LOS ANGELES – You already know the script the Giants are supposed to use to beat Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw. They’ll have their chance to do both this weekend at Dodger Stadium.
They staged a pretty good dress rehearsal in Thursday night’s series-opening 3-1, 10-inning victory over their archrivals. It was a night of solid pitching, scrubbed-clean defense and one seized opportunity at the plate.
Ryan Vogelsong fed his infielders ground balls as if from a grain sack, Brandon Crawford picked most of it clean in highlight fashion and the Giants bullpen proved firmer when Dodgers right-hander Jamey Wright couldn’t contain his wildness.
After loading the bases on three walks, pinch hitter Hector Sanchez hit a tiebreaking sacrifice fly and Brandon Belt added an RBI single – the club’s first hit of the night in nine at-bats with runners in scoring position – as the Giants improved to 3-0 in series openers against the Dodgers this season.
Starting pitching report
Vogelsong’s stuff is ticking up over his last couple starts, but he got downright Hudson-like while holding the Dodgers to a run on five hits – all singles – and getting 13 ground-ball outs in 7 1/3 innings.
It was the first time this season that he retired a batter in the eighth inning. He only retired three batters in the eighth inning all of last season.
Vogelsong has a 0.89 ERA over his last three outings. Over that span, he has reduced his season ERA almost by half, to 3.93.
In his first trip through the Dodgers lineup, Vogelsong retired all nine batters while allowing just one ball to leave the infield -- and that came off the bat of pitcher Josh Beckett, who flied out to right.
His perfect game got broken up before it could develop into a serious bid, when Yasiel Puig hit a scorching ground ball that ate up Crawford. It was scored a single even though it was hit directly at the shortstop and it’s a play he’d probably tell you he should have made. The next two balls went Crawford’s way and he made both plays, including an impressive, ranging stop up the middle to take a hit away from Adrian Gonzalez and end the inning.
Vogelsong pitched through a bit more traffic after that, but the Dodgers made scant contact on the barrel. Their only run against him came in the fifth, when Matt Kemp hit a leadoff single, Carl Crawford drew a walk, Kemp took third on Juan Uribe’s fly out to right field and Drew Butera hit another fly ball deep enough for a sacrifice fly.
The first two batters reached in the sixth but Vogelsong induced a double-play grounder from Gonzalez to escape. The right-hander in the seventh, getting Uribe to bounce into two – the 12th double play the Giants turned in seven games on this road trip.
Vogelsong threw 64 of 104 pitches for strikes.
Jeremy Affeldt took over in the eighth after Chone Figgins’ pinch single drove Vogelsong from the game. The left-hander got Dee Gordon to ground out, then Santiago Casilla flashed nasty stuff to strike out Yasiel Puig to end the inning.
The swings didn’t get much better against Casilla (1-0) in the ninth as he carved through the heart of the Dodgers’ order.
Sergio Romo didn’t track in any mud, getting three outs for his 11th save in 11 chances.
At the plate
Brandon Hicks’ solo homer was the Giants’ sum against Beckett despite the fact that everyone in the lineup other than Belt managed to reach base against him. Once again, the issue was getting a hit with runners in scoring position.
Pablo Sandoval had one of his better offensive games in weeks, showing better balance while slicing a double down the left field line and later hitting a hard ground out.
Even Vogelsong got in a good swing, doubling to the wall in left field to start the fifth inning. But he failed to advance on Angel Pagan’s ground out down the first base line and was stranded. It was Vogelsong’s first extra-base hit since Aug. 3, 2012.
Hicks wasn’t a likely hero after he struck out in his first two trips, leaving him with 32 strikeouts in 83 at-bats. But he didn’t miss a hanging breaking ball from Beckett in the seventh. On a somewhat chilly night, Hicks’ low trajectory shot cut through the heavy air for his sixth homer of the season. Of his 17 hits, 10 have gone for extra bases.
The Giants couldn’t get anything cooking until the 10th when Pagan drew a four-pitch walk from lefty J.P. Howell and moved up on a passed ball. Wright walked Hunter Pence and Buster Posey, and Sanchez lofted his deep drive just short of the warning track in right field – plenty deep to score Pagan, even with Puig’s arm.
It seemed at times like the Giants played with 11 infielders. Crawford was beyond sublime, mixing shrewd positioning with sharp reflexes and athleticism to make a series of difficult plays look easy.
None was more impressive than his diving stop up the middle of Hanley Ramirez’s hard-hit grounder to start the ninth. Crawford got to his feet and made a strong throw as Ramirez casually tossed his helmet before he had run through the bag.
Gonzalez followed by hitting into a shift for the third time in the game. This time, Hicks made a backhand stop 15 feet deep on the outfield grass and threw across his body for the out.
The Dodgers announced 43,068 paid and fans received free inflatable chairs. You know, in case they forgot to bring beach balls to the game. This will shock you, but someone tried to bat his/her chair around in the second inning. It proved a bit too cumbersome to keep aloft, praise the heavens.
The Giants and Dodgers continue their four-game series at Dodger Stadium on Friday. Madison Bumgarner (3-3, 3.18 ERA) takes the mound against left-hander Paul Maholm (1-2, 4.70). First pitch is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. PDT.