A familiar story: Kershaw brings an end to Giants' winning streak

A familiar story: Kershaw brings an end to Giants' winning streak

SAN FRANCISCO — Johnny Cueto and Yasmani Grandal started jawing at each other at the end of the top of the third inning Wednesday, and as they do, the benches cleared. As coaches tried to calm the two and players glared at the other side, Clayton Kershaw burst from the visiting dugout. He did not join the fray.

Kershaw pounded his fist into his glove as he crossed onto the grass. He split the crowds and went straight to the mound, where he started warming up as players filed off the field. He wasn’t here to argue. He was here to end a winning streak.

The Giants, winners of five straight, ran into a familiar buzzsaw. There’s nothing you can do when Kershaw is on his game, and with Cueto off his, this one was over early. Kershaw threw seven shutout innings in a 6-1 Dodgers win. He lowered his career ERA against the Giants to 1.62.

“I think pretty good might be an understatement,” catcher Buster Posey said of Kershaw's day. 

The Giants had three hits — all singles — before Eduardo Nuñez took old friend Sergio Romo deep in the ninth. This one was over long before that. Given the way Kershaw pitched, it was just about decided when Grandal smoked a two-run double in the first. 

Cueto gave up a single and double with one out. He got Cody Bellinger swinging with a good changeup and he went down in the zone again with two strikes on Grandal. As Buster Posey spread his legs out and got ready to block a scud, Grandal found a way to turn on the slider and knock it off the wall.

“It was a good pitch,” Cueto said. “Grandal beat me on that one. I didn’t think he was going to be able to hit that ball.”

The two were in the middle of most of Wednesday’s drama. When Grandal came up in the third, a fastball flew up and in for a run-scoring wild pitch. Cueto said the ball slipped, but the two exchanged words after Grandal’s flyout.  

“I explained that the pitch slipped,” Cueto said through interpreter Erwin Higueros. “I told him I wasn’t trying to throw at his head. I told him that if I’m going to hit him, I’ll do it low.”

The two spoke during Cueto’s first at-bat, and all was fine. They were sorry for the misunderstanding, Cueto said. There was one other aspect of the incident where there was no misunderstanding for Cueto. Asked if he might have been annoyed with the Dodgers for stealing signs, he paused. 

“What I’ll say is not to use that as an excuse, but they were relaying signs (from second),” he said. 

To do that, you need a runner on second, and the Giants never made Kershaw sweat. The win was his 20th over the Giants. 

“He was right on today,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “Very tough. We had mostly right-handed bats out there but he had great stuff. We couldn’t put any pressure on him.”

The Giants have gotten used to these games. It was a bit easier to take because of what happened on the rest of the homestand. The Giants went 5-2, taking series from the Reds and Dodgers. They’re 17-25, which is nowhere near good, but they finally feel headed in the right direction. 

“We’ve got to be happy with it,” Posey said. “Obviously we would have liked to win today, but you have to be happy going into the off day.”

Giants get blanked by Braves, now have lowest-scoring team in majors

Giants get blanked by Braves, now have lowest-scoring team in majors

SAN FRANCISCO — Over in Cleveland earlier Friday, Brandon Moss hit a three-run homer for the visiting team and five other players chipped in a pair of hits. The Royals had six runs, which meant that when Jim Johnson closed the Giants out a few hours later, what has seemed true all season became officially true. The Giants have the lowest-scoring lineup in the majors.

At 3.32 runs per game, they have dipped below the equally-disappointing Royals (3.38). They are capable at the moment of making any pitching staff look dominant. A 2-0 shutout was the first of the year for the Braves, who previously had just two games this season where they allowed fewer than two runs. 

“Six runs in (the last) four games … I thought we would come home and get some rips in tonight, but it didn’t happen,” Bruce Bochy said. 

The manager’s frustration showed late in this one. After the only rally of the game — a two-run single by opposing pitcher Jaime Garcia — Bochy took his cap off and rubbed his forehead. He dipped his head and briefly stood as if he was going to fall asleep on the rail. The bats were equally still. 

The Giants had just four hits, all of them singles against Garcia, who is a nice pitcher but hardly one of the league’s best. One was an infield single by Eduardo Nuñez, another a single through Garcia’s five-hole, and a third a generous ruling by the official scorekeeper. 

“It comes down to, you’ve got to get some hits and create opportunities, and we’re not doing it very often,” Bochy said. “It’s just a matter of guys getting somewhat hot. We did, we had some success, and we won some games. The thing you like to see is some good cuts and I didn’t think we got enough of those tonight.”

That run, which spanned the last homestand and small parts of two road trips, has come to a screeching halt. The Giants have lost five of six. It seems silly to scoreboard-watch in May, especially when a team is playing like this, but it’s worth noting that the teams the Giants eventually need to catch keep winning. They fell 12 games back of the Rockies and 11 back of the streaking Diamondbacks. They are 9 1/2 back of the Dodgers, who might be the best team in the whole league. 

Matt Cain did his part to allow the Giants to keep pace. He got beat just once in seven sharp innings. The Giants intentionally walked Dansby Swanson to get to Garcia, who bounced a single into left. Brandon Belt had a play at the plate, but his throw was short and hit the runner. A second run scored. 

“That’s tough,” Cain said. “(Garcia) was throwing the ball really good and that’s what it comes down to, you’re looking for that one hit and he did it. He’s a good hitter. We’ve seen it in St. Louis. But it definitely is tough when the pitcher does that … it just stinks on my part to give up a hit to the opposing pitcher.”

Instant Analysis: Giants bats silenced, losing streak now at four games

Instant Analysis: Giants bats silenced, losing streak now at four games

BOX SCORE

SAN FRANCISCO — The return to AT&T Park was a huge boost to Matt Cain, who has wild home-road splits this season, but it did predictable things to an already-limp Giants offense. 

The Giants entered the night as the lowest-scoring team in the National League and they got blanked 2-0 by Jaime Garcia and the Braves. Garcia out-dueled Cain and provided the only offense of the night, as well. The Giants have dropped five of six.

Here are five things to know from AT&T Park, where they keep having Star Wars Night but they’ve never once celebrated Super Troopers … 

--- Cain entered the seventh with a 0.94 ERA at home this season, but the opposing pitcher busted him. With one on and two outs, the Giants intentionally walked Dansby Swanson to get to Garcia, a career .145 hitter. He bounced a single into shallow left and it looked like Brandon Belt had a play at the plate, but his throw home hit the runner. That allowed Swanson to race home for a 2-0 lead. 

--- Cain’s final line: seven innings, one earned run, one walk, three strikeouts. Yep, that’s a Caining.

--- Justin Ruggiano is here for the opportunity he was given in the sixth. Ruggiano has always crushed lefties, and Bruce Bochy put him behind Buster Posey on Friday night. The Braves intentionally walked Posey to load the bases for Ruggiano, who grounded out to third. Even the platoon splits are failing the Giants. 

--- If you need a little perspective on Christian Arroyo’s struggles, look across the field. Swanson, the former No. 1 overall pick, is batting .198. The shortstop slashed .302/.361/.442 as a rookie but his numbers are way down across the board, and he’s nearly two years older than Arroyo. These things take time. Having said that, Arroyo’s hole is pretty deep. He’s hitless in his last 21 at-bats after an 0 for 3.

--- There were three no-pitch intentional walks. I hope you used the extra ninety seconds wisely.