SAN FRANCISCO – Another tight game in the late innings, another tiebreaking hit – and the Giants have themselves another series victory over their heavily favored and well appointed arch rivals.
Pablo Sandoval nearly plucked a pitch out of the dirt and dumped it into center field for a tiebreaking single in the seventh inning, four Giants relievers did more yeoman’s work behind a terrific effort from Ryan Vogelsong and the crowd celebrated a 2-1 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers at AT&T Park Wednesday night.
The Giants have won four of five against the Dodgers thus far and they’ll shoot for a three-game sweep behind Madison Bumgarner on Thursday afternoon.
The Giants have a three-game winning streak; the previous two wins came in their final at-bat.
Starting pitching report
Vogelsong insisted every one of his problems – the location mistakes, the flat pitches and the dip in velocity – were all due to one small mechanical issue. That’s a tough sell when you are 36 years old and coming off a miserable season.
But there was no disputing the results Wednesday night, and the process in which Vogelsong achieved them. He pumped first-pitch strikes all night, established the inside part of the plate against both lefties and right-handed hitters, and worked efficiently while facing the minimum in each of his first five innings.
Vogelsong walked off the mound to a standing ovation in the seventh, departing a 1-1 tie and leaving two runners for Jean Machi.
Vogelsong helped himself by controlling the running game. He picked off Matt Kemp (and the Dodgers lost their challenge when they called for a replay review that took four minutes and 25 seconds in the second inning); Juan Uribe might have missed a sign when was thrown out trying to steal in the third.
But Vogelsong had one very big regret, and that was losing pitcher Paul Maholm on a 3-2 pitch with two out in the sixth. Maholm walked and then raced home on Dee Gordon’s triple that split the outfielders in right-center field.
Vogelsong stranded Gordon but didn’t retire either of the two batters he faced in the seventh. Posey called for an inside fastball and Vogelsong missed his spot while hitting Ramirez on the top of the left hand. Ramirez’s reaction was explosive; he slammed his helmet with his right hand and barely stood still for five minutes while Dodgers trainer Stan Conte attempted to examine him. Ramirez left the game for a pinch runner, but to the Dodgers' great fortune, X-rays did not reveal a fracture.
Adrian Gonzalez followed with a single to left field and Vogelsong walked off the mound to a standing ovation. He didn’t receive a decision, but he would’ve been in line a loss if Jean Machi allowed either of his runners to score. His line: Six innings, four hits, one run (earned), two walks, two strikeouts.
If Machi were a starting pitcher, he might win a Gold Glove award. He deftly fielded Juan Uribe’s bases-loaded comebacker and threw to start a 1-2-3 double play that ended the seventh inning. But Machi also saved a run with his glove just prior to that.
Andre Ethier hit a one-out grounder and second baseman Brandon Hicks threw in between Machi and Brandon Belt as both raced to first base. Machi reached across his body to catch a throw that probably gets away from most pitchers and goes for a run-scoring error.
Santiago Casilla and Javier Lopez held down the Dodgers in the eighth, although Lopez had to pitch around an errant pickoff throw. Sergio Romo made it a 1-2-3 ninth, striking out Matt Kemp to record his fourth save in four chances.
The Giants bullpen has a 1.78 ERA this season, second best in the majors behind the Milwaukee Brewers.
At the plate
The Giants haven’t stumbled upon that early-season wellspring of runs, but they did just enough to win another low-scoring, one-run game.
They found lefty Paul Maholm a tougher puzzle than they did earlier this month at Dodger Stadium. Michael Morse hit into a pair of double plays and the Giants eked out their only run against him in the third inning. Angel Pagan drew a leadoff walk and Hunter Pence beat out a potential double-play grounder. Sandoval and Buster Posey followed with singles, and Giants third base coach Tim Flannery aggressively sent Pence home from second base even though the Dodgers’ Carl Crawford fielded Posey’s hit in shallow left field. Pence easily beat the throw.
Brandon Hicks flied out to the warning track to end the sixth but the Giants used smaller ball again to pull ahead in the seventh. Joaquin Arias drew a leadoff walk from lefty J.P. Howell, and after a sacrifice, the Dodgers issued a two-out intentional walk to Pence.
Sandoval followed with a very Panda-like at-bat. He guessed on the first pitch and ended up taking an ugly swing on a sinking fastball. But then Sandoval somehow managed to get solid enough contact on another 1-1 sinker, nearly picking it off the ground and dumping it into center field for a tiebreaking single.
It was just the second time that Howell took a loss in 172 appearances dating to 2011.
Machi receives a lifetime get-out-of-PFP free card. Well, OK. They don’t print those. But he did get the win.
The Giants did not immediately announce an attendance figure. But the house was good and truly packed for this one – as it always is when the Dodgers come to town.
The Giants and Dodgers conclude their three-game series on Thursday at AT&T Park. Madison Bumgarner (2-0, 3.31 ERA) takes the mound against left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu (2-1, 2.57). First pitch is scheduled for 12:45 p.m. PDT.