BY ANTHONY SOSA
A clutch three-run home run by Evan Longoria in the bottom of the first inning and a solid start from Ty Blach helped the San Francisco Giants defeat the Los Angeles Dodgers 4-2, in front of an electric, sold-out crowd Sunday at AT&T Park. The victory secured a series win for the Giants as they took three out of four from their bitter rivals.
Despite playing a draining double-header on Saturday, the Giants wasted no time getting Ty Blach some early run support. In the bottom of the first inning, a two-out double by Buster Posey got a rally started. After Brandon Belt walked, Longoria stepped in with runners on first and second, and clobbered a 2-1 Kenta Maeda slider into the left-field bleachers. The 331-foot blast was Longoria’s sixth homer of 2018.
“What a great two-out rally,” said manager Bruce Bochy about the Giants’ first inning success. “You always want to score early, but a three-run homer, that is something that can really jump start a club. We had a long day yesterday. It’s a game that you do want to score first and get on the board. Both teams had to be tired today and you’re doing all you can to get those early runs.” Blach turned in yet another quality start against the Dodgers. The lefty provided six innings of work, allowing two earned runs on six hits along with four strikeouts while walking only one.
“We were able to execute a lot of pitches, move the ball in-and-out and the defense made some awesome plays,” Blach said. “It’s just a matter of seeing what they (opposing hitters) are trying to do in the box. Buster does a great job, Nick’s the same way, seeing what those guys are doing in the box, what they are trying to do each at-bat and their approach. So, you just learn to mix in-and-out, change speeds, try to throw them some different looks and try to stay away from some of the similar sequences you’ve thrown them in the past.”
In seven career starts against the Dodgers, Blach now owns a 1.64 ERA having given up eight earned runs in 44 innings. His 1.64 ERA is the second-lowest by any Giants’ starter against the Dodgers since 1958 (minimum four starts). By earning the win, Blach improves to 2-3 on the year with an ERA of 4.10.
“I’m sure he (Blach) gets caught in the added attention,” Bochy said about Blach’s performances against the Dodgers. “The fans are into it, whether here or down in L.A. I think he realizes he’s got to focus every pitch. He just does a great job of that. He seems to just pick it up against them.”
In the bottom of the third, the Giants added another run to their 3-0 lead. After a two-out walk by Posey, Belt delivered a scorching line drive off the brick wall in right-center field.
Despite giving up three runs early-on, Maeda settled in on the mound and allowed just one run in his following five innings of work. He finished with six innings pitched, allowing four runs on six hits with three punch outs to go along with four walks. With the loss, Maeda now carries a 2-2 record with a 3.76 ERA.
The Dodgers’ offense scuffled in the first four innings of the game, managing to get just one hit. However, in the fifth inning, they finally plated their first run of the game. A pinch-hit RBI single by Joc Pederson scored Max Muncy. They added another run in the sixth inning when Kike Hernandez knocked in Chris Taylor.
Both bullpens provided three shutout innings of relief. Hunter Strickland was called upon again in the ninth inning. He pitched an easy 1-2-3 final frame, earning his seventh save of the season. He closed out all three of the Giants wins this series, converting two saves in the process. After the game, Bochy commended Strickland for working on his secondary pitches during the offseason, crediting that as a part of his early season success.
“I think that confidence is the biggest thing,” Strickland said. “Working hard on those (secondary pitches). Realizing they are a little bit different and a little bit better, so just trusting it. I think you want to get better every year, every game, whatever it is. I think there is always something to learn in this game.”
With Sunday’s win, the Giants improved to .500 for the first time since April 12 when they were 6-6. They’ve now won three straight series (Los Angeles Angels, Washington Nationals and the Dodgers). Their 14-14 record has them standing right in the middle of the NL West. They find themselves six games back of the division-leading Arizona Diamondbacks.
The Giants now hold a 6-4 record against the Dodgers in 2018. “We have to win games in our division, simple as that,” Longoria said. “We got off to a bit of a slow start and it’s now starting to come together. Top to bottom I think we are feeling much more confident as a group. The mindset just has to be, it doesn’t matter what jersey we are playing against, go out there and try to win.”
With one final series left during their homestand, the Giants welcome the San Diego Padres into town for a three-game series starting Monday. Jeff Samardzija (1-1, 6.23) toes the rubber in his third start of the season. In his last start, Samardzija struggled against the Nationals. He pitched just 3.2 innings, allowing six earned runs on eight hits to go along with three walks and three strikeouts. Left-hander Eric Lauer (0-1, 18.00) will take the hill for the Padres in his second career big league start. In his Major League debut, Lauer pitched three innings, where he surrendered seven runs (six earned) on six hits along with four walks and three strikeouts against the Colorado Rockies. First pitch is slated for 7:15 p.m. at AT&T Park.
After being placed on the DL on Saturday, Joe Panik will head to LA and see a hand specialist for his thumb. He’s likely to have surgery, and if that’s the case, the timetable for his return would range from six to eight weeks.
Before the game, the Dodgers placed Yasiel Puig on the 10-day DL. He suffered both a hip and ankle injury after colliding into a wall in right-field territory and fouling a ball off his foot in Game 1 of Saturday’s double-header.
After today’s matchup, the Giants and Dodgers have now faced each other 10 times in April alone. It’s only the second time in MLB history that two teams have played against one another 10 times before April ended. However, these two teams aren’t the only clubs to do it this season. The Padres and Rockies, and the Tampa Bay Rays and Boston Red Sox also had 10 matchups against one another in April.