By Morris Phillips
Weren’t expecting Buster Posey to go star power on his first at-bat off the injured list? Probably weren’t expecting the Giants to move into first place in the NL West and stay there for nearly two months either.
The Giants got the jump on the Dodgers in this critical, four-game series on Monday with a 7-2 win, and they did it as only they can: with contributions from a bunch of guys, some of them virtually nameless.
Posey was the biggest name, homering in the first inning to put the Giants up 2-0. In a series involving baseball’s two best teams, his blast made a statement.
“To see him come out, step up to the plate and hit a big home run for us was incredibly impressive,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “I thought he had great at-bats throughout the night.”
The disappointment of not making the statement Posey did stung the Dodgers. Manager Dave Roberts sure expressed that, after his club couldn’t push across any runs for the game’s final eight innings.
“Obviously we’ve got these guys three more times” this week, Roberts said. “I know my focus is to win a baseball game tomorrow. That’s all we can control.”
The Dodgers blew anoher opportunity to catch the Giants atop the division, they’ll get more opportunities, but so far none have been cashed in. Meanwhile, the Giants continue their unlikely season with their postseason and division win probability numbers increasing substantially. The Giants moved into first place May 31, and despite some hiccups, they’ve remained there ever since.
The first inning had all the fireworks with both teams coming up with back-to-back homers. Posey and Wilmer Flores gave the Giants a 3-0 lead, then Max Muncy and Justin Turner answered against Kevin Gausman, who had a rough return from emergency leave due to complications with his wife’s childbirth.
Not much offensively happened after the first, but both pitchers were doomed. The Dodgers’ Tony Gonsolin lasted just four innings, Gausman three.
“I’m not locating well with the heater,” Gonsolin said. “Slider is hit or miss. Splitter is about hit or miss. Curveball’s actually decent right now.”
Gonsolin’s only gone past the fourth inning once in seven starts. That’s an issue for the Dodgers now that Trevor Bauer’s availability is at the height of uncertainty. The Giants exploiting the issue of Los Angeles’ thinning starting rotation only exacerbated what was already a problem. The Dodgers don’t have an announced starter for Tuesday–they’ll throw Julio Urias and Walker Buehler in the series final, two games–and they don’t have the injured Clayton Kershaw either. The Giants won’t see him, but David Price is also being given an opportunity to start some games, and heralded rookie Josiah Gray could make his debut on Tuesday.
The Giants have Alex Wood taking the mound on Tuesday. Wood had a rough stretch, but four of his last five starts have resulted in Giants’ wins. Having a former Dodger facing his ex-teammates in this spot provides tremendous motivation. For the Giants, Tuesday’s matchup against the Dodgers’ unknown is a win.
Five Giants relievers followed Gausman Monday, and they completely shut everything down. Only closer Jake McGee allowed a hit, and the Giants cruised in a game that could have been filled with continuous stress.
Jason Vosler, Thairo Estrada and Austin Slater provided RBI hits in a four-run seventh inning. Estrada, the former Yankee who hit just four homers in 61 games with the Bombers the last two seasons, now has a prominent spot with the Giants replacing Brandon Crawford at shortstop. On Monday, he delivered.
The Giants also produced an impressive hit total of 12 against a pitching staff that’s been difficult for them. The Dodgers managed just four hits, and their crowd of 50,000 plus was near silent for most of the game.