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Giants stage comeback, force extra innings, avoid the sweep

Believe it or not, the extra innings loss still looked better than that picture.

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

No, the Giants did not sweep the Dodgers in LA despite getting to their bullpen for the third consecutive game, but they did achieve the most valuable victory of all: the moral victory. That was a game the 2017 Giants would’ve lost 3-0 or maybe even 8-0, simply giving up once it seemed unwinnable. This year’s team fights to the final out, and even if they’re usually bringing safety scissors to trench warfare, they deploy those safety scissors fearlessly and skillfully. And that’s why they only lost 4-3 in 12 innings!

The last thing most people expected was for Hunter Pence to be the Giants’ offensive catalyst, and who would’ve thought that the Giants pitching would only allow 4 runs in 12 innings despite surrendering a baserunner in every inning? We know who the Giants are and some nights we’ll be pleased with that identity, some nights we’ll be disappointed, and some nights like these will make us feel a mixture of the two.

In the past five years of this matchup — 111 games — this was the 19th time (17%) the Giants and Dodgers have played extra innings. 2013 was also the also the last time the Giants swept the Dodgers at Dodger Stadium. The Giants have scored 19 total runs in their last 10 games at Dodger Stadium, too. But forget the records and don’t you dare make tonight about the playoffs. This was all about the rivalry.

It would’ve been too perfect for Yasiel Puig scored the winning run, so the Dodgers winning on a walk-off after the Giants stretched it out to extra innings sufficiently ended the narrative thruline of Puig’s confrontation. The Dodgers and their fans were denied a satisfying conclusion to the incident and had to settle for a bleary-eyed celebration and after they watched their team give up a 3-0 lead in the 8th inning.

I give a lot of credit to the pettiness of the NBC Sports Bay Area broadcast crew for keeping the camera on Puig for as long as possible after he scored on Joc Pederson’s sacrifice fly in the bottom of the 6th, just to see if he would do something that would sufficiently tick off the viewers enough to keep them tuned to the channel.

That had to have been their strategy because for most of this game, the energy came from remembering last night’s game. The Giants simply didn’t show up for most of tonight and those yawns you heard throughout the first seven innings were coming from you, who was being put to sleep by their offensive slumber.

It was, for the most part, a pitcher’s duel, but there were also a lot of poor swings and questionable strike calls and non-calls that contributed to both team’s frustrations. And then there was Gorkys Hernandez’s amazing 95 mph throw from center field to nail Brian Dozier at home plate —

Which certainly showed the Giants were fighting despite not scoring and still figuring out ways to bail out Derek Holland. This defensive gem also gave us the new, definitive Buster Posey gif, replacing the original “Ain’t Havin’ It” of yore:

This is canon.

After Reyes Moronta bailed out Derek Holland’s bases loaded jam in the bottom of the 5th, he came back out for the sixth and promptly gave up a double to Puig, who scored after two sac flies.

Andrew McCutchen’s game-tying 3-run home run in the top of the 8th inning was the only sign of life the Giants’ offense showed all night. It was a beautiful shot to straightaway center field and even though the Giants didn’t win, that homer was good for the rivalry.

Before the game, in a desperate attempt to make a deadline, I wrote up an article about how this could be a big night for Buster Posey, given his history against Hyun-Jin Ryu, who was making his first start since tearing his groin muscle back in May. The Statcast data suggested there was still some power left in Posey’s bat and his performance since he treated his hip pain with cortisone over the All-Star break has been okay. The ingredients were there...

Well, I was wrong. I erred on the side of Buster Posey being good, and he wasn’t. Hit a ball out of the infield once. It’s not all about Buster Posey’s punchless season, though. The entire lineup was positively baffled by Ryu’s movement and sequencing and the Dodger bullpen’s ineffective... existence. They were doing their very best and as we’ve seen all season long, their best is just... you know, it’s average at best. Their collective talent will show up, like... half the time.

The 2-3-4-5 hitters (Belt, Longoria, Posey, and Gorkys) went 1-for-20 with 3 strikeouts and zero walks. Belt, the sole hit of that bunch, was a ground rule double, but it’d be hard to argue that he squared that one up. Hyun-Jin Ryu retired 11 in a row after that, and that’s why the game was mostly boring for seven innings, and then Hunter Pence got things going with a single to lead off the 8th.

Chase d’Arnaud, the Giants’ current Three True Outcomes leader, walked for only the 3rd time this season (he’s struck out 22 times), and after Nick Hundley struck out as a pinch hitter, Andrew McCutchen blasted the second pitch of the at bat for a home run. The Dodgers’ Caleb Ferguson tried to back up the curveball he threw for strike one with another curveball in virtually the same location, only he either missed his spot or McCutchen was waiting on it, because he simply blasted it.

Pence got things going again in the 10th with a single, and despite Chase d’Arnaud sacrificing him over to second with this successful bunt attempt —

The Giants couldn’t push him across, and eventually, Case Kelley’s career 1.64 WHIP in 67 major league innings presented itself and the Giants lost.

If you’re wondering why it was Casey Kelly, the reason is simple: Will Smith, Tony Watson, and Sam Dyson had been overworked and the Giants wanted to protect their health rather than hold the line indefinitely while the offense un-sucked itself. I, too, would side with saving the pitchers’ arms over waiting for the Giants to get it going.

I’ve mentioned Derek Holland needing to be bailed out a lot tonight and that’s true, yet despite his line of 4.2 innings pitched, 6 hits allowed, 4 walks, and 7 strikeouts on 93 pitches, the performance did register as the 25th time in the San Francisco era that a Giants left-handed starter has recorded at least 7 strikeouts in Dodger Stadium. The last time it happened was earlier this season when Derek Holland recorded 7 in 5 innings. Here’s the list:

LHP with 7+ K @ Dodger Stadium since 1958

Gm# Team1 Team2 Date Pitcher Strikeouts (IP) Result
Gm# Team1 Team2 Date Pitcher Strikeouts (IP) Result
1 SFG LAD 2018-08-15 Derek Holland 7 (4.2) L, 4-3
2 SFG LAD 2018-06-15 Derek Holland 7 (5.0) L, 3-2
3 SFG LAD 2017-07-30 Madison Bumgarner 7 (7.0) L, 3-2
4 SFG LAD 2016-09-19 Madison Bumgarner 10 (7.0) L, 2-1
5 SFG LAD 2016-08-25 Matt Moore 7 (8.2) W, 4-0
6 SFG LAD 2016-08-23 Madison Bumgarner 7 (5.0) L, 9-5
7 SFG LAD 2016-04-15 Madison Bumgarner 7 (5.0) L, 7-3
8 SFG LAD 2015-09-01 Madison Bumgarner 8 (7.0) L, 2-1
9 SFG LAD 2015-04-28 Madison Bumgarner 9 (8.0) W, 2-1
10 SFG LAD 2014-05-09 Madison Bumgarner 8 (8.0) W, 3-1
11 SFG LAD 2014-04-05 Madison Bumgarner 10 (6.1) W, 7-2
12 SFG LAD 2012-08-20 Madison Bumgarner 10 (8.0) W, 2-1
13 SFG LAD 2011-04-01 Jonathan Sanchez 8 (5.2) L, 4-3
14 SFG LAD 2010-09-05 Jonathan Sanchez 9 (7.0) W, 3-0
15 SFG LAD 2005-07-15 Noah Lowry 7 (7.1) W, 6-0
16 SFG LAD 2004-06-29 Noah Lowry 9 (7.0) L, 2-1
17 SFG LAD 1996-07-13 Shawn Estes 11 (7.0) W, 7-0
18 SFG LAD 1991-09-28 Trevor Wilson 8 (7.0) W, 4-1
19 SFG LAD 1983-10-01 Mark Davis 7 (8.1) W, 4-1
20 SFG LAD 1983-05-27 Atlee Hammaker 7 (8.2) W, 6-3
21 SFG LAD 1970-08-03 Skip Pitlock 9 (9.0) W, 5-2
22 SFG LAD 1969-04-22 Ray Sadecki 8 (9.0) W, 6-0
23 SFG LAD 1968-08-24 Ray Sadecki 11 (9.0) W, 9-7
24 SFG LAD 1968-05-31 Mike McCormick 8 (8.0) L, 3-0
25 SFG LAD 1967-09-12 Ray Sadecki 12 (9.0) W, 4-2

Brian Dozier worked him for a long at bat to open the game and he needed 28 pitches to get through the first. He had thrown 83 through four innings and the Dodgers had him on the ropes for the entire start. Still, he put up an admirable back of the rotation performance and was so shaky with all that traffic on base that I felt like I was watching an old Russ Ortiz start. Holland’s season has been just consistent enough that it feels like he’s going to work his way out of most trouble, and when he doesn’t, Reyes Moronta will be there to save him.

Mike Krukow said on the post game show that the Giants will be disappointed they didn’t get a sweep in this series, but I really don’t think that should be the takeaway here. The Giants are still playing hard and that’s the only win-loss they should care about anymore.