Despite the heatwave currently sweltering Northern California, the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers made it feel like an October night at Oracle Park in Saturday night’s thrilling 3-2 Giants victory to take a series win against their division rivals.
Which is maybe not what you were expecting when you saw that this was going to be a bullpen game against Clayton Kershaw. But with Kershaw making his first start off of the injured list, the Giants took advantage early, and the bullpen held it together in the end.
Thairo Estrada got the offense going early in the game (before the shadows that come with a national-broadcast-dictated-start-time made it hard to do much of anything) by hitting a home run with one out in the second inning.
This was followed by a walk to Brandon Crawford, before Austin Wynns singled to center field. Luis González hit a line drive single over the heads of the infielders, scoring Crawford to give the Giants their second run of the game.
What followed had absolutely no impact on the rest of the game, but I would have to resign if I neglected to mention it. With Austin Slater batting, there was a pick-off attempt made against González, who decided to go for it and put himself in what should have been a pickle.
Perhaps Freddie Freeman didn’t realize that the Dodgers had two outs, because instead of making the throw to second to squeeze González, he threw to third in an attempt to get Wynns, who slid in to third in time to beat the throw. Both runners advanced. It was one of the more baffling decisions I’ve seen, but ultimately didn’t matter because Slater struck out to end the inning.
Considering the Giants only had five hits on the night, after that it was pretty much a war of attrition for the Giants bullpen.
Sam Long got the start and he was fantastic, allowing just three hits with a strikeout in three innings of work. Tyler Rogers came in after that, made things a little bit shaky with two hits and a walk, but got through two scoreless innings of his own. Dominic Leone did his part with a one-hit scoreless inning as well.
And then we get to the terror zone.
Zack Littell entered to start the seventh inning and immediately walked Chris Taylor. That was followed by a single to Gavin Lux. Which was followed by a single to Mookie Betts to load the bases.
Enter Jarlín García.
García battled to a full count with Freddie Freeman, mixing his slider and fastball to great effect, before getting Freeman to swing at a 94 mph fastball that was low and inside for the strike out. This brought up Trea Turner, who hit a bouncer up to Estrada, who somehow was able to field it (despite the force of a thousand suns in his eyes) and kick off a double play to end the inning.
García came back out for the eighth and it...did not go as well. He got a quick ground-out from Max Muncy, before giving up a single to Will Smith. Justin Turner reached on a fielder’s choice, and that choice was an error by Estrada that allowed both runners to reach. This was followed by a ground-rule double from Cody Bellinger that split the outfielders and bounced up and out of play, scoring Smith and advancing Turner to third.
Enter Camilo Doval.
Doval walked Taylor to load the bases, and then proceeded to cause Giants fans everywhere to simultaneously lose years of their lives, while also achieving two strikeouts to end the inning.
It is June, but if you had asked me during those two at-bats, I would have said it felt like postseason baseball. The intensity was through the roof. The energy when Doval got Lux to swing at a low slider for the strikeout was only surpassed by the energy when he managed to get Mookie Betts to swing at the same pitch for the next one, especially after throwing way outside to fall into a quick 0-3 hole.
The Giants finally were able to add on in the bottom of the eighth, as Joc Pederson (who entered in the fifth to replace Heliot Ramos) singled to lead off the inning, followed by a walk to Wilmer Flores. Followed by a walk to Estrada.
I remember discussing this during the game with someone who doesn’t follow baseball, and telling him that the Giants are pretty good at finding ways to not score with bases loaded and no outs. I then had to correct myself, saying that apparently the ineffectiveness of Dodgers’ closer Craig Kimbrel tonight was just too overpowering.
While pitching to Crawford, Kimbrel threw a wild pitch that Crawford swung at, but it shot away from Smith behind the plate, allowing the runners to advance and Pederson to score the Giants third run of the night. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts didn’t like that, and depending on which broadcast you were listening, he either thought the ball hit off of Crawford’s foot (Fox broadcasters) or he thought Crawford made contact (KNBR broadcast) but it didn’t matter, because the call was non-reviewable.
Which is a good thing! Because...hahaha, let me tell you...
Enter José Álvarez.
If you thought the eighth inning was stressful, you’re not wrong. But let’s talk about the ninth, which was also stressful.
Álvarez immediately gave up a lead-off home run to Freeman, before allowing a single to Trea Turner. After striking out Muncy, he got Smith to hit into a force out that got Turner at second, but the ball went into the dirt on the throw to Darin Ruf at first, who wasn’t able to pick it in time to complete the double-play.
Hanser Alberto entered as a pinch-hitter, and hit a soft ground ball to the left side of the infield. Álvarez made an attempt, but couldn’t get to it, and Flores couldn’t get to it in time to make a play.
With two on and two out and Bellinger at the plate, though, Álvarez got him to ground out to Estrada, whose throw to Ruf from his knees, as he collapsed to his back in relief, was in time to get the final out of one of the most intense games I’ve ever watched.
With that, the Giants take a series win, and will look for a sweep as Carlos Rodón takes the mound against Julio Urías to close out the series.