Bochy: 'Buster certainly came through at the right time'
Buster Posey delivered an RBI double in the sixth, and the game-winning home run in the ninth. (USA TODAY IMAGES)
SAN FRANCISCO – The Dodgers lost one cleanup hitter before the first pitch. They lost another in the sixth inning.
By the end of Friday night’s game, the $2 billion team with the major league’s fattest payroll was fielding an infield of Jerry Hairston Jr., Nick Punto, Justin Sellers and Luis Cruz.
They still had Clayton Kershaw. And against the Giants, that’s usually enough.
But hold on. We haven’t taken inventory of the Giants yet. And they have the reigning National League Most Valuable Player.
Buster Posey did what MVPs do in a tight rivalry game. He hit a tying RBI double off Kershaw in the sixth inning, then sent a sellout crowd home with a whoop and a holler when he led off the ninth with a home run into the left field bleachers as the Giants walked off with a 2-1 victory Friday night.
The Giants extended their winning streak to four games. Of their 17 victories, 10 are come-from-behind wins – the most in the major leagues.
Starting pitching report
Barry Zito didn’t spend much time in the windup. He allowed the Dodgers’ leadoff batter to reach base in each of the six innings he began (three walks, two singles and a double).
So it was a good thing that Zito was able to execute enough pitches from the stretch. He relied on double-play grounders to exit the third, fourth and fifth innings.
He also relied on some nimble defense in the second inning, when first baseman Brandon Belt fielded a nubber and threw accurately for a tag play at the plate.
But Kershaw’s leadoff double in the fifth led to the game’s first run. Kershaw advanced on a sacrifice and then held for a moment as Nick Punto followed with a bouncing ball to the left side. Joaquin Arias, who was making his first start of the season at shortstop, might have shown some rust as he whiffed while trying to make a sliding, backhand stop. The ball snuck into left field for a single and Kershaw jogged home.
The run was the first of the season against Zito at AT&T Park. Over three-plus starts, he had thrown 25 scoreless innings at China Basin – the longest streak by a Giants pitcher to start a season since Ryan Jensen (27) in 2002.
Zito’s night ended after Hanley Ramirez reached on a 10-pitch walk to start the sixth. His final line: 5-plus innings, 6 hits, 1 run (earned), 4 walks, 1 strikeout and 95 pitches, 58 for strikes.
It was Zito’s fewest strikeouts in a start when he completed at least five innings since July 2, 2011.
The Dodgers loaded the bases against Chad Gaudin after second baseman Marco Scutaro made a throwing error on a play when he easily could’ve been charged for a double miscue. But Gaudin got Kershaw to ground out to strand three in the sixth.
Hunter Pence contributed a huge assist when he charged A.J. Ellis’ single and threw on line to third base, where Pablo Sandoval tagged out Hanley Ramirez trying to go from first to third. Ramirez came up holding his left hamstring and had to be helped from the field by two trainers.
It was the Night of the Inherited Runner for the Giants bullpen. Gaudin left two runners and one out in the seventh for George Kontos, who recorded a strikeout and a foul pop to strand them. Then Jeremy Affeldt left runners at the corners with two outs for Santiago Casilla, who induced a pop-up to first base from Jerry Hairston Jr.
Sergio Romo took over in the ninth and pitched around Matt Kemp’s one-out single. It helped that the next batter he faced was backup shortstop Justin Sellers and not Ramirez, who homered twice off him last season.
Romo (2-2) struck out Sellers on a slider, got Ellis to pop out and ended up the winning pitcher.
The Dodgers left 13 runners on base, including at least one in eight of nine innings.
At the plate
You know the numbers as they pertain to Kershaw and the Giants. He entered with a 1.28 ERA against them. Not only does that rank as the lowest by any opposing starter in Giants history, but it’s the lowest ERA that ANY pitcher has against ANY opposing team in major league history (or since 1921, at least).
Sandy Koufax (1.44 ERA against the Mets) was next lowest, in case you were curious.
Kershaw took the mound just 48 hours after burying his father in Texas, but you wouldn’t have known he was pitching with a heavy heart. He took a no-hitter into the sixth inning, when Marco Scutaro busted it up with a one-out triple that found the wall in right-center field.
Buster Posey followed with another drive even deeper to right-center. His two-out double bounced off the warning track and would’ve been a home run in most other ballparks. (Brandon Belt hit a 415-foot out in the fifth that would’ve been a homer in most other venues, too.)
The Giants continued to make hard contact when Hunter Pence lined a single to center field. Third base coach Tim Flannery waved home Posey – the correct call with two outs, a tie game and Kershaw on the mound. But Kemp made a strong throw from center field that reached Ellis on the fly. Posey slid into the catcher, leading with his right foot, and was out at the plate.
Even though Kershaw doubled earlier in the game and hit a homer against the Giants on Opening Day, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly pinch hit for him in the eighth. Kershaw’s line: 7 innings, 3 hits, 1 run (earned), 3 walks (1 intentional) and 5 strikeouts on 104 pitches.
And his ERA actually went up, to 0.73, in eight career starts at AT&T Park.
Dodgers right-hander Ronald Belisario threw six consecutive fastballs to Posey, who managed to time them. It went ball, foul, ball, foul, ball and then a pitch that the Giants’ cleanup hitter could handle. It was his fourth home run of the season.
Pence’s throw from right field ended up being the game’s biggest defensive play.
The Dodgers lost their first cleanup hitter before the first pitch when Adrian Gonzalez was scratched because of neck pain.
The Giants announced 42,113 paid on “Metallica Night,” complete with some hot lixx by the band members during the National Anthem. Myself, I’m still holding out hope for “Devo Appreciation Night,” with free energy domes to the first 10,000 fans.
The Giants continue their three-game series with the Los Angeles Dodgers on Saturday. Ryan Vogelsong (1-2, 6.23 ERA) only has one quality start in his first five outings. He’ll try to get back on track while opposing right-hander Matt Magill (0-0, 2.70). The rookie is starting in place of left-hander Ted Lilly, who went on the disabled list with an oblique issue. First pitch is scheduled for 6:05 p.m. PDT.