It is rare enough for the Giants to score a run off Clayton Kershaw at AT&T Park, much less mount a rally, but the latter occurred twice Sunday. They laced together two hits and a walk in the third inning and three singles in the seventh, with each resulting in a run and feeling like a victory unto itself against the Dodgers left-hander, who in his first 10 career starts in San Francisco had allowed a total of six earned runs.
It speaks to the margin for error when facing Kershaw, though, that the two runs were not enough. The Dodgers scored twice in the second inning aided largely by a play on which the Giants made two throwing errors. Giants starter Yusmeiro Petit went to one 2-0 count all afternoon, and left a slider over the middle of the plate that Matt Kemp hit to the left-center field seats for a two-run homer in the sixth.
And behind their ace, the Dodgers won the final meeting between these teams at AT&T Park this season, 4-2, to depart San Francisco with a three-game lead in the National League West. After absorbing the first punch of the series in a 9-0 loss Friday night, they countered by outscoring the Giants 21-2 over the final 18 innings, handing the Giants their first back-to-back losses since late August.
“Sure, we made a couple mistakes,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said, “and when you’re going against a guy like Kershaw, that can come back to haunt you.”
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The Dodgers struck first when Juan Uribe bounced a single to right in the second inning and Hanley Ramirez, running from first base, decided to test Hunter Pence’s arm and try for third. Pence’s throw was off-line and got away from Pablo Sandoval, and Ramirez sprinted home ahead of another wild throw by Petit, which allowed Uribe to take third. Uribe then scored on A.J. Ellis’ sacrifice fly.
“I thought Petit threw the ball very well and that came back to hurt us there,” Bochy said. “A good throw at home would’ve got him.”
Petit said he could have made a better throw but rushed to get rid of the ball.
He did not allow another runner past second base until the sixth – throwing just 59 pitches over the first five innings with eight strikeouts – when Adrian Gonzalez doubled and Petit fell behind Kemp, 2-0. Petit – who said he doesn’t like pitching behind in counts because “sometimes you have to miss with the pitch in the middle” – did just that, throwing a slider that Kemp crushed to give the Dodgers a 4-1 lead.
“It was a slider, but it was a hanger,” Petit said. “I threw the hanging slider and paid.”
Tasked with opposing Kershaw, who is now 8-2 with a 0.83 ERA in 11 career starts at AT&T Park, Petit allowed four runs (three earned) in seven innings in what Bochy termed “a great effort. He gave us a chance and we created some pretty good chances there. We were just missing one more hit to really keep things rolling.”
Buster Posey had a big hit in the third, after Petit worked a nine-pitch walk off Kershaw and Joe Panik singled. With two outs, Posey lined a single into left-center, but as Petit chugged home with the Giants’ first run, Posey headed for second base. Yasiel Puig’s throw did, too, and it beat Posey to the bag to end the inning for the Giants, who would have had two runners on for cleanup hitter Hunter Pence in a 2-1 game.
“When I rounded first I didn’t pick (the ball) up great, but he made a good play on it,” Posey said. “I don’t feel like it was a terrible mistake. I think the throw’s off-line a little bit, I’m safe.”
Bochy said the decision was “something you’d like to have back, but hey, you want these guys going all-out and that’s what he was doing.”
The Giants touched Kershaw again in the seventh when pinch-hitter Matt Duffy’s two-out single scored Andrew Susac from second, but Angel Pagan grounded out to end the inning.
Kershaw returned for the eighth despite being over 100 pitches, and after Panik grounded out, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly approached the mound for a talk. It was brief, and ended with Kershaw staying in to strike Posey out on three pitches and retire Pence on a fly ball as the left-hander’s final batter in his majors-leading 19th win.
“I enjoy this feeling,” Kershaw said. “I enjoy winning. It doesn’t matter what team it’s against, but obviously against the Giants, it feels good.”
Kershaw is lined up to face the Giants once more when these teams reconvene for their final series in Los Angeles in a week. Both teams have 13 games remaining, so despite the series loss, Posey said afterward: “There’s plenty that can happen still.”
It would behoove the Giants, though, to whittle down their three-game deficit over the next week, with series against sub-.500 teams in Arizona and San Diego?
“It’d be nice,” Posey said.