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, manager Bruce Bochy briefly thought that Bumgarner might not allow a base runner. Behind the left-hander, other Giants also started to ponder the possibility of something special.
"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. Bochy had received good reports on Panik's defense in recent weeks, so he wasn't all that surprised.
"I have a son in Triple-A," said Bochy, whose son Brett is a relief pitcher for the Fresno Grizzlies. "He was telling me what a great job (Panik) was doing."
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. It was one of three commemorative balls sitting in Panik's locker after the win, along with the one from his first RBI and his first walk, which came Saturday night. After Panik lined his first hit, Pablo Sandoval scooped up the keepsake and then threw a fourth ball into the stands, trying to fool the rookie. Panik didn't, well, panic.
"I'm not going to lie," Panik said. "I've seen that trick before."
When Panik was stranded on second after the hit, 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, who had one previous shutout, a one-hitter in 2012 that came 15 days after Matt Cain's perfect game. He was at 103 pitches heading into the ninth, but a Crawford error and an infield single off Sandoval's glove ended Bumgarner's day. The Diamondbacks pushed a run across 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 simply thrilled 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."
San Diego (Andrew Cashner 2-6) at Giants' Matt Cain (1-5), 7:15 p.m. CSNBA