Game 161 of the regular season featured a match-up that appeared entirely lopsided on paper.
If you’re flipping through a storybook on the Giants’ unlikely climb out of the trenches into the postseason, Blach’s eight-inning’s worth of shutout ball to seal the Giants’ 3-0 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers would be worth an entire chapter, said Bruce Bochy:
“It was one of the best pitching performance’s I’ve seen.”
Blach’s outing stunned on a day reserved for some expected bullpen traffic. Bochy said every pitcher was available—Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija, even—to get through this game. Bochy didn’t have to move a muscle.
The rookie outlasted expectations, out-dueling Kershaw out-by-out, inning-by-inning to claim his first career win. That’s something not many pitchers, let alone rookies, can or will say: ‘I beat Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers.’
For teammates that knew about his 14-win, 3.43 ERA year with the Sacramento River Cats, though, the outing wasn’t all that shocking, said Joe Panik:
“I wasn’t totally surprised, but it was incredible.”
Blach out-pitched Kershaw and he did it by sticking to his game, working at his own pace and trusting a catcher that understood the opposing lineup well. Blach wasn’t phased by the game’s magnitude, he was in his own world:
“No matter how big the stage is, you have to go out there and execute pitches.”
Blach didn’t shake Posey off once, one pre-game discussion sufficed, and his teammates let him be. He took control out the gate, forcing the Dodgers to play the game at his speed. The rookie was painting the corners effortlessly, striking out six batters, four of them looking. That’s his game, said Panik:
“You didn’t see anything out of the ordinary, he was just going about his business.”
Angel Pagan said it plainly:
“That was unbelievable. … On a game like today, he went out there and beat Kershaw.”
Pagan beat Kershaw, too.
He entered the game with five career doubles against the dominant lefty and was just inches away from a sixth, but this one had a little extra oomph on it. It bounced on top of the wall and into the stands. Pagan didn’t expect it:
“I thought it was gonna be a double until I saw the umpire say home run.”
Wherever the ball decided to land, it would tie Pagan with Adam Dunn and Rickie Weeks Jr. for most career extra-base hits against Kershaw. Pair the home run with a five-hit home stand and a WWE-style throw-down, Pagan is heating up at the right time, said Bochy:
“Angel has a knack for coming through when you need him.”
“I don’t know what was more impressive, the tackle last night or the home run today.”
Then things got weird, as is to be expected this time of year.
Brandon Crawford, up to make something of Pagan’s leadoff single, slapped a ground ball through Kershaw’s legs. It deflected to Justin Turner, who made an errant throw to first base, allowing Pagan to score from first and Crawford to sit at third.
Gordon Beckham, ineligible for the postseason, said he was here to help any way he could in these final days. His sacrifice fly scored Crawford and gave the Giants the 3-0 lead.
Kershaw pitched three perfect innings to start but only struck out four batters, gave up six hits, and earned one of the three. This is the eighth time Kershaw has earned a losing decision against the Giants.
A three-run lead only appeared as another chance at ninth-inning devastation for jaded Giants fans, but Sergio Romo pitched a perfect ninth inning for his fourth save of the year. It was almost too easy.
Wild Card tie-breaking procedures
The New York Mets clinched a Wild Card spot earlier in the day and the St. Louis Cardinals posed a comeback win over the Pittsburgh Pirates to stay alive. The win keeps the Giants sandwiched between the teams by one game for the second spot.
If the Giants lose Sunday, and the Cardinals win, then there would be a tie for second, solved by a one-game tie-breaker that would decide who officially gets into the postseason. The Giants lost the season series against the Cardinals, so they will have to travel to St. Louis for that game.
Here’s what you need to know for game 162: If the Giants win, they get the Wild Card. If the Cardinals lose, the Giants get the Wild Card, said Bochy:
“No matter what, we’re traveling.”
Vogelsong has a history of coming up clutch for the Giants in big, playoff moments. They’re hoping that magic works despite the uniform he dons.
Blach received a solo beer-bath after his first career win, his team’s performance indicated the celebration was just a taste of what’s yet to come. The win Saturday gives the Giants a tie-breaker, at least, to decide their fate.