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Giants stage four-run rally in ninth to beat Dodgers 5-2

Another dominant performance from a starting pitcher was squandered by the bullpen. And for a change, it wasn’t our own!

San Francisco Giants v Los Angeles Dodgers Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

For most of this game, it looked like a song and dance you know almost too well: Madison Bumgarner vs. Run Support against Clayton Kershaw. Of the 10 times they’ve faced off, they each had five team wins coming into tonight’s game. And here is how they stack up overall:

Advantage: Kershaw, but only slightly. Bumgarner had seen four losses in a row to him before tonight, including a painful 2-1 loss the last time they faced each other in September of 2016. A performance that featured a game score of 85, seven innings, no runs allowed and ten strikeouts; and ultimately one blown lead by the bullpen.

Tonight was shaping up to be almost as disappointing, though with a less sharp performance from Bumgarner who pitched only six innings, allowing seven hits, two runs, two walks with four strikeouts and 97 pitches.

A collision by Brandon Crawford and Gorkys Hernandez allowed the first run to score for the Dodgers and ended Crawford’s night, at least. The second run came on a Justin Turner home run, but that appeared to be enough for the Dodgers, as Kershaw spun another masterpiece against the Giants, perhaps his best start of the year, with a game score of 86.

Many scratched their heads when Kershaw was pulled from the game after eight innings, with one run allowed, four hits, no walks, nine strikeouts and 110 pitches. It was likely the 110 pitches part, but it seems like you let him start the ninth and see how it goes.

Not that I’m complaining, of course. Because the Dodgers brought in Scott Alexander who has not been great in his last few appearances. Over his last seven games, he’s pitched 6.1 innings and allowed six hits, six earned runs and four walks. But with Kenley Jansen out for the next month, the Dodgers are in a bit of a bullpen upheaval and have to make it work.

Or not, as the case would be. Including tonight, the Dodgers have lost their last three games in the ninth inning. Which, while I can relate to that very real pain, I still find hilarious. Just superbly funny. The baseball gods are fickle. They giveth beautiful starts and they taketh wins via the bullpen. We know how that goes, which is what makes this just so danged funny, to me.

We’ll get to the why’s and how’s in a bit, but we can’t talk about the baseball gods giving and taking without getting a little bit more into the Crawford/Hernández collision. It was scary, and it continues to be scary as Brandon Crawford will now be watched for concussion symptoms.

But the Giants, that calamity prone team who’ve produced such concussions as Brandon Belt, Brandon Belt 2.0, Joe Panik, Brandon Belt 3.0 and Mac Williamson among others over the last few years seem to not really have learned their lesson.

Crawford should never have been allowed to talk his way back into this game, even if it was just for one uneventful at-bat. And they should know this by now. Williamson talked his way back into the game where he was concussed and even hit a home run. Now he is back on the disabled list, months later, because he’s still suffering from concussion symptoms.

Anyway, they did finally pull Crawford at the bottom of the inning and subbed in Alen Hanson, who was later subbed out for a pinch-hitting Nick Hundley in the ninth (more on him in a minute) and the position of shortstop was briefly played by Chase d’Arnaud in the bottom of the ninth. Which is just a fun fact to remember about this game. Aside from, you, know, the ending.

Ah, yes. Let’s get to what you’re here for.

Steven Duggar was an early star in tonight’s game, going 2-for-2 to start his career against Clayton Kershaw. The first of which was an infield single in the third that he ran out before getting picked off. Or so they thought! But Duggar went full daredevil towards second base, sliding in with his foot behind the bag to avoid Manny Machado’s tag at second, before later taking third on a wild pitch. He did not score there, but he scored in the sixth after his second single off of Kershaw and a force-out hit into by Andrew McCutchen.

However, three of the Giants’ four hits through eight innings were from McCutchen (who kicked off the game with a lead-off single in the first), Bumgarner, and Duggar. And that looked to be all they would get tonight in what was, and I really feel I need to keep emphasizing this, an absolute gem of a game from Kershaw. Really, really good work from a guy who hasn’t looked himself this year.

Would I be praising him this much if the Giants had lost? Heck, no. But it really did look hopeless after the eighth inning. And in the top of the ninth. so did Scott Alexander. And more importantly, Kershaw himself, as he watched his lead disappear off the bat of Nick Hundley.

But that’s getting ahead of ourselves. After getting McCutchen to ground out to third, Alexander allowed a bloop single from d’Arnaud to center field. Not to be outdone, Buster Posey hit a not-so-bloop single to center field.

Evan Longoria did his best to lose the game there by nearly hitting into a double play, but thankfully it wasn’t hit hard enough and only Posey was thrown out at second. And then the two-out magic started.

Austin Slater had quickly gotten into an 0-2 hole and it looked like a game-ending strikeout was coming his way. But it was not to be, as Slater was hit by a pitch to load the bases. As mentioned above, Hundley pinch-hit for Hanson, and it was as though forty thousand Dodgers fans suddenly cried out in terror, and were quickly silenced by a two-run single to right center field.

The cries of terror turned into boos of disgust, as Alexander was left in to face Gorkys Hernández, who singled to score Slater. Then Steven Duggar got another infield single to bring home Hundley, that was sadly (and correctly) ruled an error on Max Muncy, who bobbled the ball, then moved to throw home, then eventually turned to throw to first. Reader, he was not in time.

My very professional notes from the time:

Dodger fans are BOOING! I AM CACKLING!

It was the best of times. Really, truly, just good clean fun for the whole family. And of course, the fear set in as Will Smith came out to pitch the bottom of the ninth. Despite being a better pitcher than Alexander (and despite already having seen good performances from Sam Dyson and Ray Black in the seventh and eighth) there was a part of me who felt like we would be punished for laughing at the Dodgers’ pain.

After all, we know all too well what it’s like to blow a lead in the ninth, even if you only got the lead in the ninth. But I need not have worried. Despite walking Austin Barnes, and yet another near-collision — this time between Posey and Slater — Smith was just fine and we all get to go to bed happy tonight.

Except for Brandon Crawford and Brandon Crawford fans, and we’ll continue to worry about him.

That said, according to Alex Pavlovic, the Giants were 2-51 when trailing after eight innings before tonight. So sometimes you have to let the worry simmer on the back burner and enjoy the highs that life provides you. The worries will still be there in the morning, but at least the Giants will be at .500 again and only five games behind the Diamondbacks and four behind the Dodgers.