Third Time Down, Dodgers Swept by Giants


I was beginning to think the sun was just a rumor in NorCal this time of year. The previous two nights had been as cold as stone forcing the thin-blooded Dodgers into their warmup jackets and knit beanies as they shivered wearily in their dugout. But today was different. A getaway game scheduled for 12:45pm. And boy did the Dodgers want to get away.

Dodgers   2 6 1
Giants    3 10 0
W:Casilla (2-0) L:Nicasio (0-1)

Both teams stretched outside their standard rotations to tab their starting pitchers. The Dodgers pulled up minor league right-hander Mike Bolsinger for a spot start while the Giants countered with struggling sometimes-starter, sometime-reliever Ryan Vogelsong. The 37-year-old started the game with a bang by hitting Dodger leadoff man Justin Turner on the hip on his very first pitch. The Dodgers then went meekly to finish the 1st inning. Yasiel Puig flied out to Justin Maxwell in that deep right corner of AT&T Park where would-be homeruns go to die, Adrian Gonzalez was caught looking on a third strike, and Howie Kendrick struck out on an unsure half-swing. What had recently been a nuclear fission reactor of offensive power from spots 3 and 4 in the Dodger lineup went inexplicably cold in this series.

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Bolsinger held his own in his first taste of the big leagues this season. He finished with 5.2 innings pitched giving up 5 hits and just 1 run with 2 walks and 5 strikeouts. In a stark contrast to the previous two nights, no Giant runner even reached second base until the 6th inning thanks both to Bolsinger’s pitching and Grandal’s arm throwing out Brandon Crawford trying to steal second in the 3rd. Crawford had reached first on a throwing error by fill-in shortstop Turner (the guy plays everywhere—not always well).

While Bolsinger was mowing through Giant batters for the first five innings, the Dodgers were trying their best put the failures of the first two games behind them. Alex Guerrero, starting at third in a move that was sure to please many Dodger fans, homered to left in his first at-bat in the 2nd inning, his second of the series and 4th homerun of the season.  The following inning, Gonzalez homered to center (both hitters avoiding the graveyard of deep right). Unfortunately both homers were solo shots.

Bolsinger took his 2-0 lead into the bottom of the 6th. His endurance finally began to give out as he started his third pass through the Giant lineup. After Nori Aoki grounded out, Joe Panik (one of the best names in baseball) walked. Angel Pagan singled to right putting Panik on second. Buster Posey struck out before Brandon Belt lined a single to center, scoring Panik, cutting the Dodgers lead to 2-1.

Apr 23, 2015; San Francisco, CA, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Mike Bolsinger (46) throws to the San Francisco Giants in the first inning of their MLB baseball game at AT&T Park. Mandatory Credit: Lance Iversen-USA TODAY Sports

Bolsinger’s day was done and Chris Hatcher was called in and promptly struck out Justin Maxwell to end the inning. Ryan Vogelsong was replaced to start the 7th, putting the fate of both teams in the hands of their bullpens. Neither Bolsinger nor Vogelsong are hard throwers, living comfortably in the high 70s and mid-80s. They rely mostly on cutters and curves with Vogelsong mixing in a circle change to really keep hitters off balance.

After the titanic matchup of Clayton Kershaw and Madison Bumgarner the previous day, this modest head-to-head of third-tier pitchers was still quite compelling. The tension continued to mount once the parade of relievers arrived. Don Mattingly used 6 pitchers over what would be the final 3.2 innings. They gave up 5 hits, 2 runs, had 3 walks and 4 strikeouts. Not the same sort of numbers the pen was delivering the previous two series against the Mariners and the Rockies. The lone bright spot today was Yimi Garcia who pitched a 1-2-3 7th inning, striking out 2.

J.P. Howell started the 8th, and after Aoki grounded out, Panik singled again before being forced out at second on Pagan’s grounder. Joel Peralta replaced Howell, walked both Posey and Brandon Belt and was having a terrible time trying to find the strike zone. After falling behind Maxwell 2-0, the lean right fielder lined a would-be run-scoring hit that was snagged out of the air by a diving Howie Kendrick.  Oh, how delicious the sounds of cheering Giants fans quickly turning to disgruntled murmurs once they realize Kendrick flagged that line drive.

Pedro Baez replaced Peralta to start the 9th inning. Baez gave up a single to Casey McGehee and a triple in the right-center gap to Brandon Crawford. McGehee scored, tying the game at 2 with a runner on third with no outs. Baez buckled down and struck out pinch-hitter Gregor Blanco, forced Aoki to pop out to short (now being played by Jimmy Rollins), and Joe Panik ended the inning flying out to Carl Crawford in left.

The Dodgers showed little in the way of offense outside of the two homeruns. In 10 innings they finished with 6 hits in 34 at-bats (.176 – 2 homeruns and 4 singles) with 12 left on base including a bases-loaded strikeout by Gonzalez in the 10th. That was after Juan Uribe singled, Joc Pederson bunted him over to second, and Rollins grounded out, sending Uribe to third. Andre Ethier came off the bench to pinch-hit and was subsequently nailed on the knee by Santiago Casilla (the 5th Giant reliever of the day). Casilla walked Puig, loading the bases and bringing Adrian to the plate to bust the game open, but it wasn’t to be. Gonzalez has only struck out 4 times this season. Two of them came today.

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  • In the bottom of the 10th, in what appeared to be a virtual reenactment of Wednesday night’s game, Juan Nicasio came on in relief, gave up a single to Pagan who stole second after Posey popped out. Nicasio intentionally walked Belt in order to face Justin Maxwell who feasted on Dodger pitching this series going 4-for-11 with a homerun, a game-winning single, and catching nearly everything the Dodgers hit out to right field. Maxwell singled down the left field line scoring Pagan with ease and for the second day in a row, the Giants were walk-off winners by a count of 3-2.

    The Dodgers arrived in Frisco riding a 7-game winning streak and holding a 6 game lead over their bitter rivals. They leave being swept and allowing the Giants to creep back within 3 games. Tomorrow night sees the Dodgers looking to shake off the cold confines of AT&T Park for the more hospitable climes of Petco as Zack Greinke faces off against the Padres and Andrew Cashner.

    Don’t worry about what could have been. The Dodgers should only concern themselves of what can be. They still maintain a slim grip on first place in the division, and they once again have an opportunity to create some daylight between themselves and another divisional rival. Here’s to tomorrow.