AT&T Park — Bruce Bochy lingered longer than usual in the dugout following his typical pregame news conference on Sunday morning. It was difficult to blame the manager, whose San Francisco Giants were still basking in the glow of Saturday night’s comeback over the Los Angeles Dodgers, powered by a 14th-inning walk-off home run by Andrew McCutchen.
The temperature sat at 61 degrees. A cool breeze lapped over the sunny home dugout. Across the diamond, Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers awaited.
It was the kind of day that AT&T Park, the Giants’ waterfront cathedral, was built for.
The Giants honored the 60th season of their west-coast rivalry with the Dodgers, holding an on-the-field ceremony just before first pitch of the 10-inning 2-1 loss. The incomparable Vin Scully, retired voice of the Dodgers, punctuated the festivities, delivering his famous introduction in a recorded message, played on the giant video screen that hangs above the center-field garden.
“Hi everybody and a very pleasant good afternoon to you wherever you may be,” a smiling Scully said. “It’s time for Dodgers and Giants baseball. That happens to be the best rivalry in all of professional sports.”
Nearly four hours after Scully made his cameo, Kyle Farmer struck the decisive blow, booming a run-scoring double off the base of the brick archways in right field, saddling Pierce Johnson and the Giants with an extra-inning loss one day after they’d done the same to their guests and eternal rivals.
There is no rivalry between Kershaw — baseball’s preeminent ace — and Blach. Regardless, Blach continues to acquit himself admirably against the three-time Cy Award winner. After navigating through six innings of one-run ball in the matinee, Blach has let in just three earned runs in his four starts against Kershaw.
“Any time you get an opportunity to compete against some of the best in the world, it’s what you dream of,” Blach said. “And you go out there and you try to make pitches and try to keep your team in the game.”
Blach twice induced ground-ball double plays — in the second and fourth innings — to escape trouble and leave the Giants down just 1-0 on a day when Kershaw wasted no time demonstrating that he was in magisterial form.
The first hint that Kershaw was locked in came on the third Giants’ at bat of the afternoon when the left-hander struck out McCutchen, buckling Saturday night’s hero with a vicious 73-mph curveball to cap the bottom of the first.
Kershaw allowed just one hit through the first five innings and six all together in his seven-plus innings of work. Two of the first four hits — a pair of doubles — belonged to Evan Longoria who entered the day lugging a .080 average (2-for-25).
“He’ll find it. He’ll get in a rhythm,” Bochy foretold before the game. “He’s too good a player. It’s going to happen for him. It’s still so early. I think you look around baseball you see some other guys too. We’re going to be fine there, trust me.”
In the ninth, with the score knotted at 1-1, Longoria almost put an exclamation point on his best day as a Giant, driving a 380-foot out to center field that, for a moment, appeared as though it might clear the wall.
Kershaw was stewing in the dugout by the time the Giant finally got on the board. Thanks to a soft single from Hunter Pence and a perfectly-weighted bunt from Kelby Tomlinson, the Giants had “knocked” Kershaw out, two batters into the eighth.
Like a soccer manager summoning a striker from the bench down a goal in the 80th minute, Bochy tapped Buster Posey for the pinch-hitting assignment. Posey, who was out of the lineup for a maintenance day as Bochy aims to keep the face of the franchise fresh throughout the 162-game marathon, responded by slicing an RBI single into right field.
With the division-leading Arizona Diamondbacks set to arrive on Monday, that proved to be the only run the Giants would muster. Hunter Pence advanced as far as second base in the bottom of the 10th but Kenley Jansen punched out pinch-hitter Brandon Belt looking on a high strike three to seal the weekend split.
“Tough call at the end,” Bochy said. “It’s a ball but that’s the way the game goes sometimes. A call goes against you, a ball doesn’t bounce your way. That certainly was not a strike.”
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