— Ryan Gorcey (@RyanGorcey) April 2, 2019
LOS ANGELES — The last time Drew Pomeranz was in the visiting locker room at Dodger Stadium, he was celebrating a World Series championship with the Boston Red Sox last October.
After making a career-high 32 starts for the Red Sox in 2017, a pair of injuries limited him to just 11 starts and 74 innings in 26 appearances during their run to the championship, and he never got to throw a pitch during the Fall Classic. That didn’t stop him from celebrating, though, during a party that did its fair share of damage to the cramped visiting clubhouse, between the sprayed champagne and cigar ash.
“I walked in here, and I’m like, ‘This feels weird,’” Pomeranz said, as he looked down at the carpet on Monday night. “It was pretty good. It’s amazing to walk in here and see how good this place looks.”
Finally healthy headed into 2019, Pomeranz threw the hardest he’s thrown in over a year in his San Francisco Giants debut on Monday, and despite laboring early, he held the Dodgers to just two solo home runs. Holding his own against Los Angeles lefty wunderkind Julio Urías, Pomeranz kept the Giants close enough for Brandon Belt and Pablo Sandoval to come up with big, late hits, earning San Francisco a 4-2 series-opening comeback win against the reigning National League champs.
It was the type of game that the Giants — with their lack of consistent offense — will likely have to play if they are to win with any frequency in 2019, especially seeing what happened over the weekend in San Diego, where Giants starters sported an ERA of 3.00, but San Francisco’s bats could only produce five runs in going 1-3 to start — as opposed to the 42 Los Angeles posted in its opening series against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
“Great game, all-around,” said manager Bruce Bochy. “I thought Pomeranz, he threw well. He got up there with his pitches and made a couple mistakes, but he showed good stuff, and really competed well. The guys, they battled well. Played well defensively, got the timely hitting, and of course, Belt, with the big day.”
Pomeranz — who threw 26 pitches in the first inning — started throwing his fastball at 95 and his curve at 84, when last year, it topped out at around 80, partly because of nerves. Pomeranz’s last Major League start was August 7 of 2018.
“I was just so anxious to get back out there,” Pomeranz said. “I was throwing some angry baseballs out there.”
The Dodgers (3-2) wore Pomeranz down early, fouling off 14 pitches and forced three three-ball counts in the first three innings, as he threw 58 pitches over those first three frames.
“I think I was a little pumped up to get back out there,” he said. “I think I was a little bit up, missed a little bit with my pitches. I think they were able to get a piece early on, and I settled down and started making some pitches.”
As Pomeranz gained his composure, the Giants’ offensive ineptitude was on full display. San Francisco (2-4) was held helpless for five innings as Urias displayed the frustratingly varied repertoire that has kept him in Los Angeles’s plans despite the fact that injury has limited him to just four big league innings since May of 2017.
Urías located his fastball up and down in the zone, as well as on both sides of the plate, cutting it back to 93 but humping it to 96 when needed, while also locating a sharp 76 mph breaking ball and a slider-changeup combo out of the same arm slot, with two different breaks, at the same speed, baffling Giants hitters.
“All of his pitches were working well,” Belt said. “Throwing 95-plus, good breakers. But, I think the toughest pitch was that changeup, especially left-on-left. It’s something that you’re not looking for, especially as alefty against a lefty, but when he threw that in there, that was tough to lay off of.”
Evan Longoria, who thought he’d worked a full-count walk to lead off the fourth, flipped his bat towards the dugout as home plate umpire Larry Vanover rung him up on a knee-high 96 mph fastball that tailed just over the outside corner. He walked back to the bench shouting into the ground. He wasn’t alone, as Urías struck out seven in five innings while allowing just three hits, looking masterful against a San Francisco lineup that was projected to struggle in the first year of Farhan Zaidi’s rebuild.
Including Urías’ night, the Giants have now seen opposing starters allow just two runs over 26 1/3 innings of work against them. San Francisco starters have a 3.12 ERA in 26 innings of their own, but the Giants’ four runs on Monday were a season high.
As Urías danced around San Francisco bats, Pomeranz ground through 90 pitches in five innings.
While Pomeranz wasn’t battered by Dodgers bats in the traditional sense, he did allow a Chris Taylor single off of his foot in the second, and took a line shot from David Freese off the back of his hamstring in the top of the fourth. Still, he didn’t relent, until the bottom of the fifth, when he surrendered a 414-foot homer to Chris Taylor, and two batters later, gave up another solo shot to pinch hitter Alex Verdugo. He then struck out Justin Turner and Corey Seager to finish the inning.
“I was trying to settle myself down a little bit, and I think I settled myself down a little too much, especially in that inning,” Pomeranz said. “I was trying to make pitches, and it took off a little bit.”
Relieved of Urías in the top of the sixth, Belt went opposite field for a first-pitch solo blast against Joe Kelly to cut the lead to 2-1, making him 4-for-5 against the former Red Sox reliever. A leadoff single to left in the seventh by pinch hitter Yangervis Solarte was cashed in as the Giants rattled off three straight two-out hits, including a two-strike RBI single back up the middle by pinch hitter Pablo Sandoval — who committed a pair of run-scoring errors on Sunday — to knot things up at 2-2.
“Two outs, two strikes, that’s huge, and it kept us going,” Bochy said.
After a Steven Duggar double of Kelly to right center, Belt then came up big again against reliever Scott Alexander, driving a 2-1 two-run double to center.
“That’s what’s going to have to happen for us,” Bochy said. “We’re going to play a lot of close ballgames, so we need to execute.”
“We definitely needed the big hits to get us going,” Belt said. “That was a tough series in San Diego. We wanted to change the tide. Fortunately, I was able to do that, but the two at-bats leading up to that were huge.”
For good measure, Belt speared a liner down the first base line by Joc Pederson to end a 1-2-3 eighth for Tony Watson. Four San Francisco relievers worked to hold the Dodgers to just one hit over the final four innings.
“[Pomeranz] had good stuff, was making good pitches, they fouled a lot of balls off and got his count up there, but he hung in there and gave us five solid innings,” Bochy said. “[Reliever Trevor] Gott, everybody, the pen did a terrific job. All facets of the game, we played well tonight.”