Instant Replay: Kemp robs Scutaro of potential game-winning hit

Instant Replay: Kemp robs Scutaro of potential game-winning hit
June 25, 2013, 9:30 pm
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Matt Kemp was playing in his first game since May 29. 

BOX SCORE

LOS ANGELES – When the Giants packed up their equipment bags and departed Chavez Ravine following their season-opening series in April, they had won two of three against the high-priced team expected to be their most fearsome challengers in 2013.

Nearly three months later, both teams are below .500, at the bottom of the NL West. And although the Giants still float above their archrivals in the standings, they’re the ones sinking fastest.

Hanley Ramirez hit a two-run home run that clanked off the pole in left field to snap a tie in the sixth inning, and the Giants, try as they might, could not outhit all of their mistakes in a 6-5 loss to the Dodgers at Chavez Ravine Tuesday night.

The Giants scored two in the ninth against Brandon League and had the go-ahead run on base with no outs. But their 20th comeback victory was not to be.

Juan Perez fouled off a bunt attempt before popping out, Gregor Blanco struck out and Matt Kemp made a diving catch on the warning track to rob Marco Scutaro to end it.

Kemp, in his first game back off the disabled list, balled a fist and punched the padded wall in celebration. Counting Will Venable’s catch for the Padres, it was the second time in a week that the Giants had a potential go-ahead hit taken away from them in the ninth inning or later.

The Giants are 38-39 – the first time they’ve been under .500 since they lost to Clayton Kershaw on Opening Day. It’s the latest the Giants have been under .500 since 2008, when they finished 72-90 – their last season with a losing record.

Starting pitching report

The Giants didn’t plan to have Mike Kickham start a rivalry game against the Dodgers. But the left-hander wasn’t the reason the Giants found themselves on the losing end of this game and series.

Kickham’s second big league start was a major improvement over his debut at Oakland, when he ran deep counts and couldn’t make it out of the third inning. He didn’t walk a batter in 5 1/3 innings, got ahead in the count more often, was able to use his plus curve and wipeout slider and benefited from some hard outs.

But he slipped up noticeably on two occasions when the Dodgers made him pay. He threw a 1-0 fastball onto Mark Ellis’ bat for a two-run home run in the third inning. Then he doubled up on sliders in the sixth to Ramirez, who is starting to hit mistakes like he did during his batting crown years with the Marlins.

Ramirez made such loud contact that his two-run home run smacked halfway up the left field pole. It managed to nick just enough metal to bounce away into the stands down the left field line.

Ramirez’s home run followed Adrian Gonzalez’s one-out double. Kickham allowed singles to Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier after the homer as well. It was a quick collapse, since Kickham still appeared to have good stuff when he struck out phenom Yasiel Puig with a slider to start the inning.

Puig was 0 for 3 with two fly outs and the strikeout against Kickham, whose 10.57 ERA after two starts seems a bit deceiving.

Bullpen report

Kickham left a pair of runners for Jake Dunning, both of which scored. But one of them scored on Dunning’s errant pickoff throw, so just one of Kickham’s runs ended up being earned.

George Kontos and Jose Mijares pitched two scoreless innings but needed Hunter Pence’s sliding catch to avoid disaster in the eighth.

At the plate

The Giants spent the better part of two months outhitting their mistakes, both with the gloves and on the mound. They aren’t doing that any longer.

Stephen Fife is not to be mistaken for Kershaw, but he entered with a 2.35 ERA in four starts in June and hadn’t allowed more than two runs in any of them.

The Giants got three. Buster Posey hit a solo home run in the fourth inning, Andres Torres’ ground out scored Hunter Pence with the tying run in the fifth and Brandon Belt hit a solo shot in the seventh.

There’s more of Bochy’s buzzard’s luck for you. After 10 games (and 352 at-bats) with just home run, the Giants got two in one game – and they both came with the bases empty. Of their 52 homers this season, 33 have been solo shots.

Belt stayed hot with an RBI double in the ninth and scored on Torres’ single to make it a one-run game as League didn’t retire any of the three batters he faced. The Dodger Stadium crowd booed the former closer, who was only pitching because Kenley Jansen had thrown in each of the three previous games.

Paco Rodriguez gave up a single to Brandon Crawford but was able to wiggle out of the jam thanks to Perez’s failure to get the bunt down and Kemp’s outstanding grab.

In field

Crawford, a UCLA alumnus, briefly applauded in his glove when the stadium scoreboard showed highlights of the Bruins clinching their first College World Series title in school history. Crawford added his own highlight when he made a sliding catch on the grass to rob Gonzalez of a hit in the fourth inning.

Dodgers third baseman Nick Punto made the game’s two finest plays, though, and they came on consecutive batters in the second inning. First, the 5-foot-9 infielder showed off his vertical jump while snagging Pablo Sandoval’s line drive. Then he dipped into the stands to catch Hunter Pence’s foul pop.

Attendance

The Dodgers announced 47,193 paid, including a fan down the left field line who had zero expectations of catching a home run ball when he or she stepped through the turnstiles.

Up next

The Giants and Dodgers conclude their three-game series at Chavez Ravine on Wednesday. Tim Lincecum (4-7, 4.52 ERA) takes the ball against left-hander Clayton Kershaw (5-5, 2.06.) It’s the first time they’ll oppose each other since 2011, when Lincecum had a 1.24 ERA in four starts against the Dodgers but Kershaw shaded him each time. First pitch is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. PDT.

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