Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 4/29/12

SAN FRANCISCO -- Looking for 2012 to end better than 2011, the Giants need only to look at Madison Bumgarner for a big reason for optimism.

The Giants left-hander started last season by losing his first five decisions, but this year he completed April pitching as well as anyone in the Giants' vaunted rotation.

By working into the eighth inning in the Giants' 4-1 victory over the Padres on Sunday, Bumgarner won his fourth consecutive decision, with a 1.61 ERA in the process.

"It's obvious we think a lot of Madison and what he's done since he came up," Bochy said of the 22-year-old who signed a $35-million, five-year deal earlier this month. "He's going to get better and better. He has great stuff. He's getting smarter. He knows what he wants to do up there. And he's comfortable throwing any pitch at any time. For a kid his age it's impressive."

Bumgarner gave up one run in 7 2/3 innings. He allowed six hits, but two were infield hits and another, Chris Denorfia's RBI double in the fifth, appeared to be misjudged by center fielder Angel Pagan.

"He was hitting his spots and mixing all his pitches," Bochy said. "He gave us what we needed. He is throwing the ball very well and he continued that today."

Bumgarner outdueled Padres' lefty Clayton Richard, who entered the game with a 5-2 record against the Giants.

Pagan led off the game with an infield single, stretching his hitting streak to a career-best 14 games. Richard then made a wild pickoff throw, allowing Pagan to go to third. He scored on Melky Cabrera's sacrifice fly.

Pablo Sandoval followed with a homer, his fourth of the season, and his first batting right handed. It came a day after his 20-game hitting streak ended.

The Giants had more opportunities against Richard, with leadoff doubles in the fourth and fifth, but they couldn't convert until the sixth inning, when they scored two more. Buster Posey walked and went to third on Brett Pill's double.

With two outs, Joaquin Arias drove them both in with a triple off the wall in right that turned a 2-1 lead into a 4-1 lead.

"The key at bat was Arias' double on a pitch that caught just a little too much of the plate," Padres manager Bud Black said. "I thought it was a well hit fly ball, but catchable. It seemed like the ball did carry on Will (Venable), whether it was hit well off the bat or it was windblown. It went to a corner where it is real dicey for the defender. It was a key situation with two outs."

Bochy also said that was a key hit because the Giants had been unable to pad the lead, despite opportunities.

"Up to that point, I'm not going to lie, that game was frustrating," Bochy said. "We needed to do a better job executing. We weren't moving guys over and getting them in. In a tight game you need to do that. He gave us what we needed to get a cushion."

The Padres only run against Bumgarner came into the fifth inning. Jason Bartlett led off with a single. Two outs later, Denorfia hit a fly ball to deep center.

Pagan appeared to get a late jump on the ball and it dropped over his head, allowing Bartlett to score from first.

"That ball just took off," Pagan said. "It didn't look like he hit it that well, but it kept going."

Denorfia is now 9 for 21 against Bumgarner. He has the most hits of any major leaguer against the Giants' lefty.

Bumgarner was pulled two outs in the eighth. Sergio Romo retired Padres No. 3 hitter Chase Headley on a fly ball to deep right. Santiago Casilla then worked the ninth to convert his fourth save in four tries since taking over for injured Brian Wilson as the closer.

Notes: Padres right-hander Tim Stauffer, who has not pitched yet this season because of an elbow injury, made his first rehab appearance for Class A Lake Elsinore. Stauffer gave up two runs in 3 2/3 innings. ... Brandon Belt was out of the Giants' lineup a day after having the go-ahead hit because manager Bruce Bochy wanted to load his lineup with right-handed hitters against the left-handed Richard. Posey played first for the second time in the past three

games, with Hector Sanchez behind the plate. Bochy also put Pill in left field, Ryan Theriot at second and Arias at shortstop.

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