LOS ANGELES – Remember when the Giants won a World Series in a year they hit the fewest home run in the major leagues?
Yeah. Punch and Judy have some bigger, badder older brothers now.
The Giants are having one whale of a season-opening road trip, and the home run trot has been their harpoon of choice. Michael Morse’s first homer as a Giant was a tiebreaking blast that landed halfway up the left field pavilion, Buster Posey parked his second of the season and Pablo Sandoval broke open the game with a three-run shot as the Giants pelted their archrivals 7-2 at Dodger Stadium on Saturday.
The Giants have hit nine home runs in six games. Last season, it took them 16 games to hit that many. And Posey’s two homers on this road trip match the two he hit after the All-Star break last season.
Just what exactly did Barry Bonds tell them in his weeklong stint as a spring instructor?
This time the Giants matched offense with a quality start, as Madison Bumgarner struck out 10 while pitching solidly into the seventh inning. They’ll send Matt Cain to the mound on Sunday looking for a three-game sweep and a boffo 6-1 road trip.
Starting pitching report
Bumgarner (1-0) was more hittable than usual but he threw his sharpest stuff from the stretch to strand runners while also notching his 14th career start with double-digit strikeouts.
The Dodgers scratched him for a run in the second inning when center fielder Angel Pagan couldn’t cut off Juan Uribe’s double to left-center, allowing Scott Van Slyke to score from first base. But Bumgarner had the stuff to escape jams; by the fourth inning he already struck out each of the 2-7 hitters in the Dodgers’ lineup.
He was never more impressive than the fourth inning, when he struck out the side after Adrian Gonzalez’s leadoff double.
He needed help in the late innings, though. Third baseman Pablo Sandoval made a diving stop on Matt Kemp’s hard grounder that saved a run and ended the sixth inning. Then Bumgarner gave up hits to three of the four batters he faced in the seventh.
He handed over the baseball with Yasiel Puig coming up and the bases loaded. It wasn’t a bad matchup, considering how well Bumgarner has fared against the Dodgers’ excitable outfielder. (He had been 1 for 4 and Bumgarner picked him off first base.) But it was just Bumgarner’s second start of the season and he had thrown 114 pitches, so Manager Bruce Bochy didn’t dare push his young ace.
Santiago Casilla threw 95 mph heat but Puig lashed an RBI single to right field to cash in one of Bumgarner’s inherited runners.
But for some reason, Dodgers third base coach Lorenzo “Don’t Call me Al” Bundy decided to test Hunter Pence with the home team trailing by five. Pence threw out catcher A.J. Ellis trying to score from second base to end the inning. (The Dodgers challenged the call but the replay official confirmed it.)
Casilla pitched around two walks in the eighth and Yusmeiro Petit pitched the ninth.
At the plate
The Giants have scored 15 runs in two games at Dodger Stadium, and they had to feel a bit better about the manner in which they crossed the plate Saturday.
There were no sun balls or bloopers or unearned runs or two-run sand wedge shots by the pitcher this time. Just three streaking shots into the pavilions, and plenty more traffic on the basepaths.
Brandon Crawford’s bases-loaded ground out scored a run in the second inning and Morse snapped a tie with his shot to start the fourth. Dodgers left-hander Paul Maholm immediately put hands on knees after Morse took driver to a breaking ball.
Sandoval drove Maholm from the game in the fifth, crushing a 2-1 slider over the plate to score Bumgarner and Angel Pagan. It’s worth noting that Sandoval’s first home run of the season came from the right side, which he worked to improve with Miguel Cabrera’s help over the winter. Sandoval hit just one right-handed homer in 148 at-bats last season.
Pagan made it eight RBIs in six games – a pretty nice total for a leadoff hitter – when he added a run-scoring single in the sixth.
Not only do the Giants sport the best record in the National League, but their 38 runs also pace the circuit.
Pence’s huge assist was his third in six games – one more than he had all of last season. And a slimmed-down Sandoval continued to show he’s vastly improved at third base.
Gregor Blanco, the third left fielder in the game, showed the importance of a late-inning defensive substitution when he made a diving, full-extension catch to take a hit away from Ellis in the ninth.
The Dodgers announced 49,520 paid. They entertained themselves with the wave, a salute to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and by twerking to a Robin Thicke pregame concert.
The Giants and Dodgers conclude their three-game series at Dodger Stadium on Sunday. Matt Cain (0-0. 3.60 ERA) takes the mound against right-hander Zack Greinke (1-0, 3.60). First pitch is scheduled for 5:05 p.m. PDT.