That’s Amaury’s News and Commentary podcast: White Sox surprised Yanks Donaldson got just a one day suspension; Cardinals Molina out for bereavement after pitching Sunday

New York Yankees Josh Donaldson (left) and manager Aaron Boone (right) talk during the first inning against the Chicago White Sox at Guarantee Rate Field in Chicago on Sun May 22, 2022 (AP News)

On That’s Amaury News and Commentary podcast:

#1 MLB suspended New York Yankees Josh Donaldson one game for making a Jackie Robinson reference to Chicago White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson on Saturday. Donaldson after the game in New York made the Jackie Robinson reference and said he meant no disrespect but White Sox pitching coach Ethan Katz was surprised that he only got one day.

#2 The Jackie Robinson reference was an undertone a dog whistle to Anderson who is black and Donaldson is white player. Donaldson said that he was joking around in the past with Anderson about the Robinson reference when Anderson said he feels like today’s Jackie Robinson.

#3 Amaury, Sunday the St Louis Cardinals pitcher Yadier Molina who pitched in relief giving up two home runs and four runs after the Cardinals swept the Pittsburgh Pirates in four games at PNC Park. The Cardinals have placed Molina on the bereavement list the reason for the bereavement was not disclosed.

#4 The San Francisco Giants are coming off losing a three game sweep against the San Diego Padres at Oracle Park. The Giants also lost first baseman Brandon Belt to the 10 day IL for an inflamed right knee. Giants manager Gabe Kapler said the team is still in good shape.

#5 The Oakland A’s have lost seven of their last ten games and have lost two of three to the Los Angeles Angels over the weekend including Sunday’s 4-1 loss. A’s pitcher Cole Irvin lost the contest and the A’s are not getting any run support.

Amaury Pi Gonzalez is the lead Spanish play by play announcer for the Oakland A’s on flagship station Le Grande KIQI 1010 San Francisco and does News and Commentary at http://www.sportsradioservice.com

Cold Snap: Giants shut down, lose 1-0 ending 5-game win streak

By Morris Phillips

SAN FRANCISCO–Just six pitches in, Chad Pinder put the Giants’ win streak on notice.

Pinder’s line drive, first inning home run off Sam Long not only made a statement, it soon became the statement. The A’s and starter Paul Blackburn made it stand up in the A’s 1-0 win that gained them a split of the two-game series.

The Giants failed to score, but they also missed an opportunity to gain first place in the NL West and take full advantage of a rare, second consecutive loss by the Dodgers. Instead the Giants’ limped through a meager evening of just three hits, along with seeing offensive leader Joc Pederson suffer a troubling groin injury.

Already without Mike Yastrzemski, Steven Duggar and Lamonte Wade Jr., Pederson’s potential absence thins their outfield considerably. But if that’s what a team off to a flying start must experience, then so be it.

“I don’t really want to miss any games, but those games are always more fun,” Pederson said. “I think I have to look at the bigger picture. You see our team and it’s a playoff-caliber, World Series-caliber team. So the game matters now but you don’t want to put yourself risk of an injury that might cause you not to be able to play down the road.”

Jakob Junis, the length man in support of opener Long, kept the Giants within range by pitching five, scoreless innings while allowing four hits and striking out six. Jake McGee, Tyler Rogers and Camillo Doval followed with scoreless innings to boost the hosts hopes for a tying run at some point. But that run never materialized.

Paul Blackburn picked up the win by limiting the Giants to three hits over his five innings of work. Blackburn induced Brandon Belt’s double play, ground ball with the bases loaded that ended the third inning.

The Giants’ other threat came in the fifth when Luis Gonzalez leadoff with a double. But the outfielder was left stranded as Thairo Estrada, Jason Vosler and Curt Casali recorded outs.

West Coast Chess: Brainy managers, twins highlight Padres 4-2 win over the Giants

By Morris Phillips

SAN FRANCISCO–A match-up of high-minded managers that won’t give an inch while trying to swipe a couple of runs isn’t necessarily groundbreaking, but deploying competing, identical twins on a freezing cold night sure provides a unique edge.

That was the scene at Oracle Park on Monday as the Bob Melvin-led Padres pushed their way past the Giants and newly-minted Manager of the Year, Gabe Kapler, winning 4-2.

The NL West hopefuls, both trying to top each other while keeping the division favorite Dodgers within their sights, engaged in station-to-station baseball while searching for a breakthrough with San Diego’s Austin Nola the only slugger able to cut through the cold air with his solo blast in the fifth that gave the Padres a brief 2-1 lead.

The rest was a chess match, orchestrated by Melvin and Kapler and executed by the competing twins, Taylor and Tyler Rogers. In the seventh, Tyler allowed a tie-breaking run on two hits, and Taylor–recently acquired in a trade with the Twins–pitched a scoreless ninth and saved it for the visitors.

“We’re both trying to throw a lot of strikes,” Tyler said. “We both do throw a lot of strikes. We pitch different–I pitch different than everybody–but, really, if you look at it, we’re very similar pitchers.”

The twins were only fifth set to compete in a major league game and the first since Ozzie and Jose Canseco did it in 1990. The upcoming two games of the series won’t feature both as Tyler departed after the game to be with his wife, Jennifer, who is due to give birth in the coming days.

But the occasion was clearly energizing for both, and they’ll 16 more opportunities to compete this season after the trade brought them closer together.

“Normally we leave for the season and I don’t see him again for eight months,” Tyler said. “So I’m looking forward to seeing him throughout the year. Dinners are on him.”

More so than Tyler Rogers’ rough inning, the Giants saw their evening unravel with an 0 for 11 performance with runners in scoring position which wasted eight base hits, four walks and two doubles. San Diego’s Nick Martinez, making his first big league start since 2017, was the first to survive all the Giants’ traffic on the basepaths by pitching five innings while striking out six, walking one and scattering five of those Giants’ hits.

Alex Wood lasted just 4 1/3 innings in his first start, departing after he allowed Nola’s homer that put the Giants in a 2-1 hole.

The Padres and Giants pick it up again on Tuesday with Yu Darvish and Alex Cobb getting the starting pitching assignments.

Bad, Good: X-Ray reveals fracture in Brandon Belt’s thumb as Giants hope to capture NL West title

By Morris Phillips

The Giants have announced that first baseman Brandon Belt has a fracture in his left thumb, the result of a 93-mph fastball thrown by Lucas Gilbreath that clipped Belt as he squared to bunt in Sunday’s game in Denver.

Belt recoiled in pain upon the impact of the pitch and was removed from the game. The 33-year old in the midst of perhaps the biggest month of his career (.349 with 9 home runs, 18 RBI and 30 hits) expressed doubt that the injury was serious after the game, but it’s clear he will miss the final week of the regular season and at least the start of the playoffs.

Officially, the team said that Belt will meet with doctors tomorrow and in the days after to develop a plan of action, and a determination of how long he will be out. An update is expected after the first meeting with doctors tomorrow.

Belt suffered a broken left thumb in 2014 and missed 51 games. On that occasion in which he was hit by a pitch thrown by the Dodgers’ Paul Maholm, and the initial prognosis was that he would miss six weeks, and he ended up missing eight. In 2014, Belt played in a career-low 61 games (in 2020, Belt played in 51 of 60, the shortened season impacted by the COVID crisis) finishing with just 12 homers and 27 RBI. But that season, Belt was healthy for the postseason, hitting .295 with 18 hits in 17 games as the Giants captured the World Series title.

The difference between the two injuries? Belt (and manager Bruce Bochy) knew immediately his thumb was broken in 2014, but the injury transpired in the season’s 36th game, early enough for him to recover and aid the team’s postseason push.

This time, the timing couldn’t be any worse. Not only are the Giants battling for the division title with six games remaining, a potential showdown with the Dodgers would begin October 8, a date that might not be possible for Belt to meet even if his fracture doesn’t require surgery and he makes a quick recovery.

Besides the Belt injury, Sunday was another revelation for the club in that they again came up big late in a ballgame, besting the Rockies 6-2 and sweeping the three-game series in Denver. That, along with a Saturday loss by the Dodgers to Arizona in which starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw was roughed up for four runs before being lifted in the fifth inning of a 7-2 decision, gives the Giants a two-game lead with six games remaining.

According to baseball-reference.com’s playoff odds, the Giants now have 90.3 percent chance to capture the division, with the Dodgers clinging to hope with a 9.7 percent chance to prevail. The Giants have the easier schedule with home games against the Diamondbacks and the Padres, while the Dodgers close with the Padres for three, then the Brewers for three. Milwaukee has clinched the NL Central, but in a bit of scheduling intrigue may not be content to play their backups as they will be visiting Dodgers Stadium for the first time in 2021, and may want their regular lineups battle tested against the team they lost to in Game 7 of the 2018 NLCS.

The Brewers quietly could be planning big things. They have held of the challenge of the Cardinals–currently riding a 16-game win streak–and have several things in their favor heading into the final week:

The Brewers can, again, both rest and prepare, more likely with them playing their backups in a series with St. Louis beginning Tuesday, then ramp it up for the Dodgers over the weekend without hampering their preparation for Game 1 of the NLDS with them likely hosting Atlanta on October 8. Milwaukee already knows it will have home field advantage in the NLDS, and that they will avoid consecutive series against the teams with the NL’s best records, the Giants and the Dodgers. Also, if the Dodgers prevail over the Giants in a likely NLDS showdown, and the Brewers advance, Milwaukee would have home field against Los Angeles in the championship series.

Not what Giants’ fans would want, but Milwaukee is formidable with starters Corbin Burnes and Brandon Woodruff along with closer Josh Hader (34 saves). Also, they’ve qualified for the postseason for the fourth straight season and have that 2018 disappointment they like to settle with Los Angeles.

For the Giants, especially with Belt injured, winning the division as quickly as possible is an even bigger aspiration. Look for them to go all out to sweep the D’Backs and put tremendous pressure on the Dodgers going into the final weekend. As an aside, Madison Bumgarner is the announced pitcher for Arizona in Thursday’s series finale, which would be his first time pitching in San Francisco since he signed with the D’Backs in the offseason prior to the 2020 season.

Also, the Giants would like to end things in the NL West as soon as possible to clear the path for Johnny Cueto and Scott Kazmir to pitch in the same game to test both veterans’ postseason readiness. If the division is clinched, that pairing of Cueto and Kazmir could come Saturday against San Diego.

On Tuesday, the Giants open their series with Arizona in front of a large, home crowd and Logan Webb on the mound. Arizona has announced Luke Weaver as their starter. Weaver is 0-4 with a 7.94 ERA in his five starts on the road.

Bullpen Bopped: Giants upended by the Padres in 9-6 loss, NL West lead drops to 1 1/2 games

By Morris Phillips

SAN FRANCISCO–When you’re as good as the Giants have been in 2021, circumstances often don’t matter. This guy back in, that guy out with COVID, formidable opponent, less than ideal scheduling and travel, for the best in baseball Giants it hasn’t mattered.

On Wednesday night, with their bullpen showing strain, and the visiting Padres as desperate as desperate comes, the Giants’ circumstances did matter.

The Padres saddled all seven Giants’ relievers that pitched with at least two hits, in a 16-hit attack that overwhelmed the home team from the first inning on. San Diego broke a 5-game losing streak, and kept their dissipating playoff hopes alive with a 9-6 win.

It’s not ideal,” manager Gabe Kapler said of attempting to beat the Padres twice in three games by utilizing a row of relievers. “We have to make the best of it, and I think thus far we’ve been able to do that. Tonight was definitely not that. We just got beat.”

Minus Alex Wood and Johnny Cueto, the Giants have soldiered on with just three starters… for the first half of September. That’s a long stretch for a major league baseball to be out of its routine, and even more challenging at this stage of a long season.

The answer: the Giants won 11 of 14 despite all the upheaval.

“I think it’s pretty tough to ask them to go out there like this multiple times a week, but they’ve done it,” Brandon Belt said of the bullpen’s heroism. “They haven’t said a word, and they’ve gotten the job done, for the most part. Tonight we just couldn’t pick them up.”

Dominic Leone got the start for the second time in this series as the opener, and finally the bullpen ace with the ridiculously low ERA faltered. Two of three batters Leone faced drew walks, and big swinging Fernando Tatis Jr. singled to shortstop. Three batters into the game, Leone was done, after pitching five scoreless inning in three previous starts this month.

That start triggered the Padres, who have been in an incredible slide in which they’ve gone from wild card probables to barely breathing by losing 21 of 29. Adam Walker’s RBI double gave the Padres a 2-0 first inning lead, and they stretched it to 5-0 in the second when Manny Machado and Eric Hosmer came up with big hits off Jarlin Garcia.

Still the Giants battled, extending their streak of scoring at least six runs in a game to 10, the longest such streak in their San Francisco history. The biggest issues blunting the Giants’ comeback: Brandon Crawford’s second inning error triggered San Diego’s three-run rally, and Jose Quintana–the former Angel picked up off waivers two weeks ago–got taken advantage of. The 51st of his 52 pitches thrown in the fifth and sixth innings was hammered by Jurickson Profar, a home run that increased the Padres’ dwindling lead to 7-3.

Oh, and one other issue: the Giants’ offense wasn’t particularly efficient. They hit four home runs–from Belt, Thairo Estrada, Kris Bryant and Steven Duggar–but none came with runners on base. The club’s scoring in five of the nine innings included just one crooked number, a two-run seventh in which Belt and Duggar went deep, while pinch hitter and late lineup scratch Mike Yastrzemski, Buster Posey and Tommy La Stella recorded routine outs.

For the Giants a long night, a unique night, but one in which their nine-game win streak (their longest since a 10-game run in 2004) ended, and the Dodgers won, decreasing their division lead to 1 1/2 games. The Giants had 40 at-bats, none of which involved a pitcher. They employed four pinch hitters, they had nine hits–six of those for extra bases–and drew five walks, and one hit batter (Crawford) but couldn’t overcome the Padres’ hit parade.

But they came close.

The Giants conclude their series with San Diego on Thursday afternoon as Kevin Gausman gets the start in search of his 15th win. Pierce Johnson, the San Diego reliever will oppose Gausman, as the Padres might show vulnerability with a bullpen game of their own just hours after the long Wednesday night game.

No Time to Let Up: Giants open homestand with a 9-1 thrashing of the Padres

By Morris Phillips

SAN FRANCISCO–The best record in San Francisco Giants history through 144 games. At least six runs scored in each of the last eight games, all wins. Four more homers on Monday night.

And one more: a playoff berth–considered highly unlikely when the season began–clinched earlier on the calendar than the club has done previously in franchise history.

The Giants are once-in-a-generationally hot, and they’re not showing any signs of letting up.

“We’re definitely happy that we’re going to the playoffs, there’s no doubt about that,” Brandon Belt said. “But we want to win the division. This is the first step, but we didn’t come here just to make it in.”

“You have quite a few World Series champions in that room and people who understand that this is one step in the direction that we want to go, but not the ultimate goal,” manager Gabe Kapler added.

An 9-1 thrashing of the helpless Padres on Monday happened so fast, the final five innings held no intrigue–and almost no additional scoring. The Giants put up five in the first, and three more in the fourth to lead 8-1.

And this was bullpen night, which is usually problematic given the Giants currently have two empty slots in their rotation, but on this occasion was supreme. Dominic Leone started (for the third time, the first was September 5) and he remained perfect. Leone threw a pair of scoreless innings, and has five scoreless in total in his three starts.

Jose Alvarez followed, allowing the Padres’ only run on Fernando Tatis’ RBI double, and the relievers rolled out from there. Six in all saw action with rookie Kervin Castro pitching the eighth and ninth. The Giants are expected to again turn to their relievers on Wednesday as Johnny Cueto and Alex Wood remain on the shelf.

Tommy La Stella opened the scoring with a 414-foot shot to straight away center field. Evan Longoria capped the five-run frame with three-run shot. Those home runs sandwiched Lamonte Wade Jr.’s triple that scored Darin Ruf.

Yu Darvish took the loss, allowing all four home runs, which included bombs by Belt and Mike Yastrzemski, both of which traveled further than La Stella’s in the first. Darvish–at least in Giants’ broadcaster Dave Fleming’s opinion–maybe the poster child for the hastily-adopted rules aimed at eliminating pitchers using sticky substances to grip the baseball, and maximize the ball’s rotation. Darvish has won just twice since the new rules took effect, he was 6-1 in prior to that.

The Giants were in their fine-tuned, power swinging mode with just eight hits to score nine runs. Six of the eight went for extra bases, all previously mentioned with the exception of Brandon Crawford’s double that contributed to the team’s eighth inning rally that capped their scoring.

The Giants won’t see much change in the NL West standings–the Dodgers were winning 4-1 in the seventh at the time this article published–but the pressure is on the defending champions, as their equally hot play hasn’t earned them in any traction in the race for the division title. Only 18 games remain, and the Giants have the friendlier schedule with 12 remaining home games.

One last reminder of how hot the Giants are: if they capture 14 of their last 18 games, that would give them 108 wins on the season. While that would require an insanely torrid pace, one the team can’t be doggedly pursuing with the playoff preparation their biggest priority, it would mean incredible history. Only the 1975 Reds and 1986 Mets have won that many games in the divisional era which dates back to 1969.

On Tuesday, the Giants battle the Padres again with Anthony DeSclafani and Jake Arrieta the listed starters for the 6:45pm start.

Hard-hitting Giants strike early and take care of the Rockies, 12-0

By Morris Phillips

SAN FRANCISCO–The Giants love to get their most violent, damaging swings in when they see a pitch they can drive. In MLB circles, that’s common knowledge about the club in 2021.

So Rockies starter Austin Gomber knew it, but couldn’t stop it in the Giants’ 12-0 win on Monday.

Before he was lifted in the second inning, Gomber gave up seven, solidly struck hits, walked four, and was charged with nine runs despite recording just five outs. The shortest starting assignment of his career included his most hits (7) and runs allowed (9) as well.

What’s worse for Gomber? He probably didn’t even sense that trouble was brewing. The key piece moving from St. Louis to Denver in the Nolan Arenado trade has been pitching well and cruised into the seventh inning on April 9, allowing three hits and a run, in his only other start at Oracle Park.

“A lot of the hits were just middle of the plate,” Gomber said afterwards. “I think it was more about execution and putting myself in bad counts. They had a good game plan.”

Manager Bud Black intimated that there may have been more to Gomber’s uncharacteristic performance in that the pitcher may have tipped his pitches. But both pitcher and manager agreed they couldn’t say more in that regard without consulting the videotape.

“I think that there were some pitches in the middle of the plate that they squared up,” Black said. “But we’re going to look at some video to see if there was something more to it.”

With the socially-distanced crowd of 4,129 thinned even more by uncomfortable wind and cold, the voices, pitches and bats were audible throughout the park. The Giants’ loud contact off Gomber made an impression. Their breakout performance included three doubles and a two-run homer from Buster Posey off Jhoulys Chacin in the sixth.

Posey knocked in a run in the four-run first inning, and Evan Longoria, in his return to the lineup following a weekend of inactivity due to a hamstring injury, knocked in runs in the first and second innings.

Gomber was lifted trailing 6-0, but two pitches later Mauricio Dubon’s bases-loaded double off Chacin made it 9-0.

“There’s not much to complain about tonight. What’s there to pick apart?” manager Gabe Kapler said. “The guys did a great job.”

Anthony DeSclafani pitched a complete game shutout for the Giants, allowing three hits, one walk while striking out nine. DeSclafani has allowed five earned runs over five starts and 30 innings pitched. His 1.50 ERA is dramatically lower than the 3.28 he posted in 2016 for the Reds, in his previous best season at the major league level.

“I kinda peaked at my pitch count and saw that it was low and I knew I had a chance to finish the game as long as I beared down and didn’t get too lax and tried to continue making pitches,” DeSclafani said.

The Giants have won 13 of 18 after a 2-3 start to match the record of the first-place Dodgers at 15-8. The two clubs don’t meet for the first time until May 21, with the Giants having 21 scheduled games against lesser competition prior to that date.

One Belt, Two Runs: Giants win 2-0 in Philly

By Morris Phillips

Philadelphia fans will boo anyone at anytime. They’re pretty much known for that.

But it’s not all knucklehead behavior, there’s some common sense in there as well. So when it became clear that this was Gabe Kapler’s night, Philly fans relented.

The Giants, behind Brandon Belt’s bat and brilliant pitching, shut down the Phillies and stopped the boos, winning 2-0 at Citizens Bank Park on Monday.

Kevin Gausman survived six eventful innings to pick up the win and three Giants’ relievers finished the job, sparing Kapler any trips to the mound to incite the boo birds. The win, Kapler’s 200th as a manager, superceded all that huffing and puffing anyway.

“My feelings are I’m just kind of focused on doing a good job with the San Francisco Giants,” Kapler said when asked about his first return after two seasons managing the Phillies, “And that’s genuinely how I feel.”

What could have been all hyped up and agitated, was rendered mundane, first by Belt, who provided all the scoring in the third with a two-run shot off starter Chase Anderson. The slugger welcomed Anderson’s hanging breaking ball and redirected it 372 feet away beyond the right centerfield wall. But Belt’s blow didn’t portend a slugfest.

Instead, Gausman settled in, Anderson didn’t allow anything else and batters on both sides squandered some choice opportunities. The teams combined to go 1 for 15 with runners in scoring position, but it felt like Gausman faced all 15, as the Giants’ ace wiggled out of jam after jam.

“He wasn’t lights-out stuff — I think he’ll tell you the same,” Kapler said of Gausman. “He was just a fighter today, and I think that’s the reason he was able to do what he did.”

In the fourth, Gausman was saddled with runners at second and third, no outs. But he executed Plan A, striking out Mickey Moniak and Nick Maton, hitters with little big league experience (26 at-bats combined) inexplicably hitting back-to-back in the Philadelphia lineup. Pinch hitter Brad Miller was next, and Gausman tricked him with a splitter that was grounded to third for an easy third out.

Matt Wisler, Camilo Doval, and Wandy Peralta each contributed an inning of scoreless relief and the Giants had back-to-back shutouts after Sunday’s 1-0 win at Miami.

Kapler’s 200th win came with the fourth-year manager stuck on 200 losses, giving him the unique distinction in Major League history of holding both totals at same time. But that is his history: finishing two games under .500 with the Phillies (2018) and Giants (2020), and exactly. 500 in Philadelphia in 2019. This season’s 10-6 start–ironically with Kapler’s starting pitchers and bullpen being deployed brilliantly and backing it up with their performances–reflects the growth, especially juxtaposed against his numbers from the previous seasons.

“Hopefully it’s a big win for him, his first time coming back to Philly,” Gausman said of his manager. “It was a good way to kind of set the tone for this series.”

The Giants and Phillies resume play Tuesday with the Webb/Wheeler matchup at 4:05pm. Logan Webb returns to the starting rotation due to Johnny Cueto’s injury to face Zack Wheeler, who was traded from the Giants’ farm system nearly a decade ago.

Rockies strike back, pin critical 5-4 loss on the Giants

By Morris Phillips

SAN FRANCISCO–Gabe Kapler immediately turned his focus to Friday’s doubleheader, and the biggest 14 innings of the season for his Giants.

And what of Thursday’s agonizing 5-4 loss to the Rockies that could have had his club in the driver’s seat regarding the postseason heading into the weekend?

Kapler simply avoided any reflection–emotional or analytical–involving the Giants.

“They got the job done, and you have to kind of tip your cap to them,” Kapler said of the Rockies. “They did pull out all the stops. They put the five-man infield out there. They extended Bard, I’m guessing, probably beyond the most comfortable space. That was a good effort by their ballclub.”

What the Giants hope to achieve with 14 flawless innings on Friday, they basically failed to achieve in 11 uneven innings Thursday afternoon. The Giants jumped out to a 3-0 lead after two innings, only to trail 4-3 after seven. Brandon Belt’s homer got the Giants even after eight. Then the Giants put themselves on the precipice of victory with a bases loaded, one out situation in the tenth, only to stall and then see the Rockies take control in the 11th.

Kevin Gausman essentially admitted what Kapler would not regarding the frustrating affair.

“We don’t really have the luxury of sitting around and feeling bad for ourselves,” Gausman said. “We’ve got a doubleheader tomorrow against the Padres. If we can win both those games that would be huge. Just try to forget about it.”

The Giants’ offense wasn’t as decisive as its been at Oracle Park. After their early flurry, the Giants scored one run over the game’s final nine innings. They failed to fully capitalize on five extra-base hits, and the bases-loaded failure in the tenth could have given them control of the game. The team’s improving bullpen held up, but allowed the game-winning run in the 11th.

The out-of-town scoreboard provided some good news; some bad on Thursday. The Marlins bounced back, beating the Braves to remain over .500 and ahead of the Giants. Meanwhile, the Brewers fell to the Cardinals, keeping them behind the Giants, and along with the Phillies, saddled with a losing record.

Dodgers, Kershaw bring Giants’ seven-game streak to a halt, win 7-0 in doubleheader opener

By Morris Phillips

SAN FRANCISCO–Bookmark the Clayton Kershaw-Brandon Belt matchup as today’s barometer for success… or failure.

After the Dodgers and Giants took Tuesday night off in a historic and emotional occasion of social activism, pitching and hitting returned in a big way with the Giants trying to extend their seven-game, offense-fueled win streak against Kershaw, the most successful starting pitcher of the last decade, and by far, the guy the Giants and Belt least like to see on the mound.

Now the numbers available to both managers prior to the first game of the unique, seven-inning doubleheader.

Belt, in one of the finest, offensive showings in his career (9 plus seasons) had four hits, including two homers, a double in the Giants’ epic 10-8 win over the Dodgers in 11 innings on Tuesday.

Kershaw has owned Belt, allowing the slugger four hits and four walks, no home runs in 60 career at-bats, 29 of which concluded in a strikeout.

Manager Gabe Kapler didn’t flinch. He penciled Belt into the sixth spot in his lineup, a nod to Belt’s 16 hits and .571 batting average over his last nine games. Wilmer Flores, Kapler’s less edgy option to start at first base, found his way to lineup as well, playing second base and batting second.

Against Kershaw–rounding into form after a rough start against the Giants at Dodgers Stadium earlier in the month–none of Kapler’s lineup mechanics worked.

Kershaw gave up hard hit balls to both Belt and Flores in their initial at-bats only to see centerfielder Clay Bellinger come up with spectacular catches both times. From there, Kershaw cruised, pitching six, scoreless innings in a 7-0 shutout that left the assembled cutouts speechless.

Kershaw owns the Giants, winning for the 24th time in 49 starts, while his ERA against the Giants dropped to 1.76. Needing seven strikeouts to reach 2,500 in his career, Kershaw registered just four, evidence that as his velocity has decreased, his craftiness has expanded.

Belt finished 0 for 3 with a strikeout, and Flores was 1 for 3 as no Giants hitter was afforded more than three opportunities in a seven-inning game. Joey Bart was hitless as well, striking out all three times, the first time swinging on top of Kershaw’s slider, the second time frozen as the pitcher’s curve dropped in.

The Dodgers kept the fireworks to a minimum with their bats, pushing across a run in the first, and four more in the fourth. Austin Barnes came up with the biggest hit, a double chasing home Chris Taylor and Joc Pederson.

A.J. Pollock’s two-run shot in the seventh concluded the scoring.

Logan Webb suffered the loss as he was unable to replicate his strong start against the Dodgers in Los Angeles. Webb pitched into the fourth inning, allowing four hits, two walks and five earned runs.