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Belt and Duggar dingers aren’t enough to beat Dodgers

The bullpen had been one of the best in baseball until the seventh inning.

MLB: San Francisco Giants at Los Angeles Dodgers Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Coming into this series, the Dodgers had scored 42 runs and hit 14 home runs in their first four games. The Giants had scored just five runs and Evan Longoria’s solo home run on Friday was their sole dinger. Looking at that, this series should have been rout. The Giants lost the series, but they played competitive baseball against the Dodgers. They were only outscored 13-12, and the Dodgers needed a broken bat bloop to beat win tonight.

Steven Duggar was supposed to get the start in center field while Kevin Pillar was supposed to start in right. Duggar told Alex Pavlovic that he didn’t mind where he was playing, but you can tell that Duggar was playing with a bit of an edge. In the second inning, Duggar ran in front of Pillar to catch a looping liner, and in the fourth inning, Duggar hit a no-doubter.

Duggar’s home run was the first run the Giants have scored in the first four innings of any game all year. That’s as much a reflection of the quality starting pitching they’ve faced as it is the anemia of the Giants’ offense.

Shortly after, Brandon Belt added his second home run of the season to reclaim the team lead which is probably safe for another two or three weeks. After throwing him primarily fastballs and curves, Ross Stripling went for a slider on 3-2. Stripling hung it; Belt bung it.

Stripling had looked really sharp through the first three innings, but his command really wavered in the fourth. The Giants could have made it a bigger inning. They could have had runners on the corners with one out, but Kevin Pillar was called out on runner’s interference. If you’re unfamiliar with the rule, it’s because it’s never called. Pillar was running on the left side of the foul line, which is against the rules, but it’s also what runners do all the time.

Calling Pillar out was the right call, but it’s the equivalent of not granting a batter first base for not getting out of the way of a hit by pitch. It’s never called. Why now?

Pillar was apparently on a mission to display all the wrong ways to run down the first base line. In his next at bat he hit another tapper in front of home plate, and this time he stayed in the running lane, but he also jogged to first. It wouldn’t have been a big deal but Stripling threw a popup to first and Pillar would have beat it out had he been running at full speed.

Forget how badly the Dodgers are outhomering the Giants. Kiké Hernández can keep pace with the Giants on his own. Coming into the game, the Giants had hit three home runs as a team. Hernández hit his third home run of the season to lead off the game for the Dodgers.

Hernández really is emblematic of the Dodgers’ depth. This is the first year he’s been an everyday starter. Last season, he started only 104 games, and he had to fight for time all over the diamond. He hit 21 home runs and was worth 3.2 bWAR. Both of those marks would have led the Giants.

We’ve wondered when Farhan Zaidi will gift us with the next Max Muncy, but the next Kiké Hernández would be just fine, too.

Derek Holland started out shaky, but unlike Stripling, he got better as the game went on. He struck out the side in the fourth after the Giants exploded for three whole runs. His slider was his best pitch tonight as he generated 8 whiffs on the 32 he threw.

Before Reyes Moronta gave up two runs in the seventh, the Giants’ bullpen had been one of the most reliable through the first week of the season. Coming into the game, the relievers had only given up 3 runs in 17 innings. That was the third-best ERA in baseball.

Moronta didn’t look nearly as good as he did on Saturday when he struck out five in two innings. He could generally spot the fastball, but his slider didn’t look as tight as it normally does. The Dodgers weren’t enticed to swing at the pitches out of the zone. Even if Moronta wasn’t at his best, he probably deserved better. The two doubles in the inning came on two ugly looking swings.

Austin Barnes’ double was so soft Statcast didn’t have an expected batting average for it. Freese’s go-ahead double had no lower body in it. That being said, it was about a foot from being a three-run homer. It certainly doesn’t spark any envy to see hitters on other teams take a defensive swing and still almost hit a dinger. Not while the Giants have warning track power at best.

Moronta’s outing wasn’t without it’s bright spots. He threw his first changeup of the season. He didn’t throw it where he wanted, but it still made Alex Verdugo look like he had never seen a baseball before.

Throughout this series, the Dodgers gained an edge through their defensive shifts. Brandon Belt snuck a hit through, but for the most part, the Dodgers were positioned perfectly on every hard-hit ball in the infield. Meanwhile, the Giants effectively allowed two runs to score despite their shifts.

In the first inning, David Freese scored from second on a ball hit up the middle even though Joe Panik got to it. In the eighth, Cody Bellinger reached on a slow grounder to Panik in short right field. He later scored on a Chris Taylor double.

This might have been luck or the Dodgers’ superior advanced scouting or a little of both. But to win this series, the Dodgers needed the ball to bounce right. That the Giants made it that close is something of a miracle.