By Morris Phillips
SAN FRANCISCO–When the pitcher of the decade, if not the pitcher of this generation, resides in your division, there’s nowhere to hide. And trust me, if the Giants were to huddle like second graders on an expansive, tree-lined playground, hiding from Clayton Kershaw would be discussed.
The three-time Cy Young Award winner took his every fifth-day turn on Wednesday at AT&T Park, his favorite place to pitch, looking to beat the Giants for the 20th time in 38 career starts. And while Kershaw didn’t have the Giants beat just by showing up, he did have all the help he would need after the game’s fifth batter, and before the Dodgers’ ace even threw his first pitch of the day.
“With Clayton, when you get four runs or more, the record speaks for itself,” manager Dave Roberts said of the Dodgers two-run first inning, on the way to an easy, 6-1 win. “He smells blood, and he’s such a competitor. And we talk about going for the jugular, and likes to put guys away.”
Kershaw’s career ERA at AT&T Park was a ridiculousy-microscopic 1.36 entering Wednesday’s matinee, and it got lower. Yasmani Grandal doubled home a pair of runs off Giants’ starter Johnny Cueto in the first inning, and that’s all Kershaw would need after he didn’t disappoint, throwing seven shutout innings, allowing three hits and no walks.
Leading 6-0 in the seventh, Kershaw called it a day, giving way to relievers Pedro Baez and Sergio Romo, who allowed the Giants an Edwin Nunez ninth-inning home run to breakup the shutout. The Giants’ five-game win streak and opposing starter, Johnny Cueto’s unblemished record at home (1-0 in three starts, all Giants’ wins) disappeared in the process.
“It’s a fine line between winning and losing, and they got the key hits,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “And you’re a pitch from getting out of inning a couple of times, and it didn’t happen. But the bats were quiet. Kershaw was his usual good self, and we couldn’t mount any offense today.”
Grandal’s RBI double to open the scoring came on a second, 0-2 pitch with two outs, down and off the plate. In the fifth, Yasiel Puig struck, knocking in a pair on a 1-2 pitch with two outs to make it 5-0. Those two jabs, along with Kershaw’s stinginess, were enough to upset Cueto, but in addition, the Giants’ starter felt Grandal was stealing signs peering in from second base after his first inning double.
Chris Taylor struck out looking to end the first inning, with Grandal allegedly stealing signs. But that didn’t matter much in the third, when Cueto brushed back Grandal with a high, hard one that wasn’t orchestrated in that it flew past catcher Buster Posey and to the backstop, allowing Chase Utley to race home from third for the Dodgers’ third run.
Both benches cleared after the run scored, but things didn’t get out of hand, nor did the umpires see fit to eject anyone. When Grandal came to bat in the third, apologies were issued first hand, and Kershaw and the game moved on.
“He said, ‘Sorry for the misunderstanding. Let’s just move on,” Cueto recalled. “I’m not going to use that as an excuse, but they were relaying signs.”
“Whether we were or we weren’t, obviously he was displeased and let us know,” Roberts said.
The Giants resume play on Friday in St. Louis with Matt Moore getting the ball for that one.