Photo credit: sfchronicle.com
By Lewis Rubman
Los Angeles: 9 | 9 | 2
San Francisco: 2 | 8 | 0
SAN FRANCISCO — The first order of business for the Giants this evening was the presentation of the Willie Mac Award to Kevin Pillar as the Giants player who best exemplifies the inspiration, character, and leadership that characterized Willie McCovey. It was the first time since his death that the award that honors his legacy had been bestowed. It’s not a stretch to say that his absence added a large dose of poignancy to the ceremony.
This was the third time that the Dodgers sent Walker Buehler (13-4, 3.25 ERA) to the mound against the Giants this season. He was the winner of a 10-3 thrashing of San Francisco at Oracle Park on April 30, giving up all of the Giants’ runs in his five and a third innings of work. He returned to McCovey Cove on June 9 to shut the Giants down without a run over seven innings on the way to a 1-0 white wash of the home team.
Johnny Cueto, the Giants’ starter, was facing the Dodgers for the first time this season, but it was the 21st time he pitched against them over his 13-year major league career. In his three starts since coming off the injured list on September 10, he had gone 1-1, 2.57 ERA. He looked good but hadn’t gone over four innings in any of those starts. He didn’t make it past two tonight.
If Cueto sparkled in his 1-2-3 first, he lost all of his luster in the second. Cody Bellinger and Corey Seger hit back to back homers to right center to open the frame. The Dodger bats paused for a moment while Will Smith walked, but he broke into a full-fledged run scoring on Gavin Lux’s triple off the right field fence. Cueto fanned Kike Hernández and Buehler, but Joc Pederson socked another dinger into the upper rows of the right center field seats for Los Angeles’s fourth and fifth tallies of the inning. You needn’t bother to look for Cueto’s line for the night; this paragraph tells you all you need to know about his performance.
The Giants got one run back in the bottom of the second. Pillar walked and advanced to third on Alex Dickerson’s single to center. Crawford’s sac fly to left drove him in, and when Dubón singled to right, it looked like the Giants might make a serious comeback. But Chris Shaw, batting for Cueto, and then Mike Yaztremski struck out.
Wandy Peralta took over for Cueto to start the third. With a little help from a pitcher’s best friend he held the visitors to one infield hit in that frame. He would pitch a 1-2-3 fourth before being lifted for a pinch hitter in the bottom of that inning.
Meanwhile, the Giants had drawn closer in the bottom of the third. Another sacrifice fly, Pillar’s shot to right, enabled Brandon Belt, who had walked and reached third on Vogt’s double to right, to score the Giants’ second run, getting home before catcher Will Smith could tag him out. Pederson’s throw was right on the money, but a mite too slow in arriving.
Peralta held Los Angeles through fourth, giving way to a pinch-hitter in the bottom half of that inning and being followed on the rubber by Sam Selman, another southpaw.
Buehler pitcched in and out of trouble until the Giants’ sixth, when he was relieved by Dylan Floro, who got Dubón out on a fly to right before yielding to Caleb Ferguson. Ferguson struck out the pinch hitting Cristhian Adames before surrendering a two out double to left to Yaztremski. He went to three and two on Belt before walking him. That was it for Ferguson, and it was up to Yimi García to face Evan Longoria, who represented the tying run. He got the Giants’ third baseman to ground to Muncy at first but then dropped the throw that would have ended the inning. Now Garcia had to face Stephen Vogt with the bases loaded. Vogt flew out to right.
Buehler’s line was two runs, both earned, on five hits and four walks. He struck out eight in his five innings of work, in which he threw 104 pitches, 67 of them strikes.
Kyle Barraclough, San Francisco’s newest entry in tonight’s mound sweepstakes, struck out Hernández and walked Edwin Ríos, batting for García. In came Andrew Suárez to pitcher for San Francisco. In came David Freese to bat for Pederson. He hit into a 6-4-3 double play, but the Giants still trailed 5-2.
Casey Sadler was the next in the long line of Dodger relievers. He, too, dodged a bullet when Lux made a leaping catch of a liner hit into the shift by Jaylin Davis, pinch hitting (naturally) with two outs and two on in the seventh.
The Giants’ bullpen had held Los Angeles scoreless for five innings when, with Shaun Anderson on the mound, a double by Chris Taylor, a conceded walk to Bellinger, and a fielder’s choice on a grounder by Seager into the shift to Crawford, whose behind the back flip to Dubón went astray loaded the bases with one out. Will Smith’s single to left center then drove in Taylor and Bellinger, to up the Angelinos’ advantage to 7-2. Hernández drove in Seager and Smith. It was now 9-2 and all over but the shouting.
The Giants made a quixotic attempt to make a game of it in the eighth, loading the bases with two out, but Tony Gonsolin got Dickerson to fly out to center.
The Giants used seven pitchers in their vain attempt to stifle the Dodgers’ offense. Los Angeles also used seven but to much better effect.
Buehler got the win; Cueto, the loss. There was no save. The Giants left 17 men on base.
It will be Hyun-Jin Ryu against Logan Webb tomorrow at 1:05 p.m. and Rich Hill facing Madison Bumgarner at 12:05 p.m. to finish the season on Sunday. After that game, there will be a major celebration to honor Bruce Bochy on his retirement.