Cy Young form. Kershaw is 1-2, but that record is due to poor run support. He has a 1.73 ERA and has struck out 31 batters and has walked only three in 26 innings. Scherzer is 3-1 with a 1.33 ERA and a whopping 38 strikeouts to only 4 walks in 27 innings.

This will be the third time that Kershaw and Scherzer faced each other if you include the playoffs. The first meeting was a decade ago when both were rookies. They most recently faced off in Game 1 of the 2016 NLDS, way back when Scherzer only had one Cy Young Award to his credit. Kershaw beat Scherzer in that playoff game and the Dodgers beat Scherzer’s teams in the two regular season matchups, with neither guy setting the world on fire. As so often happens in baseball, the hype hasn’t been matched by reality.

Still, there’s always a chance it will. And even if, in the end, this turns into a slugfest, the first couple of innings should at least give us some hope of something good. I’ll be watching.