If we’ve learned one thing about Christian Arroyo in his first week in the big leagues, it’s that he’s not afraid of the big moment.
It also looks like he’s not afraid of Clayton Kershaw.
Arroyo notched two hits in his second time facing the Dodgers ace, knocking in a run and scoring another to help the Giants (10-17) notch a 4-3 win to open the three-game road series against Los Angeles (14-13).
The rookie set up the Giants’ strong start with a solid single in his first at-bat, which Hunter Pence promptly followed up with a two-run homer to left.
Arroyo’s RBI came in the fifth inning. Unimpressed by Kershaw’s slider, Arroyo pulled one through the left side to knock in Gorkys Hernandez, who had reached second on a Kershaw throwing error.
Bruce Bochy had nothing but praise for the youngster:
“The kid’s done a nice job since he’s been up here, wherever we put him. He smoked that ball. He’s handled himself so well since he’s been up here. He can hit. He can play. It’s fun getting a chance to see what he can do at this stage.”
The Giants handed Kershaw (L, 4-2, 2.61 ERA) the loss, recording eight hits and three earned runs on the southpaw. Buster Posey said:
“We took some good, aggressive swings. We worked the count, fouled off some tough pitches. Anytime you can do that against Kershaw, it’s a good night.”
Arroyo’s RBI single put the Giants ahead 4-2, enough for Johnny Cueto to earn his fourth win of the season. Cueto (W, 4-1, 4.86 ERA) pitched seven innings and settled down after a rough first couple of frames.
Cueto was erratic in the first, allowing the first two runners to reach and allowing a run. He then gave up a two-out RBI single to Kershaw in the second, as the Dodgers’ pitcher dumped it the other way to tie the game. The Giants’ pitcher, who has been dealing with a blister, said through translator Erwin Higueros that he then had a moment with himself:
“I was giving myself a pep talk, trying to continue doing my thing.”
The offense helped him out against Kershaw, who Posey said rarely gives free passes:
“He doesn’t make many mistakes, so you hope that if you get one, you’re able to do something with it.”
And he did. In the very next frame, Buster Posey crushed a solo homer to left to give the Giants the lead back.
As the Giants’ bats came to life, Cueto, who sported a 5.10 ERA coming into the game, settled down. He retired 13 straight batters after Kershaw’s hit in the second, holding the Dodgers to three runs in seven innings.
“At first, I was a little bit timid. I wasn’t throwing my strikes. But I got a little upset at myself and I grinded it out.”
Cueto worked his way out of a jam with the lead intact in the seventh, his final inning. Again, he allowed the first two runners to reach, but after giving up an RBI hit with two out to Chris Taylor, Cueto got Andrew Toles to ground out to end the inning.
The uneventful later frames had to be music to the Giants’ ears; over the last two seasons, San Francisco’s 10 losses in games in which it has led after the eighth inning is tops in the majors, and this season has already season a myriad blown leads. With closer Mark Melancon taking the day off, Okert carried much of the load on Monday, going through the heart of the Dodgers’ lineup — from Corey Seager to Justin Turner to Adrian Gonzalez — and recording every out.
“We needed some help with Mark down and fill the gap there and [Okert] did it. He threw quality strikes, went through some quality hitters.”
And Law, who punctuated the night with a strikeout of Puig, joked to Okert in the clubhouse:
“Good friend for letting me get that save.”
For a Giants team that ended April with the worst record in the National League, this marked a much-needed, all-around win: strong pitching, run support and no bullpen meltdown.
Just one day into the new month, so far it’s all May flowers and no April showers for San Francisco.
Bruce Bochy continued experimenting with different options at the leadoff spot, sliding in Gorkys Hernandez on Monday … With eight more games remaining on this road trip, the Giants are now 4-9 away from home this season … Entering the night, Kershaw’s 1.60 career ERA in 37 starts against the Giants was the second lowest among National League pitchers against any opponent in the live-ball era … Pence’s home run was his first in 71 at-bats against the Dodgers and the first home run in the first inning for the Giants this season.