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Giants sweep Dodgers, move closer to first place

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According to STATS, INC. and FanGraphs, the Dodgers didn't score a single run the entire series.

Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports

Before every Dodgers series, I have a tradition. It's either a cynical or eternally hopeful tradition, depending where the Giants are in the standings. "What would the standings look like if the Giants swept? Would would they look like if the Dodgers swept?" It's a fun or depressing diversion for a moment, but not much longer, considering the odds are always against a sweep. That went for this series, too. The Giants weren't really going to make up that much ground, were they?

The Giants swept the Dodgers for the second time this season.

The Dodgers never scored a run.

The Giants are 1½ games back of first place, even after starting the season like a complete bunch of dinguses.

Clayton Kershaw has lost all three of his starts against the Giants this season.

The fun facts keep coming. The record for consecutive shutouts against the Dodgers since 1958 is four, last done in 2012, which is also the last season in which the Giants won the National League West. So there's something to shoot for, a record.

Another thing for the Giants to shoot for would be for them to never allow another run to the Dodgers again. Literally never. I want you to contemplate the idea of the Dodgers never scoring another run against the Giants. Theoretically, it's possible, which means it's probably happening right now in an alternate universe. I'll guess at what that timeline would look like:

Six straight shutouts against the Dodgers: Thoughtful, hilarious post at McCovey Chronicles that really makes you laugh and think at the same time, simply a delight.

12 straight shutouts against the Dodgers: A longer piece at Grantland or Baseball Prospectus, with all sorts of neat factlets and information.

20 straight shutouts against the Dodgers: A cover story on Sports Illustrated.

50 straight shutouts against the Dodgers: A book, written by someone famous, about the streak, and it would have been published after 40 shutouts, except they kept waiting for the streak to end.

100 straight shutouts: An Oscar-contending movie, possibly by Terrence Malick, about the futility of it all. Unless it's with Kevin Costner and it's a feel-good movie!

For now, I'll take three. Three straight shutouts and a sweep. The Dodgers came into San Francisco and left without a run. As long as there isn't a natural disaster responsible for that sentence, it's quite possibly one of the happiest baseball sentences possible.

★★★

Oh, right, Madison Bumgarner hit a dinger off Clayton Kershaw. Let us watch.

It's hard to see, but Kershaw's "WELP" face is just as good as his curveball.

kershaw

And he earned that welp face. I get the idea behind throwing a first-pitch strike to a pitcher, getting ahead and attacking him in a low-pressure situation. But Bumgarner isn't a normal pitcher or a normal hitter. His hitting approach is to look for a fastball and swing as hard as he can, an approach that's ensnared dozens and dozens hitters who were all just as big and strong as Bumgarner but couldn't make it out of Class-A. Bumgarner is essentially a 12th-round first baseman in short-season ball, drafted because of his size and projectability. He can do one thing: Hit a fastball thrown near the middle of the plate.

To be fair to A.J. Ellis, the pitch was supposed to be in. Way in. It was supposed to threaten Bumgarner's hands and wrists. Instead, 75-grade welp.

For no particular reason, here are the homers that Giants pitchers have hit against the Dodgers since moving to San Francisco:

Player Date Result
Madison Bumgarner 2014-09-23 L 2-4
Noah Lowry 2006-07-08 W 11-7
Jason Schmidt 2005-05-24 W 5-3
Jason Schmidt 2004-07-01 L 4-5
Russ Ortiz 2002-09-18 W 7-4
Russ Ortiz 2002-04-03 W 12-0
William VanLandingham 1995-08-04 W 15-1
Ed Halicki 1977-09-26 W 9-1
John Montefusco 1974-09-03 W 9-5
Jim Barr 1974-09-02 W 5-3
Juan Marichal 1971-05-25 W 9-1
Gaylord Perry 1969-07-20 W 7-3
Mike McCormick 1967-06-23 W 7-1
Jack Sanford 1961-06-02 L 2-6


I'm not big on using the pitcher-doing-something-right argument against the DH. It's still pretty rare that a pitcher does something right, and it usually is pretty tedious.  But I do like the existence of something like the pitcher home run in baseball. You've sat through hours and hours of bad pitcher at-bats in your life, and you deserve a dinger like that every so often, just to remind you why stick around.

Picture this, then: You're in the worst arcade in the world. Dumb, rickety skee-ball machines. Whack-a-mole games that don't work. But the doors are locked behind you, and you have to play something. You spend 41 hours doing absolutely nothing important or exciting, playing games that aren't fun.

But you get a few tickets. With every game, the machines spit out a couple tickets. You could trade them in immediately for an eraser or little parachute man, or you can save them for the 40-foot stuffed kangaroo with a sign reading "Robotic Kangaroo." You know, the yeah-right prize that overlooks the whole arcade.

Except you've finally saved enough tickets. You get to redeem them for something of actual value. You've watched a lot of bad pitcher at-bats in your life, and you got to trade those tickets in for Madison Bumgarner hitting a long home run against Clayton Kershaw.

You've earned it. Pat yourself on the back. It's all worth it.

★★★

Bruce Bochy has a quirk that I'm sure his pitchers love, which is that he often lets starters stay in the game for one more inning than you might expect. After six innings, with Bumgarner at 105 pitches and clearly not as perfect with his command and mechanics as the scoreboard would indicate, Bochy sent him back out for the seventh.

We've been through this before, when the right times are to wring every last drop of "WELL, I FIX IT" out of Bumgarner. It's when he has hyper-clean mechanics, and he's living on the edges of the plate, throwing the ball wherever he wants. This was not one of those games. I figured Bochy was playing the ol' allow-one-runner-get-the-hook game. I hate that game.

Except Bumgarner got the leadoff hitter on two pitches, and then he was pulled. He essentially acted as his own LOOGY, a much taller, broader Javier Lopez. It wasn't a strategy I ever remember Bochy employing with his starters, and certainly not with Bumgarner.

It made sense, mind you, considering that Joc Pederson had absolutely no idea what to do against Bumgarner in his previous at-bats. I'm just surprised that Bochy can still surprise us after all these years.

★★★

In the sixth inning, Alex Guerrero tried to go first-to-third on a ball hit to left field, which would have done nothing but set up a runner-on-third, one out situation for the pitcher. When he approached the bag, he did a weird, delicate stutter-step, and got thrown out.

We got off to a rocky start, but I'm starting to appreciate the finer qualities of Guerrero. He seems like a Don Mattingly type of player.

★★★

So after watching three different Kershaw starts this year, I'm pretty confident in suggesting that he's fine. Nothing serious is wrong with him. It's easy to overestimate just how perfect a pitcher should be, especially after his otherworldly season last year. It's also easy to underestimate just how good and rare a season like that is when it's happening. Dodgers fans were spoiled, just as we have been for so many years and so many different pitchers, and it's a shock to the system when a pitcher starts acting like a pitcher.

He'll be fine. The sub-2.00 seasons aren't likely to come back, but that's because they're supposed to be freakish anomalies in the first place.

That written, Kershaw probably killed one of his landscapers and buried him somewhere in the backyard, and that landscaper is cursing him beyond the grave. It's a standard baseball story. And it's why Don Mattingly left Kershaw in the game for the eighth inning, despite having the opportunity to stop the damage at "very good, very compelling, quality start." He had curse-brain. Happens.

When the Giants got two runners on with a soft liner and a single the other way, you knew -- just knew -- that both of those runs were going to get charged to Kershaw. It was so very obvious, and that's exactly what happened. The runs scored in dumb, dead-landscaper-curse kind of ways.

Shouldn't have killed that landscaper, Clayton. "Allegedly."

★★★

The Giants swept the Dodgers for the second time this season.

The Dodgers never scored a run.

The Giants are 1½ games back of first place, even after starting the season like a complete bunch of dinguses.

Clayton Kershaw has lost all three of his starts against the Giants this season.