Tonight, the Giants began a 4-game series in the city of freeze-dried sadness against their longtime rival clinging to the slimmest of margins in their 75-day reign atop the NL West. It is the most important series of the year, that is until next week when they play the Dodgers again with a weekend series against the NL version of Bad News Bears sandwiched in between. Oh, and then they play Houston.

Needless to say, this is a pretty important stretch and after the Cardinals series, you might be hoping the Giants will wear their City Connect jerseys tonight because they haven’t lost in them. Unfortunately, Rob Manfred probably won’t allow it because he is too busy usurping Kennesaw Mountain Landis as the most loathed commissioner of all-time.

Consider though the Giants played most of the Cardinals series without 5/5ths of their Opening Day infield. They scored 2 runs in the last 2 games, and seem limited to only scoring runs via the longball.

Don’t worry reinforcements have arrived. Kevin Gausman returned to make his first start of the 2nd half and Buster Posey was back in the lineup too! Posey will be wearing a thumb-guard that he says won’t affect his ability to catch or hit- but would he ever admit otherwise? Probably not.
Unfortunately, All-Star shortstop Brandon Crawford found himself on the IL (for only the 2nd time in his career) with the peskiest and maybe scariest injury for a ballplayer that isn’t a symptom of looming Tommy John surgery- a strained oblique muscle. So, until the Giants make a trade for Kris Bryant or Trevor Story- it’s going to be the Thairo Estrada show.

The only saving grace was that the Dodgers pitching staff is in shambles for a multitude of reasons AND coming off a series in Coors Field (where pitching staffs go to die) so seeing the name Tony Gonsolin as the opposing pitcher doesn’t exactly strike fear into your heart like Kershaw, Urias, Buehler or Bauer might. It was great to learn via Hunter Pence and Greg Papa on Pre-Game Live that Gonsolin is super into cats? That’s the sort of hard-hitting journalism we’ve all come to appreciate.

The Dodgers offense isn’t exactly a mess though. All the names you’d expect are there- Betts, Bellinger, Turner and of course the Shkreli-Ian (very punchable looking) face of Giant-Killer Max Muncy (that funky Muncy).

Surely, this game was setup for the Giants to win. They would win and build momentum for the next 3 games- then carry it on until the end of the season. Or they would lose and we would cry and the Dodgers would be in a flat-footed tie with the Giants for 1st. We’d all start thinking about the 2nd half of 2016 and all those people on who said the Giants wouldn’t hold the led would be right and we’d have to change our names out of sheer embarrassment. Not an over-reaction.

Lamonte Wade Jr. started the game off with a double pulled down the line, Buster Posey pulled a 2-run HR down the other line (23-degree launch angle) that gave you hope that maybe the thumb-guard will work! Then Wilmer Flores made it back-to-back jacks, Jack (29-degree launch angle). The Giants had a 3-0 lead after just 4 batters- and you went to grab yourself a beer (at least I did). Steven Duggar almost hit one out as well but it died at the track. After Saturday and Sunday, 3-runs in an inning seemed cathartic. Gonsolin need 32 pitches to get out of the 1st. 3 more runs scored exclusively through homeruns.

If I told you that Max Muncy blasted a ball higher than Blue Origin will fly tomorrow on the first pitch he saw from Gausman, would you be surprised? No. To quote Dr. John Hammond "I really, really hate that man!" Not to be outdone by the Giants, Justin Turner made it back-to-back jacks, Jack and just like that a 3-0 lead was 3-2 and Gausman hit Will Smith in the side and walked Cody Bellinger and our pet’s heads are falling off! Flores caught a rocket shot to 3rd that would have tied the game. Gausman struck out stubbly-bearded white guy #84 (both his jersey number and the number of stubbly-bearded white guys on the LA roster) to end the inning and took nearly 30 pitches to do it. The Dodgers were sitting on Gausman’s fastball. The 1st inning took 38 minutes.

Side Note: During Gausman’s at bat in the 2nd Jon Miller called Lamonte Wade Jr., Logan Webb Jr., and I caught it. Gausman then singled.
Umpire Jeremie Rehak’s strike zone early on was… inconsistent… and stayed inconsistent much of the night. It was consistently inconsistent.
In his 2nd at-bat, Posey took a pitch off the plate outside on 3-1 that should have been a walk to load the bases but it was called a strike. He struck out swinging on a changeup on the very next pitch. Let’s be honest though, did we really want to see the Giants bat with the bases loaded after what happened in St. Louis?

To say Gausman struck out the side in the 2nd would be accurate- but he needed 29 pitches for the 2nd time in 2 innings. Along the way he walked Muncy (wisely) and Turner, surrendered a lead-off double, threw a wild pitch, loaded the bases and looked gassed. Posey clearly remembered the strike call against him in the top of the 2nd and got that pitch for Gausman in 1-1 count against Will Smith with the bases loaded and 2 outs. Things were getting so bad for Gausman that Pedro Alvarez began warming up.

Alex Dickerson got a hit in the 3rd that was a mid-range bloop to RF over the head of the 2nd baseman that bounced in front of the right-fielder. Hit probability was probably like .000002% given where the ball landed. In the world of shifts… that was a ball hit into the teeth of the shift that got stuck like a piece of broccoli. Nothing came of it, but it was an oddity. In the 5th Dick hit one into the same shift again, but with much more power and gusto, and it was caught with a jumping catch by Stubbly-bearded white guy #8.

I also noticed in the 3rd that Gonsolin kept touching a black spot under his right butt cheek with his pitching hand after every pitch. Up to this point he had thrown exactly 2 fastballs. I’m not saying it was a substance to improve the spin rate on his breaking pitches, but I’m also not-not saying it… or it was general baseball dinge. shrug

Mike Tauchman pinch hit for Gausman in the top of the 4th. Tauchman’s struggles, as you know are well documented, he was hitting .182 coming into the at-bat, he walked on 4 pitches that came no where near the strike zone and stole 2nd on a wild pitch. Gausman, by the way, was hitting .194.

Gausman’s line for the night: 3 IP, 80 pitches, 3 H (2 HRs), 2 ER, 3 BB, 5 K.

Logan Webb Jr. followed up Tauchman’s walk with a walk. Gonsolin was pulled.

Gonsolin’s final line: 3.1 IP, 80 pitches, 5 H (2 HRs), 3 ER, 4 BB, 3 K.

The Dodgers brought in Dodger great… Jimmie Sherfy… who just 10 days ago was a member of the Giants. He nearly got Yaz to ground into an inning ending double play on the first pitch he threw. Then got Posey to hit a no-legs bouncer to short to end the inning.

According to Mike Krukow, Zach Littel’s slider has been "temperamental." Does it need a massage, a cigarette or a nap? Can someone please help Zach Littel’s slider "find itself?" An uneventful, 8-pitch bottom of the 4th might have helped.

Littel stayed in to face Max Muncy in the 5th and walked him to lead off the inning. He threw the aforementioned "temperamental" slider to begin the at bat to Justin Turner- and he just missed it. He then followed it up with a good slider for a swinging strike, and nearly got a double play on the 3rd slider in the at bat. Several sliders of varying temperament later- Littel struck out the Fresh Prince with a fastball.

Aside from Littel’s disastrous outing as an "opener" against the Diamondbacks on June 15th in which he allowed 4-runs without recording an out (a game the Giants would win with a Yaz Grand Slam)- he hasn’t been terrible. Probably a higher WHIP (1.31) than you’d like to see, but serviceable.

Hey Scott Alexander pitched for the Dodgers in the 5th & 6th. I only bring this up because he is from Santa Rosa and went to Sonoma State. I too went to Sonoma State (for graduate school). He probably would know what a "Pliny the Elder" is. Donovan Solano stole second on Alexander when Alexander completely forgot that Donovan Solano existed. Chris Taylor made a really nice play to end the 5th, retiring the suddenly ice-cold Steven Duggar.

It was at this time that I noticed McCovey Chronicles commenter "ZenPop" wrote "Jeremie Rehak’s strike zone blows chunks." I concur ZenPop. I concur.

I want to kiss Jarlin Garcia for getting Cody Bellinger out on 3 pitches to end the 5th and then getting Pollack, Reks (via the K) and McKinstry (via the backwards K, thanks to Jeremie Rehak’s interpretive dance of a strike zone) in the 6th. If somebody could let him know, I’d appreciate it.
The Dodgers brought in former Giant prospect Phil Bickford to face Darin Ruf, after Slater followed up a Thairo Estrada’s single with a single of his own.

Wasn’t Bickford busted for smoking pot or something? He was traded to Milwaukee along with Forever Giant Andrew Susac for the other Will Smith and now here he was pitching against the Giants in a big moment.

He got Ruf to ground into a double play on the first pitch. Darin Rough? groan He then got Yaz to pop out on the infield thus ruining the best scoring opportunity for the Giants of the entire game up to that point. The rally was dead, as quickly as it arrived.

Posey led off the 7th with an opposite field single. But would it lead to a run? Runs are fun. Did you see some of the scores today? You know the Tigers beat Texas 14-0? The Nats beat Miami 18-1 and The Mets beat Cincy 15-11. What is my point with this aside? I like runs. As a Giants fan, I guess I’m just not used to seeing offensive production like that and the 2021 Giants are one of the best offensive Giants teams we’ve seen in YEARS (including World Series years).

Alex Dickerson got a hit AGAINST the shift this time, Posey to moved 2nd. Solano Singled. Bases Loaded! Bases Loaded? Oh crap… Vosler, a lefty, against a lefty. A Sac Fly! We Giants fans know to appreciate Sac Flies! How many more wins would Matt Cain have in his career if the Giants of old could just hit Sac Flies? 4-2 Giants.

Let’s talk about Thairo Estrada for a moment. This is the best shot he has gotten in his career up to this point. This is the Thairo Estrada era of Giants baseball. He had a 3-hit game July 2nd (including a grand slam) and a 4-hit game against Washington on July 10th. However, he had 3 hits outside of those games. But tonight, he had his 3rd multi-hit game of the year. Estrada drove in 2 with a HUGE bases loaded double in the 7th. You jumped for joy, I jumped for joy, Johnny Cueto and Jarlin Garcia were seen jumping for joy in the Giants dugout. With Crawford gone for a while (oblique strains can be tough) if Estrada can do ANYTHING we would take it. Multi-hit games against the Dodgers are a great way to endear yourself to the Giants fan base.

Austin Slater drove in Estrada in the very next at-bat. Sometimes, all it takes is one at-bat to snap a team out of an offensive black hole. 7-2 Giants. Four runs scored without a single homerun.

Dominic Leone retired the first two Dodgers he faced in the 7th on 6 pitches. Then came Max Muncy, and he hit one high… he hit one deep… and it was… caught by Yaz on the warning track. Super satisfying.

Dominic Leone is working his way up in the Giants bullpen, he is being given more work in the 7th inning, basically the setup man for the setup man.

Jay Jackson is also making a case to work his way to more crucial situations. Maybe, and I know the sample size is small, he can be that late inning guy that the fan base has been clamoring for since the Giants bullpen threw-up all over itself on Opening Night in Seattle and several times again in April and May. Jackson pitched a 1, 2, 3-inning in the 8th. The only loud contact came from Cody Bellinger who hit a towering shot that was caught just shy of the warning track by Yaz. In 3.1 innings, Jackson has yet to allow a hit, walked just 1 and struck out 5, that comes out to a .43 WHIP my friends.

The Giants offense got 7 runs on 12 hits and committed zero errors. That is often times a recipe for success, and has been many times this season.

Jake McGee came in for a maintenance inning (he had yet to pitch in the 2nd half) and did Jake McGee stuff, that is threw exclusively fastballs and gave up a hit, but ultimately got the job done. The Dodgers got their first hit since the 2nd inning and Mookie Betts got a pinch-hit opportunity but struck out on a… fastball. To finish off his terrible night with a cherry on top that nobody appreciated, Jeremie Rehak gave a timeout to Zach McKinstry very, very, very late. Albert Pujols grounded out to end the game. Dodger fans left the game early.

The Giants lead in the NL West is now as large as it was to start the 2nd half- 2 games. Tomorrow the Giants throw Alex Wood and the Dodgers will string together a bullpen game. Alex Wood as you know, is a former Dodger. He also works fast- so I don’t anticipate that tomorrow game will last nearly 4 hours like this one did. To quote the great Gary Radnich "WE’RE IN A PENNANT RACE!!!" and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

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