LOS ANGELES — On Sunday, San Francisco Giants catcher Nick Hundley — who got a pair of hits in the series finale against the Pittsburgh Pirates — reflected on his role this season, in light of the upcoming rivalry series in Los Angeles against the Dodgers.
He’s not Buster Posey. He’s the veteran, the just-in-caser, the fill-in guy. He knows his role.
“Whether I’m in there or not, it’s my job to try and help us win, whether I start, or come off the bench, or whatever it is,” Hundley said Sunday.
Down 2-1 with two outs and the bases loaded in the ninth inning on Monday, he did exactly that. After eight innings of Clayton Kershaw mastery on Monday, Hundley came on as a pinch hitter for Alen Hanson, who himself came on to replace a possibly-concussed Brandon Crawford in the sixth. Hundley struck for a two-run single to right, sparking a four-run ninth and spurring a 5-2 Giants win.
“It doesn’t get more clutch than that,” said manager Bruce Bochy.
With the Dodgers trying to manage a month without National League saves leader Kenley Jansen, lefty Scott Alexander came out of the bullpen in relief of Kershaw, who threw 110 pitches in a duel with Madison Bumgarner — the 11th meeting between the two in their careers.
After Alexander retired And McCutchen to lead off, he allowed back-to-back singles to Chase d’Arnaud (0-for-3 against Kershaw) and Buster Posey. Evan Longoria reached first on a force out to second, and after Alexander got ahead 0-2 to Austin Slater, he hit him with a 2-2 offering to load the bases.
Hundley hit the first pitch he saw.
“There were a lot of good at-bats in front of me,” Hundley said. “Chase and Buster get hits, and Longo hit a ball that could have been a double play, but getting down the line. Slate battling back from an 0-2 count. In that situation, he’s got a lot of action, so I know [Alexander is] trying to get ahead, bases loaded, tying run at third. You’re afforded the luxury of being aggressive in that spot.”
The win moves San Francisco (60-60) to within four games of Los Angeles, and five games of the NL West lead.
Bumgarner — who allowed two earned runs through six innings — was watching from the clubhouse.
“That was pretty good watchin’,” Bumgarner said. “The guys did an unbelievable job of coming back there. That was a good game on both sides. He was better than me tonight, for sure, but we were better than they were.”
Before that single, Kershaw — who has a 1.58 career ERA against the Giants — had gone eight innings for the 19th time in 43 career starts against San Francisco, relying on his cutter early and curve late to strike out nine, and limiting San Francisco to one run on four hits without walking a batter. It was a far better showing than last week against Oakland, where Kershaw seemed to be fighting himself and struck out just one batter for the first time since 2010.
“Kershaw was Kershaw,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “We have a hard time against him. The numbers show that … He had it all working, fastball, slider, threw a lot of good sliders.”
Both the Los Angeles lefty and Bumgarner worked out of some small early jams. Bumgarner fanned Kershaw after a double steal in the second, and struck out Chris Taylor on an 85 mph cutter at the letters with two men on and two outs in the third. Kershaw stranded Steven Duggar — aboard with a single in his first career at-bat against him — at third in the top of the third, fanning Bumgarner and Andrew McCutchen.
In the bottom of the fourth, Bumgarner allowed a line-drive, two-out single to catcher Austin Barnes. Kershaw, next up, popped the fifth pitch of his at-bat high down the left field line. As the ball came down, Gorkys Hernandez ceded the play to Crawford, but took a step forward to maintain balance. Crawford ran face-first into Hernandez’s right leg, knocking his chin on the inside of Hernandez’s knee. The ball dropped and a run scored. Crawford got up and was able to throw to third to get Kershaw, but looked hazy as he walked off the field with medical personnel, while Hernandez walked off under his own power.
After popping out for the second out in the fifth — to almost the exact same spot — Crawford was taken out and replaced by Alen Hanson. Crawford — who started his first All-Star Game in July after a career-best May and June — came into Monday hitting .187 in the month of August. He was entered into concussion protocol after being removed.
“He hit Gorkys’ thigh pretty good,” Bochy said. “For precautionary reasons, he came out. He’s in concussion protocol, but he feels pretty good, so we’re hoping for the best tomorrow, and we’ll re-evaluate. Right now, it looks pretty good. Scary moment.”
Should he head to the disabled list, he would be the sixth Giants starting position player to do so, not including the three starting pitchers — Bumgarner, Jeff Samardzija and Johnny Cueto — who have also missed significant time. Hernandez dinged his left wrist, but said after the game that he’s fine.
“You’re just hoping for the best,” Bochy said. “You’re holding your breath a little bit. I went out, and Craw looked pretty beat up when he was coming off the field. Gorkys was still down, and that’s two players you’re thinking you make replacements for. Craw did hit, but after that, Dave Groeschner, head trainer, checked him out and said, ‘He’s got to come out.’ We need to be on the cautious side there.”
In the bottom of the fifth, Justin Turner turned on an 85 mph cutter by Bumgarner for a one-out solo home run, giving Los Angeles a 2-0 lead. That was really the only mistake for Bumgarner, who scattered seven hits over six innings, walking two and striking out two.
The Giants got on the board in the top of the sixth, when, after a pair of no-out singles off of Kershaw by Duggar and Bumgarner, McCutchen grounded into a force play at second, bringing Duggar in from third.
That was all Kershaw would allow.
Following Hundley’s hit in the ninth, Hernandez drove in a run with a single up the middle. Duggar then sent a grounder to first, which was flubbed by defensive replacement Max Muncy, allowing another run to score.
“It’s all about battling through nine,” Bochy said. “These guys did it. D’Arnaud had a rough night, and he’s the one who got us going there, and it just got contagious.”
“These guys in the locker room, they deserve the best out of me, being prepared whether I play or not,” Hundley said. “I expect, at some point, in every game, that I’m going to play … I was mentally prepared for an at-bat with two outs right there.”
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