LOS ANGELES – The Giants were on their way to another insufferably cruel night in the den of their arch-rivals.
One day after Brian Wilson beat his former club, it was Juan Uribe’s turn. The onetime Giants postseason hero snuck up on a terrific pitching duel between Madison Bumgarner and Clayton Kershaw and flashed those familiar jazz hands, blasting a two-run home run in the sixth inning.
At that point, it was a good thing the Giants had those two World Series rings to console themselves. To write another retribution novella, the Dodgers only needed three more innings from Kershaw -- and if he owned the Giants any better, he’d be sitting on the executive board.
But sometimes, even teams that are mathematically dead can prevent their epitaph from being written.
The Giants responded by jumping on Kershaw for three runs in the seventh inning, with Brett Pill slicing a two-run single that completed the rally, and five relievers (aided by one extremely lucky bounce) clung to a 4-2 victory.
The Dodgers’ magic number was trimmed anyway, down to four, because of Colorado’s victory over Arizona. Now it’ll take two Diamondbacks losses along with two L.A. victories for the Dodgers to clinch the NL West in front of the defending World Series champions this weekend.
Starting pitching report
Bumgarner is putting together two exceptional halves for the first time in his career.
He held an opponent to three runs or fewer for the 18th consecutive start, the longest streak by a Giants pitcher in a single season since Ed Whitson twirled 19 such outings in 1980.
The 24-year-old mixed his slider and cutter to great effect over six innings, and was especially effective against Yasiel Puig. The big lefty kept hitting spots inside against Puig while striking him out, breaking his bat on a pop-up and getting him to fly out.
Say this about Bumgarner: He’s a quick study. He hasn’t forgotten that changeup away that he threw to a perfect spot when he faced Puig for the first time here, only to see the ball land over the short fence in the right field corner.
Uribe loomed as a threat, though. Once a waste of roster space, Uribe made a change in his hitting approach, he crushed three home runs in a game last Monday and he was in Friday night’s lineup as the cleanup hitter – his first time in that spot since he was on the other side of this rivalry, June 28, 2010 vs. the Dodgers in San Francisco.
Uribe unleashed the barrel on a 1-0 fastball. The two-run shot came after shortstop Joaquin Arias fumbled Michael Young’s ground ball, which was generously ruled a single. That miscue put Bumgarner in the stretch, and Uribe snapped back while breaking a scoreless tie.
Other than that one pitch, it was a spotless outing for Bumgarner. He held the Dodgers to five hits, walked two, hit a batter and struck out six. He was lifted for a pinch hitter in the seventh, but the Giants’ go-ahead rally came in time to make a winner of him for the first time since Aug. 2. He had been winless over his previous seven starts, almost exclusively due to a lack of run support.
The Giants used five pitchers to get nine outs, and they did not come easily.
Jake Dunning left runners at first and second in the seventh for Jean Machi, who got Nick Punto to ground into a forceout at second base. But the Giants caught a huge break as Punto beat the double-play throw. The relay skipped past Machi as he tried to cover first base, and had Punto simply run through the bag, it would have gotten away and scored the tying run. Instead, Punto tried a headfirst slide, and the ball hit him.
Dodgers manager Don Mattingly followed by summoning pinch hitter Adrian Gonzalez, and Bochy elected to stay with a matchup that couldn’t have appealed to anyone. (Jose Mijares has been truly awful for a long time, Jeremy Affeldt probably can’t go back-to-back days so quickly after coming off the DL and plenty of lefties loomed for Javier Lopez.)
But in a year when so many of the right moves imploded, the Giants won a bad matchup. Machi struck out Gonzalez on a high pitch to end the inning and strand two runners.
The eighth was lively as well. Uribe singled off Santiago Casilla and Lopez followed by inducing a double-play grounder, but Andre Ethier proceeded to hit a double and injure himself in the process. He pulled up lame into second base and was replaced by pinch runner Dee Gordon.
Bochy took no chances. He tasked Sergio Romo with a four-out save.
A.J. Ellis, who hit a three-run double off Romo earlier this year, could not come through again. He grounded out to end the inning.
In the ninth, Mark Ellis and Hairston greeted Romo with singles to bring Puig to the plate. The crowd stood, fully expecting to see a walk-off home run. But Romo painted an inside strike, then worked sliders away to strike out the excitable rookie.
Punto barely beat a double-play throw, again sliding headfirst, to extend the inning for Gonzalez. With runners at the corners, Gonzalez scorched a ball that hit Romo’s foot and took a hard and extremely lucky carom to Arias, who had moved to third base. Arias’ throw beat the plodding Gonzalez to end the game.
At the plate
By now, you’ve heard all the stats about Kershaw and the Giants. We’ll spare you the full litany. Google it if you want. To sum up, his 1.32 ERA against the Giants was the lowest of any pitcher in all-time franchise history to throw at least 75 innings against them.
He’d been even better this season, going 3-0 with a 1.13 ERA in three starts against the Giants – including a four-hit shutout on opening day. He’ll be the runaway winner for the NL Cy Young award.
Given that backdrop, the Giants’ three-run seventh inning was all the more stunning. Hunter Pence and Pablo Sandoval started it with a pair of two-strike singles. Then Joaquin Arias followed with another two-strike hit, serving a 1-2 curveball to left field. Pence scored, Sandoval raced to third and Arias moved up to second base when left fielder Scott Van Slyke fumbled the ball for an error.
Then Pill, who hit a two-run home run off Kershaw last season in a 2-1 victory, came through with another huge RBI hit. He took a 1-1 slider and sliced it over the head of the first baseman. Sandoval and Arias scored without a play as the Giants took a 3-2 lead.
Suddenly, the Giants had three runs against Kershaw for the first time since May 18, 2011. He had started against them 13 times since then. (The third run was unearned, but it counted just the same.)
Pence added his 22nd home run, and his second opposite-field shot in as many days, when he connected in the eighth against Chris Withrow.
Juan Perez saved Bumgarner from a much stickier sixth inning. He got a solid jump and left his feet while making a full-extension catch of A.J. Ellis’ drive down the left field line to end the inning.
The Dodgers announced 52,650 paid on fireworks night, which makes it tough to leave early to beat the traffic.
The Giants and Dodgers continue their four-game series at Dodger Stadium on Saturday. Tim Lincecum (9-13, 4.40 ERA) takes the mound against right-hander Ricky Nolasco (13-9, 3.14). First pitch is scheduled for 6:10 p.m. PDT.