On Tuesday night, clinging to a one-run lead against the St. Louis Cardinals in the seventh inning, the Giants decided to use lefty ace Madison Bumgarner as a pinch-hitter for pitcher Ryan Vogelsong.
Vogelsong had already pitched six scoreless innings that night, but he hadn’t done anything behind the plate. Enter Bumgarner, the reigning World Series MVP pitcher. He singled and eventually came around to score, and the Giants went on to win the game 2-0. They have now won six of their past eight games.
Though Bumgarner’s single will not land the pitcher in any top-plays segments, that the Giants can use him like this gives them a huge advantage over other teams. Because he’s such a good hitter — not to mention a superstar pitcher — Bumgarner effectively gives the Giants an extra roster spot: Rather than needing to keep an extra hitter on the team just for situations like Tuesday night’s, the Giants can keep an extra pitcher in their bullpen and use Bumgarner to pinch-hit or play as the designated hitter. This helps keep relievers’ arms rested, and late in the season this is a major luxury to have.
Giants manager Bruce Bochy has openly toyed with giving Bumgarner a larger role in the offense.
“He’s a legit hitter,” Bochy told CSN Bay Area earlier this week. “He’s not a pitcher I think you hit eighth. He could hit seventh.”
There’s always the worry of having such a talented pitcher bat and run the bases, as an errant foul tip or routine run toward first could result in an injury and time on the disabled list. But this hasn’t been a problem for Bumgarner and the Giants. So far this season, Bumgarner has four home runs, including one off Clayton Kershaw.
On Sunday he had a double and a home run to go with a three-hit, 14-strikeout complete-game shutout on the mound. As Deadspin’s Kevin Draper aptly put it, “Madison Bumgarner is like that kid who is too good for Little League, the best pitcher on his team who also bats cleanup and plays shortstop when he’s not on the mound.”
The Giants trail the Dodgers by two games in the NL West and are three games behind the Cubs for the final Wild Card Spot. Bumgarner is likely to start nine more time this regular season — the Giants will need his arm and his bat if they want any shot of defending their World Series title come October.
This article was originally published on Business Insider. Copyright 2015.