So dominant has Clayton Kershaw been in his young but brilliant career at AT&T Park that any idea of home-field advantage for the Giants burns off like fog when the Dodgers’ left-hander pitches in San Francisco. Saturday, as if the task of facing Kershaw wasn’t tall enough, even the elements here seemed to conspire against the Giants on one pivotal play.
While Kershaw held the Giants to one hit over the first three innings, right-hander Ryan Vogelsong did him one better, retiring the first 11 Dodgers he faced. But with two outs in the fourth, Adrian Gonzalez hit a low line drive to right field that Hunter Pence lost in the glare of the early evening sun. The ball bounced near Pence’s feet and past him, as Gonzalez cruised into second base with a double.
It was the first of five consecutive hits by the Dodgers. Hanley Ramirez followed with a broken-bat single to left to score Gonzalez. Michael Morse threw Ramirez out trying for a double, but the Dodgers began the fifth inning with threesingles, including an RBI liner to left by Juan Uribe, to take a two-run lead. It was more than Kershaw needed, firing a two-hit shutout in a 5-0 win that put the Dodgers back ahead of the Giants by a half-game in the National League West.
Giants manager Bruce Bochy said Vogelsong, who has received no run support in five of his last six starts, has “had some tough luck,” which extended to the Pence play Saturday. But Vogelsong scoffed at the notion.
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“We’re not going to start blaming it on that stuff,” Vogelsong said. “I do believe there’s some luck involved in this game, but at the end of the day I feel like you make your own luck most of the time, and a lot of that comes from making good pitches.”
Kershaw on Saturday offered an example. Gregor Blanco singled off Kershaw with one out in the first but was promptly erased as Buster Posey grounded into a double play. Kershaw did not allow another runner to reach until Morse walked with one out in the fifth, and didn’t give up another hit until Morse’s two-out single in the seventh.
Then again, nobody has hit Kershaw much lately. In his last 10 starts, he is 9-0 with a 0.96 ERA, 95 strikeouts and eight walks in 77 innings. In 11 career games at AT&T Park, Kershaw is 7-2 with a 0.69 ERA, the lowest of any pitcher with at least 50 innings at the stadium by more than a full run.
Early on, Vogelsong appeared a game opponent, but Gonzalez’s sun-aided double proved the start of his undoing. The glare remained a factor at that point only because of a rare 6 p.m. start time, and when Pence returned to right field the next inning, the shadows had reached nearly to the wall, making the sun a non-issue.
The Dodgers’ bats, however, remained an issue. Yasiel Puig and Gonzalez began the sixth by singling and doubling, respectively, and Puig scored when Carl Crawford hit a chopper to second baseman Dan Uggla, who gloved it on a dive but one-hopped Posey with a throw home. Uribe later drove in Crawford with a two-out double, and Vogelsong’s night ended when Joaquin Arias pinch-hit for him in the bottom of the inning.