The Dodgers had been shut out just once this season in their first 37 games. Then they arrived at AT&T Park and did not score a run for 27 innings.
The Giants completed a three-game sweep of the Dodgers on Thursday with a 4-0 win behind Madison Bumgarner, who hit a third-inning solo home run off of Clayton Kershaw that accounted for one more run than the Giants allowed in the entire series.
It was the Giants’ eighth shutout this season, seven of which have come this month, all at home. It’s the first time in the San Francisco era that the Giants have recorded that many home shutouts in one month and the second time in four years the Giants have held their rivals scoreless over a three-game series (also June 25-27, 2012).
The Giants are 7-2 against the Dodgers this season, including 6-0 at home, and largely for that reason have closed from six games back of Los Angeles in the National League West on April 20 – when the Giants were 4-10 – to only 11/2 games back.
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“It is early,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “We’re behind, so we need to win games. Great series for us. I mean the pitching, what our starters did the whole series, Bum had a couple tough acts to follow.”
After Tim Hudson and Tim Lincecum led the Giants to shutout wins in the first two games, Bumgarner took it a step further Thursday, throwing 61/3 scoreless innings and hitting his first homer of the season – and the first allowed by Kershaw to a pitcher in the majors in 411 plate appearances.
That may have been the highlight, but it was Bumgarner’s ability to pitch out of trouble that kept the Giants’ shutout streak intact. The Dodgers put runners into scoring position in five of the first six innings against Bumgarner, but the left-hander escaped every jam, lowering his ERA in three starts against the Dodgers (and Kershaw) this season to 1.31.
“We had to make some pitches at times, and we were able to,” Bumgarner said. “So that’s all you can ask.”
All the traffic did drive up Bumgarner’s pitch count, and he faced just one batter in the seventh, retiring Joc Pederson on a popup on his 107th pitch. He was happy to turn the ball over to
the Giants’ bullpen, which contributed 71/3 scoreless innings in the series. George Kontos, Javier Lopez, Sergio Romo and Santiago Casilla combined to record the final eight outs
Asked how much confidence he had handing Thursday’s game to the bullpen – with the score 2-0 at the time – Bumgarner said: “As much as you can possibly have.”
“Our guys know how to pitch,” he said. “We don’t really have any flamethrowers, like a lot of teams. But everybody we run out there knows how to pitch, knows how to get outs and knows how to win. It’s fun to watch them compete.”
Giants pitching has a combined 2.61 ERA in May, and the team is 14-5 for the month. The Giants also have highest winning percentage in the majors (.704, with a 19-8 record) since April 21 and have won six straight overall.
“It’s early in the season, but it’s good to be playing this brand of ball,” Bochy said.
“I know we got off to a rough start, and we all knew that’s not who we are. I think we’ve become more who we are right now. We’re playing better baseball, and it’s a nice run.”
Notes – For the thousands of people at AT&T Park who saw Bumgarner’s swing at Clayton Kershaw’s first-pitch fastball in the third inning, first baseman Brandon Belt was not one of them. Belt said he was in the bathroom, but he heard the crowd react.
“He’s swinging for the fences every time he goes up there,” Belt cracked. “He’s going to connect every now and then. I don’t give him too much credit.”
In seriousness, Belt added: “It’s awesome. He definitely makes the opposing pitcher feel uncomfortable up there.”
Belt was in some discomfort in the fourth inning after taking a Kershaw pitch off his right wrist.
A similar pitch broke Belt’s left thumb last season, and he said even he was “having flashbacks. But for the most part, you can tell right away if it broke something, and I didn’t think it did.”
Belt said he had some precautionary tests on his hand after the game but checked out OK.
“It doesn’t feel great,” he said, “but it doesn’t feel too bad.”
▪ Angel Pagan had a definite impact in this series, making a catch at the wall Wednesday night and another running catch Thursday, and scoring the Giants’ second run on a Hunter Pence single after leading off the fourth inning with a double off Kershaw. Pagan singled in the eighth and scored again on a Pence infield single.
“He’s an electric player and just really fun to watch,” Bumgarner said of Pagan. “When he’s out there, it seems like he’s always doing good.”
Pagan was back in the No. 3 spot in the lineup Thursday after leading off in the second game. Nori Aoki led off Thursday and reached in his first three at-bats against Kershaw. Per a baseball-reference.com search, Aoki is just the third Giant to reach three times against Kershaw in a game, joining Joaquin Arias (April 28) and Pat Burrell (April 11, 2011).
Kershaw’s four runs allowed Thursday were the most he’s given up in a start at AT&T.
▪ The Giants six-game home winning streak against the Dodgers is their longest since they took six in a row from Los Angeles at Candlestick Park from June 1 to Sept. 13, 1972. The last time they swept the Dodgers in back-to-back home series of three or more games was in 1961 (Aug. 18-20 and Sept. 8-10).
▪ The Giants now head to Colorado, where they have four games, including a Saturday doubleheader. Bochy said he plans to start Yusmeiro Petit in one of Saturday’s games. The only change would be if Petit is needed in relief Friday, but Bochy said he’s “comfortable” with the state of the bullpen after this series.
The pitching probables in Colorado:
Friday: RHP Ryan Vogelsong (2-2, 5.31) vs. RHP Kyle Kendrick (1-5, 6.70)
Saturday Game 1: RHP Chris Heston (3-2, 3.72) vs. RHP Jordan Lyles (2-4, 4.53)
Saturday Game 2: RHP Yusmeiro Petit (1-0, 3.27) vs. TBA
Sunday: RHP Tim Hudson (2-3, 4.01) vs. RHP Chad Bettis (0-0, 5.73)