PHOENIX – It seemed innocent enough, a solo homer by Victor Robles off Madison Bumgarner in the eighth inning for what proved to be the final run in the Nationals’ 7-2 loss to the Diamondbacks.
Bumgarner, though, is ever mindful of what’s going on around him, especially when it involves someone from the opposing team hitting a home run off him. The 32-year-old left-hander has a storied legacy that may land him in Cooperstown some day because of his workhorse approach to pitching and dominant performances in multiple October runs with the Giants.
His legacy, though, also includes a significant history of tiffs with opponents he believes didn’t celebrate home runs off him in an appropriate manner, most notably the Dodgers’ Yasiel Puig and Max Muncy.
And late Saturday night, Victor Robles joined that list.
“He’s a clown,” Bumgarner told reporters in the Diamondbacks clubhouse after the game. “Golly. No shame. No shame. Like, it’s 7-1, you hit your third homer of the year and you act like Barry Bonds breaking the record. Clean it up. I don’t care about giving up the run. Hell, we won 7-2, 8-2, whatever it was. It’s frustrating. I’m the old grumpy guy, I know, but that type of stuff, it didn’t use to happen. That’s ridiculous.”
Word of Bumgarner’s critical thoughts, of course, made its way over to the Nationals clubhouse and to Robles, who seemed somewhat amused by it all.
“When he’s pitching well, he’s able to celebrate and do what he likes to do,” Robles said, via interpreter Octavio Martinez. “It seems like he calls everybody a clown that actually has a big hit or home run against him. If he doesn’t want anyone hitting a home run against him or having any issues with that, then just keep striking people out or making better pitches, to where he doesn’t have to worry about that.”
Bumgarner struck out plenty of people Saturday night, nine of them in total over eight dominant innings. Robles, in fact, was one of the only members of the Nationals lineup who had any success against him. He beat out a bunt single in the top of the third, albeit one he popped up in front of the plate. He then stole second despite Bumgarner picking him off, beating first baseman Christian Walker’s throw. He took third on a wild pitch. Then, after taking a big lead off third and even prompting Bumgarner to make a rare pickoff throw to a base he had his back to, Robles scored on Lane Thomas’ RBI grounder to third.
Maybe that whole sequence was still in Bumgarner’s mind five innings later when Robles homered, causing him to react as he did to what didn’t appear to be an excessive celebration, certainly not by 2022 standards.
Bumgarner’s standards, though, have long felt more appropriate for a major league game played in 1972 than 2022.
“We know that Bum does get frustrated when guys hit home runs off him, if he deems they didn’t run right away. But you know what? I’ve seen way, way worse,” Nationals manager Davey Martinez said this morning. “I thought Victor didn’t do a whole lot to call him a clown, but that’s the way Bum sees it. I’ve got a lot of respect for him. He’s been a hell of a pitcher for a long time. But I thought Vic didn’t do much to warrant that.”
Robles, for his part, was complimentary of Bumgarner and all the lefty has done over the years, even if he took issue with what happened Saturday night.
“I respect the career he’s had,” Robles said. “He has done a lot in this game. He’s earned his stripes, as we would say. He’s a veteran guy. My kind of personality, I don’t take into account that kind of stuff. I don’t react to those reactions or words that come out of him. I just play my game.”