Scoring early and relying on a solid bullpen can be a risky recipe for winning baseball. The Giants did both Saturday evening, scoring two runs in the second inning against future Hall of Famer Clayton Kershaw, then recording some of the biggest outs of the year late in the game to defeat the Los Angeles Dodgers 3-2 at Oracle Park.
San Francisco (32-26) is now 2-2 against the Dodgers (37-22) this season and have now won six of their last eight matchups against them at home.
On the atmopshere, Kapler said:
Obviously these are regular season games but regular season games with the Dodgers, obviously an excellent team. I don’t think there’s any discounting that the atmosphere was as live as we’ve seen any this season, and very much in line with what we saw last year at the at the most important moments.”
This story has been updated with quotes and post-game material from the Giants clubhouse at Oracle Park.
Though it was a low-scoring affair, multiple times the Giants dug themselves in deep holes – most notably the seventh and eighth innings.
The Los Angeles offense was harmless until the seventh when they loaded the bases against righty Zack Littell, who walked Chris Taylor, then allowed singles to Gavin Lux and Mookie Betts without allowing an out. Freddie Freeman stepped into the box with a mixed reception from Oracle Park’s 41,246 fans in attendance, as fans smothered in blue cheered “Freddie, Freddie, Freddie,” while home fans stayed loyal to the old reliable, “Beat LA.”
Left-hander Jarlin Garcia entered from the bullpen with the last say, striking out Freeman on a 3-2 pitch and getting an inning-ending double-play ball off the bat of the speedy Trea Turner – not an easy guy to double up – to retire the side without damage and send the crowd into a frenzy. An inning later, Camilo Doval found himself in the exact same situation with the bases juiced and struck out Betts to enter the home-half of the eighth with a 2-1 lead.
On two separate occasions, Kapler visted both Garcia and Doval on the mound along with coach Nick Ortiz in an effort to “calm the moment.” Kapled observed:
One of the things I noticed out there was how calm both Jarlin and Doval were. They knew they were big moments in a game that very much felt like a playoff atmosphere, but they were able to kind of be settled and deliver strikes and big ones at that.”
It worked, and they were arguably the top two relief moments of the year for San Francisco.
Kershaw, after spending a month on the injured list with inflammation in his left SI joint, was greeted by a second inning solo-blast off the bat of Thairo Estrada on a 1-2 hanging slider after fouling off five quality pitches to give the Giants an early lead.
Estrada’s fourth homer of the year was pinged at 96.8 off the bat. traveling an estimated 372 feet.
In the same inning, Kershaw walked Brandon Crawford then allowed a single to Austin Wynns. After Curt Casali struck out, rookie outfielder Luis Gonzalez continued his impressive stretch at the plate by lining a run-scoring single to right-center field to extend the Giants lead to 2-0.
Gonzalez, the National League Rookie of the Month in May and only the third Giant to do so, has been forced to play regularly against left-handed starters due to a raft of Giants injuries. Gonzalez’s single came against Kershaw’s quality changeup, a weapon that has fueled a good portion of the left-hander’s storied career. Hitting .386 against fastballs this season, Gonzalez picked up just his second hit of the season against a breaking ball.
The Giants tacked on one more against Craig Kimbrel in the eighth when Joc Pederson signed to lead off the frame and later scored on a wild pitch, making it 3-1.
Sam Long was handed the start for the Giants and Kapler had a longer leash on him than usual. In most bullpen games, the “opener” would only be tasked with recording a few outs, a role Long has been used in before. Instead, Long carefully navigated through three scoreless innings against a notoriously strong Los Angeles lineup. Despite allowing three singles, nobody ended up scoring against the 26-year-old southpaw.
The original plan was for Long to throw three or four innings with around 65 pitches. He wound up throwing 48 pitches before Kapler turned to submariner Tyler Rogers to begin the fourth against left-handed hitting Max Muncy.
Long’s final line: three innings, three hits, and one strikeout. He lowered his ERA to 1.96.
On his outing, Long noted some changes he’s made:
I think just building on some adjustments that I made in spring training before the season – there was a tempo change in my delivery. So sped up overall. I had to shorten my windup by about one second and so I think that’s just kind of helped everything become more consistently in the zone, more more consistent velo-wise. And overall, it’s just helped each pitch get better.”
The only run for the Dodgers came in the eighth when Will Smith singled then advanced to third on an error from Estrada at second base. Cody Bellinger was next, smacking a ground-rule double to score Smith. In the ninth, Freeman clapped back against his prior missed chances by homering to deep right-center to put the Dodgers back within a run at 3-2.
Sunday will be the final game in the series between the Giants and Dodgers, with two power lefties on the hill. Carlos Rodon (4-4, 3.51 ERA) will toe the slab for San Francisco against Julio Urias (3-5, 2.78 ERA), an arm that has experienced mixed results pitching against the Giants. First pitch is 1:05 p.m.
Catcher Curt Casali was dealing with a sore hamstring for the majority of the game, but had to remain in because Wynns, the backup catcher, was the designated hitter. Casali is day-to-day and Kapler doesn’t think it will require a IL stint. After leaving the game on Friday night after he stumbled on the mound after a pitch, Jakob Junis is the latest Giant to land on the injured list. The right-hander hits the shelf with a Grade 2 left hamstring strain, an injury that usually takes about a month to recover. It’s a bit of a blow to a pitching staff that Junis has helped anchor over the past few weeks. In a corresponding move, San Francisco recalled outfielder Heliot Ramos from Triple-A Sacramento, presumably to face lefty Los Angeles starters on Saturday and Sunday. … First baseman Brandon Belt (knee) participated in baseball activity ahead of Saturday’s matchup and said he’s feeling good. Kapler still hasn’t set a return date for Belt, but it’s unlikely he’ll be active for the final game of the series on Sunday, especially with Urias, another left-hander, on the mound. … Evan Longoria is feeling better after leaving Friday night’s victory with left hamstring tightness and was available to hit off the bench. … Right-hander Anthony DeSclafani (ankle) will start his rehab assignment tonight in Sacramento. Alex Cobb, recovering from a neck strain, has been playing catch and is more ready to take a big league start than DeSclafani, Kapler said. … Outfielder Stuart Fairchild was claimed off waivers by the Cincinnati Reds and infielder Kevin Padlo was claimed by the Seattle Mariners.
Steven Rissotto has covered the San Francisco Giants for SFBay since 2021. He is the host of RizzoCast, a baseball interview show featuring players, coaches, media and fans. He attends San Francisco State University and will major in Journalism and minor in education.