Programming note: For all the day’s sports news, tune in to SportsNet Central tonight and every night at 6, 10:30 p.m. and midnight on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area
LOS ANGELES – Matt Cain and gravity were back on bad terms Sunday night.
The Dodgers hit three home runs against Cain – along with three doubles – and a sacrifice fly came within the length of a Farmer John footlong of going out, too.
It’s hard to scatter six hits over six innings when none of them are singles. So it went for Cain and the Giants in a 6-2 loss at Dodger Stadium.
Matt Kemp hit a pair of homers off Cain, including a two-run shot in the fourth inning, as the Dodgers avoided getting swept in the three-game series. The Giants still completed a successful 5-2 road trip as they head into Tuesday’s home opener at AT&T Park.
Starting pitching report
Cain’s biggest problem in last year’s pockmarked first half was the gopherball, and it popped up again to spoil what otherwise could have been a fine outing.
Kemp tagged a 1-0 fastball in the second inning, Hanley Ramirez hit an 0-1 changeup that was far too firm in the fourth, and after Adrian Gonzalez doubled, Kemp struck again for a two-run shot.
It marked the first time that Cain had allowed three home runs in a start since May 16; as you might recall, Cain allowed a whopping 13 homers in his first nine outings last year, and spent the rest of that season trying to whittle down a wrecked ERA.
Kemp’s homer, an opposite-field shot that carried out a little right of dead center, marked his third in his last three at-bats against Cain. The right-hander finally retired Kemp in the sixth, but not before Ramirez doubled and scored on Andre Ethier’s sacrifice fly that center fielder Angel Pagan caught with his arm stretched near the top of the fence.
Cain cleanly caught Kemp’s one-hopper, and in a too-little-too-late gesture, he hucked an underhanded slo-pitch softball to first base just as Brandon Belt arrived to cover.
David Huff allowed Ramirez’s second home run of the game and that was the only run allowed by either relief crew.
The Dodgers bullpen was flat-out toxic, recording eight strikeouts in three innings. Chris Withrow struck out the side in the seventh, then J.P. Howell and Chris Perez dominated their matchups while recording strikeouts of Pablo Sandoval and Buster Posey, respectively, in the eighth.
Hard-throwing Kenley Jansen used three strikeouts to work around Michael Morse’s single in the ninth.
Given what the Dodgers bullpen did in this series – one run on six hits in 14.2 innings with 21 strikeouts – it might behoove the Giants to not fall behind against their archrivals again this season. You know, if they can manage that.
At the plate
It doesn’t seem fair when top-tier starters pitch these 5 p.m. games. The combination of afternoon shadows and Zack Greinke’s stuff made him near to untouchable in the first three innings.
Through that point, Angel Pagan was 2 for 2 and the rest of the club was 0 for 9 with six strikeouts. Pagan can only do so much, though. He struck out looking to strand two runners in the fifth.
The Giants finally jumped on a couple mistakes in the sixth, when Brandon Belt rallied from an 0-2 count and hit a cutter for his fourth home run on the trip. Hunter Pence jumped on a first-pitch fastball and sent it over the right-center fence for his first homer of the year.
The two solo shots gave the Giants 11 home runs in seven games – their most on a two-city trip since September, 2011. (OK, full disclosure: That was a three-city trip. But the Giants hit 11 in three games at Coors Field, so let’s go with the spirit here.)
But Greinke yielded to that bullpen, and the game got short quick.
The Giants’ 16 strikeouts overall was their most in a nine-inning game since April 15, 2009, also at Dodger Stadium. (Blame that one on Clayton Kershaw, of course.)
Pagan is a strong candidate for NL Player of the Week, and he might be a slam dunk if there were a way to include GIFs of his defensive plays on the stat sheet that accompanies the ballot.
Pagan made another diving catch in the third inning, swooping in and sliding on the grass to take a hit away from Greinke.
The Dodgers announced 48,367 paid and former “Entertainment Tonight” host Mary Hart did a fine job as the guest PA announcer. I can’t verify that she still ensures her legs for $1 million with Lloyds of London, but depreciation is a fact of life for us all.
The Giants take Monday off before their home opener on Tuesday kicks off a three-game series against the Arizona Diamondbacks. Tim Hudson (1-0, 0.00) gets the honor and will oppose right-hander Trevor Cahill (0-2, 6.30). First pitch is scheduled for 1:35 p.m. PDT. It’ll be Tim Lincecum (0-0. 6.00) vs. right-hander Bronson Arroyo (0-0, 4.15) on Wednesday and Ryan Vogelsong (0-0, 9.00) vs. right-hander Randall Delgado (0-1, 11.57) on Thursday.