A lot of LA balls found San Francisco gloves, the shift gave and took in favor of the home team, Giants pitchers played several relatively successful games of Frogger through traffic and hits were timely—until suddenly they weren’t.
And so it was Saturday that San Francisco got more than a few breaks against a team with the best record in baseball, until about the fifth inning, when they returned to earth and fell to southpaw Rich Hill (W, 4-1, 2.40 ERA) in a 7-2 Dodgers rout, despite a strong performance from Jeff Samardzija (L, 3-5, 3.72 ERA).
Going into Saturday’s matinee, Shark had allowed seven of his 11 homers on the season in first innings, and opponents were hitting .302 with 11 extra-base hits through his first 25 pitches, compared with .202 from his 26th pitch onward with eight hits for extra-bases.
Like Drew Pomeranz Friday, Samardzija got out of a bases-loaded situation in the first frame without giving an inch. He allowed a double to Justin Turner, pitched around the dangerous Cody Bellinger and gave up a single to Cory Seager to load ‘em up. It would the first of three times Seager would follow a Bellinger walk with a knock.
Bochy said the Giants weren’t pitching around Bellinger every time, even though he received a pair of intentional walks and the unintentional walk in the first. Between Bellinger and Seager, the skipper felt like he was between a rock and a hard place:
“You see the year [Bellinger’s] having, but they’re both good hitters and it’s not a fun spot to be in, trust me. “
Of his outing Saturday, Samardzija said:
“I thought I battled, you know? I thought I put myself in some tough situations there with getting runners on early and not really finding that groove there out of the wind up that I necessarily like to find. But you know, other than that, I thought we made some big pitches when we needed to.”
The Dodgers stacked the bases against Samardzija again in the third but despite allowing five runners to reach base, Samardzija limited Los Angeles to a single run.
Leadoff hitter Pederson whiffed badly at the first three pitches he saw from Samardzija and should’ve been out, but the third, an 82-mph splitter, went between Aramís García‘s legs for a wild pitch and Pederson took first.
The Giants got some favors from Lady Luck in the third, but the Dodgers would still make Samardzija pay for that wild pitch. Among the balls that bounced their way was a Turner line drive to left that landed just fair before ricocheting into the seats for a ground-rule double. Without the bounce, Pederson would have scored from first easily, instead he settled in at third and wouldn’t advance for another two batters.
The Giants intentionally walked Bellinger to face Seager who singled to send Pederson home for his first of four RBI Saturday.
Samardzija said he felt the Dodgers lineup is a force to be reckoned with:
“When you’re coming right out of the gates and you’re facing a guy like Joc [Pederson], who’s looking to do damage, and so on and so forth down the line— it’s not like there’s any breathers in there. So it don’t matter if it’s the first inning or the fifth inning, it’s going to be a tough three outs and you can’t make any mistakes, you gotta be perfect.”
A ground out to first from Verdugo put a damper on the Dodgers rally in the third when Belt threw home to get Turner out at the plate. A Kiké Hernández ground out to third spelled the end of the threat and increased the Dodgers tally of stranded baserunners to six.
Giants arms pitched through no fewer than four bases loaded situations, two of them on Samardzija’s watch. Despite the defeat, Giants pitching stranded a total of 13 Dodgers. The Giants, however, didn’t have much to brag about given they stranded 11 of their own and were 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position.
García erased the Dodgers third-inning run immediately when he parked a 1-0 fastball that Hill left over the plate over the wall at Levi’s Landing in right for a solo shot (2) to lead off the home half of the third and tie it up, 1-1.
But the Dodgers tied it up in the fifth and the momentum underwent a subtle shift. San Francisco would never see the lead again.
Following a fifth-inning Justin Turner single, home plate umpire Andy Fletcher called a ball on a pitch down-and-in to Seager that could have been strike three. Statcast showed it painting the corner and skipper and hurler alike read it as a strike. Samardzija and Bochy both barked at Fletcher to no avail and ultimately, they felt, that call would be a game-changer.
Seager swatted the next pitch for a double to tie it up, 2-2, and though the score remained close for a few innings, the Giants appeared to gradually revert to the team they’ve been when they’re not facing the Dodgers.
Of the call, Samardzija said:
“I’m not gonna comment on that. Everyone saw the game who watched it on TV. So I’ll let that speak for itself.”
The Giants requested a replay on the hit-by-pitch call believing Pederson may not have actually been hit or he may have been leaning into it, but the call was upheld by umpires in New York.
Bochy said Samardzija deserved better and expressed frustration with what he viewed as a missed-strike call by Fletcher during Seager’s fifth-inning at-bat, leading to an RBI, as well as the call on Pederson’s hit-by-pitch which added to a rally that bore another run.
“Two cheap runs there. You know we had [Seager] struck out. If he doesn’t get the call there, [the run doesn’t score]. It’s a tough break for us [and] for Shark because he pitched great.”
When Samardzija was asked if he thought Pederson was trying to get hit, he was non-commital, saying he hadn’t yet seen the video, but nevertheless he sounded dubious of Pederson’s motives:
“He did a hell of a job of not getting out of the way.”
The game seemed still in reach with the one-run deficit but the Giants confidence continued to melt away after Dereck Rodríguez came out of the bullpen to pitch the eighth and gave up two runs-walked-in.
Bochy said Rodríguez was just off Friday:
“He’s coming off a great outing in Baltimore, It’s been a while since he’s pitched so I tried to get a little work out of him to give some guys a break and he was just off. He just had trouble getting on track there and that’s not like him.”
Rodríguez allowed a single and a double to lead off and Pederson reached via a fielders choice on a ground ball to Solano, who couldn’t make an out. Rodríguez then walked Muncy and Turner to make it 5-2, before Bochy hooked him for Mark Melancon.
Pederson tried to score on a Melancon wild pitch to Bellinger and was out at the plate, which allowed Melancon to intentionally walk Bellinger. But a walk to Bellinger backfired yet again as Seager knocked his fourth hit of the game, another double, matching a career-high and plating two more. It was 7-2 before the Giants made it off the field.
Preventing what Bochy called “two cheap runs” in the fifth and sixth innings might have helped Samardzija’s ERA and protected him from a loss on his record, but a leaky bullpen and helpless offense was the difference for the Giants.
San Francisco bats never made a peep after the fourth inning and they were 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position. They were limited to just one hit in the final four innings of the contest. Said Bochy of the offense:
“We were still in this game. We got 12 outs [and] we just couldn’t find a way to score a run, we just couldn’t get that big hit. Somebody’s gotta come through and that was the difference in the game.”