Said Bruce Bochy:
“You’re up against the best pitcher in the game. Somebody as good as Kershaw, you have to play your best ball. We didn’t do that.”
Instead, the San Francisco (57-90) made disastrous mistakes all but securing their 5-3 loss to help the Dodgers (93-52) snap an 11-game losing streak and clinch a postseason berth.
Johnny Cueto‘s changeup had Los Angeles grasping early; he struck out five through the first two innings. A rapidly rising pitch count was tapping his shoulder, though.
Austin Slater‘s weird misplay of Kershaw’s line drive in the fourth did more damage. Kershaw ultimately scored on a sac fly and Puig notched the add-ons to give the Dodgers pitcher a three-run lead. The slumping Dodgers used all of.
Cueto left the game 4 innings in with 101 pitches and a loss in hand, still not willing to blame his teammates behind him:
“If my teammates are going to make errors, it’s my job to get outs.”
Cueto looked like Cueto, said Bochy, but the jabs caught up to him:
“Pitch count caught with him there, but most of that was lack of defense and mistakes we made.”
Defensive mishaps aside, the lineup Bochy sent out didn’t scream Kershaw Killers — the lefties got a day after Monday’s 2 a.m. finish.
Kelby Tomlinson got the nod for Brandon Crawford at short and became Kershaw’s kryptonite for the night, first knocking a 2-0 inside fastball to deep left for his first home run since 2015 (second one that’s left the park) to give the Giants a 1-0 lead.
His second hit off Kershaw should have put Nick Hundley to third base for a pinch-hitter, but a bad send from third base coach Phil Nevin had Hundley chopped down easily several feet from scoring. The send was warranted given the guy on the mound, Bochy later said.
Tomlinson channeled Crawford with his glove, too, snatching Enrique Hernandez‘s grounder, spinning for the out. The team had fight.
With Kershaw out — striking out six and allowing two runs in his 6 innings — the Giants came within one run on Pence’s ground-out, scoring Denard Span in the seventh. But a Buster Posey double play ended the rally and Justin Turner doubled home some insurance against Derek Law a half-inning later.
Kenley Jansen came one extra-base hit away from extending the Dodgers’ losing streak to 12. Span singled to start the bottom of the ninth and Panik and Pence reached on infield hits to load the bases with one out. But Posey and Hundley struck out. The Dodgers have their first win since September 1.
Silver lining: the bullpen picked up Cueto after his rough start. Law’s one would be the only the group would allow through six innings. Roberto Gomez struck out two in a perfect ninth.
Mark Melancon had surgery on his pronator today and it went well, according to Bochy. He should need 6-8 weeks to recover. The team expects him to be ready for 2018 Spring Training.