Dodgers, Kershaw snuff Giants to seal NL West
The Giants had to be absolutely perfect to stay alive. Kelby Tomlinson’s error in the first scuffed that unlikely goal.
Madison Bumgarner (L, 18-9, 2.93 ERA) was forced to pitch out of the stretch early after a Kiké Hernandez leadoff single; Carl Crawford sent a sharp line drive to short, a fan yelled “two!” just as the ball bounced off Tomlinson’s palm and into center field.
And just 24 hours after he did this.
Tomlinson pounded his glove and sulked before he and Angel Pagan realized Hernandez was headed for third as the ball dribbled into center. He scored on a Justin Turner sac fly, and suddenly appeared a light at the end of this weird tunnel.
An impatient Los Angeles Dodgers squad booted the San Francisco Giants out of the race-that-never-was Tuesday night with a three-homer 8-0 win, sealing their third consecutive NL West title.
Clayton Kershaw (W, 16-7, 2.16 ERA) shined for the complete game win in this season’s epic Kershaw-Bumgarner matchup. And the Dodgers tallied their first win at AT&T Park this season.
To be fair, this is the win that counts. And they wanted to seal the deal, said Dodgers’ manager Don Mattingly:
“These guys are great over there. I have so much respect for Boch and their staff. I know so many of those guys and their team, that’s a great championship club over there and they’re tough to beat… Honestly I did not want to lose this game tonight and have to get into more games here.”
The scrappy Giants struck gold with a lucky win over probable Cy Young winner Zack Greinke last night; they wouldn’t inch any closer to the Dodgers’ imminent reign over the West with Kershaw on the mound.
For those of you who’ve blocked September 2 out of your minds — no one blames you — a cold reminder: Kershaw pitched nine full and whiffed a career-high 15 Giants. He’s gone 11-1 in his last 16 starts and posted a 1.30 ERA.
The Giants could only muster one hit off Kershaw on Tuesday. Kevin Frandsen kicked a single in the third — his first hit with the Giants since 2009 — and the southpaw took just 100 pitches to smother his rivals.
The league’s strikeout leader, with a whopping 11.23 strikeouts per nine innings, exceeded his average punching out 13 Giants tonight. Kershaw, doused in Budweiser and champagne with his team celebrating the berth behind him, stayed humble about his team’s defeat over the reigning World Series Champions:
“Those guys, I’m sure those guys are fine. Obviously they want to make the playoffs, but they won three World Series in the last five years so, we might have clinched the division, but they’re still in a better spot than we are. They won three World Series in five years and that’s what we’re trying to get to.”
Tuesday, he was invincible:
“I was getting the first guy out of every inning, which was really helpful. A few lineouts. (Angel) Pagan the first batter of the game, Posey lined out to second. That’s huge, when you get guys lining out like that… keeps your pitch count down, they were swinging at the first pitch a lot.”
Bumgarner couldn’t hold the line for long after Tomlinson’s error. Hernandez stumped him again with a leadoff solo shot to start the third inning that gave the Dodgers the 2-0 lead.
The Dodgers worked every count they could against Bumgarner. Kershaw himself rubbed a little salt in the scrape, working a 13-pitch at-bat. Said Mattingly of his ace and hitters:
“He was really crisp, had that one little inning in there. The third, maybe, then he went into cruise control. … Then the at bat he puts on Bumgarner, we really wanted to work and fight tonight for our at bats.”
A tired Bumgarner had dished 100 pitches by the fifth inning. He trudged out in the sixth, tossed a 67 mph curveball gift to Justin Ruggiano — a pitch he hadn’t thrown since a May 15 game against the Reds’ Billy Hamilton, who also homered — that he smashed 448 feet to left field. Bumgarner hung his head, got back up, then gave up another to A.J. Ellis.
Photos by Scot Tucker/SFBay
Bum tipped his cap and left the mound to a standing ovation after 5-2/3 innings; he’s pitched 218.1 innings and a 2.93 ERA this season. Buster Posey called his year “unreal”:
“He should be really proud. I mean, I’m proud of him.”
Bum might have been done, but the Dodgers were not. They tacked on four more runs off a weary bullpen in the top of the eighth.
The Giants are out of it. It’s over. Call it another odd year calamity: They worked their way to the end of September with a guy sixth on the depth chart catching a must-win game, half the 2015 Sacramento River Cats taking the field, and working just a bit of magic to get their fans to this point.
Bruce Bochy couldn’t contain his pride:
“Four, concussions, three obliques and here we are on September 29. They fought.”
Keep in mind that this odd group of rookies, an MVP and Rookie of the Year candidate brought Don Mattingly and his $300 million Dodgers to the season’s brink. Bochy commented on his rookies’ late-season push:
“They didn’t play like kids, they played like men.”
The Giants’ elimination day was imminent, but it was made worse as they watched and heard their rivals from down south douse their home in celebratory champagne.
But, fans can find solace in the idea that this wild season of injuries and lost hope opened a little window into the 2016 Giants’ depth. They’ve got a lot of rookies with big-pressure MLB experience under their belts and a load of motivation riding into October and beyond, said Bumgarner:
“We have to take that into the offseason and give us a little fuel for next year.”
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