PHOENIX In the midst of a heated rivalry, Madison Bumgarner has developed a friendship with Los Angeles Dodgers left-hander Clayton Kershaw. When the reigning Cy Young Award winner threw a no-hitter earlier in the week, the prevailing thought in Los Angeles was that the historic feat always had been bound to happen one day.

With Bumgarner, it's starting to feel the same way.

The 24-year-old Giants left-hander was brilliant at Chase Field on Sunday, pitching into the ninth inning and giving up just two hits in a 4-1 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks. Through eight innings, the lone Diamondbacks hit was an infield single. As Bumgarner cruised through the first, showing a firm fastball, tight slider and much-improved curveball, Giants manager Bruce Bochy briefly thought that Bumgarner might not allow a base runner. Giants players also started to ponder the possibility.

"I always think that," shortstop Brandon Crawford said. "It doesn't matter what he did the previous start or who we're playing. When you have Bumgarner on the mound, you're pretty confident going in."

Having lost six of seven, largely because of poor pitching, the Giants desperately needed a positive day. Bumgarner was up to the task.

He had a quick first inning, including a three-pitch strikeout of Diamondbacks star Paul Goldschmidt, and got the first two outs of the second. Former teammate Cody Ross then hit a slow roller toward third, and Bumgarner rushed off the mound, slid to scoop the ball and threw a one-hopper to first from his knees. Joaquin Arias, filling in for Michael Morse (back tightness), couldn't make the scoop.

"It was a tough hop," Bumgarner said. "Nine times out of 10, he comes up with it."

Bumgarner didn't give up another hit until the ninth. He walked Goldschmidt twice but got out of one of those innings by snagging a lined shot up the middle and doubling off Goldschmidt at first.

"I'll take it however I can get it," Bumgarner said, smiling.

He got seven outs on strikeouts and nine on ground balls, including a highlight play from the new Giants second baseman. In his first major league start, Joe Panik charged a two-out chopper by Ender Inciarte in the sixth and glove-flipped the ball to first. Panik said he knew the speedy Inciarte from the Triple-A Pacific Coast League, and the play is one he practices before games.

Panik was in the middle of a late rally that gave Bumgarner three insurance runs. The Giants had taken a 1-0 lead on Tyler Colvin's fifth-inning double, and Hunter Pence, Buster Posey and Brandon Crawford had base hits in the ninth to make it 3-0. Panik fouled off three pitches from tough left-hander Joe Thatcher before lofting an RBI double to deep left-center field.

"That's a great at-bat," Bochy said. "He has a short stroke and doesn't try to do too much. It's nice to have that in a left-handed bat, a guy who can hit lefties."

In the fifth inning, Panik had picked up his first career hit, a single to left off right-hander Mike Bolsinger. When Panik was stranded on second, Pence brought him his glove and gave him a pat on the back. Crawford, Arias, Colvin and Gregor Blanco then approached for handshakes and hugs.

"That's when it kind of hit me," Panik said. "Everybody was like, 'Congratulations! Attaboy!' It really sunk in that I got my first hit. It was a special moment."

The rest of the plaudits were reserved for Bumgarner. He was at 103 pitches heading into the ninth, but a Crawford error and an infield single ended Bumgarner's day. The Diamondbacks pushed across a run off Sergio Romo, but he picked up his 22nd save.

The late blemish didn't matter to Bumgarner, who is 4-1 with a 1.64 ERA over his past six starts. He was thrilled simply to have helped the Giants win a second straight after a six-game losing streak.

"It's time for us to start working our way out of this now," he said. "We knew that."

Back tightness kept Angel Pagan and Morse out of the lineup. Morse hopes to return Monday after missing one game, but the Giants weren't sure if Pagan would be ready. He has missed six straight games, but the staff is hopeful he can avoid the disabled list.



(c)2014 San Jose Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.)

Visit the San Jose Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.) at http://www.mercurynews.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services