LOS ANGELES – Even Mario Mendoza would’ve cringed if he saw the Giants lineup Sunday afternoon.
Here were their batting averages, beginning with cleanup man Pablo Sandoval: .173, .198, .173, .059, .194 and .125. And south of the Mendoza line -- which forever stands at .200, in case you didn’t know -- is not where you want to stand against Clayton Kershaw.
But wouldn’t you know it? Bruce Bochy’s self-named “bomb squad” made it back to base in one piece – even after Sergio Romo blew his first save chance this season – to take a 7-4, 10-inning victory at Dodger Stadium.
Brandon Hicks hit a two-run home run in the seventh inning as the Giants scored three earned runs off Kershaw for just the second time in his 22 career starts against them.
Then after Hanley Ramirez forced extra innings with a two-out, two-run home run off Romo in the ninth, the Giants counterpunched in the 10th. Sandoval marked the occasion of his first three-hit game this year by tapping a tiebreaking single off Kenley Jansen in and the Giants wrapped up a banner trip with another series win.
Sandoval already had conjured his first RBI in 21 games before hitting the go-ahead single in the 10th. Sandoval singled ahead of Hicks’ homer, too, as the Giants took three of four against the Dodgers. They are 7-3 against their archrival and have captured all three series from them this season.
The Giants are 12-4 against the Dodgers when you include the last six meetings from 2013, too.
They also finished a grueling, 10-game road trip with a 7-3 record that is all the more impressive when you consider that their three opponents (Braves, Pirates, Dodgers) were playoff teams a year ago.
Starting pitching report
Tim Hudson couldn’t complete seven innings for an eighth consecutive start, thus ending the longest such streak by a Giant to start a season since Vida Blue began with nine straight in 1981.
But Hudson stood on equal footing with Kershaw and gave the Giants a chance to win. He took a 1-0 lead into the sixth inning before Yasiel Puig led off with a deep drive into the Dodgers bullpen for his sixth homer of the season. His bat flip was no more than Puig’s customary flair, but he did run the bases quite a bit faster than he did when he drew Madison Bumgarner’s ire two days earlier.
The Dodgers used hustle and a defensive breakdown to score two runs on Hudson in the sixth. Ramirez, who has hit into the Giants’ infield shift all series, barely found a seam in between Hicks and Ehire Adrianza. When neither middle infielder broke to cover second base, Ramirez slid ahead of a scrambling Hicks to record a hustle double. He scored on Adrian Gonzalez’s single.
Hudson issued an intentional walk to Andre Ethier, who had doubled twice earlier in the game. It appeared the strategy would backfire when Justin Turner singled up the middle. But Angel Pagan made perhaps his most impressive throw as a Giant – a one-hop strike to the plate – to cut down Gonzalez for the second out. Hudson slammed the door from there, getting Drew Butera to ground out to end the inning and his afternoon.
Pagan’s throw wasn’t the only out the Giants recorded at the plate. In the fifth inning, they had the infield pulled in with Ethier at third base and one out. Butera grounded to second base and Hicks threw wide to the plate, but Posey made a terrific adjustment to put down the tag.
Jeremy Affeldt recorded two outs, one with the help of an overturned call via the replay booth, and Santiago Casilla pitched around three hits while recording four more.
But then Romo (3-0) blew his first save of the season in 13 chances, and it was a familiar adversary that struck him down. After Dee Gordon slashed a one-out double to bring the tying run to the plate, Romo struck out Puig on a 3-2 slider. Then Ramirez, a hitter who took him deep twice in 2012, somehow slipped a line drive over the left field wall for a tying, two-run home run.
It was Ramirez’s third homer in his last 15 at-bats against Romo, who crouched for a long time before calling for a new ball and retiring Gonzalez to end the inning.
Jean Machi was summoned to pitch the 10th and added his first save of the season to go along with his five wins – but not before a two-out walk and a hit brought Miguel Olivo to the plate as the tying run. Machi struck him out to end it.
At the plate
The Giants couldn’t avoid Kershaw (2-1) all season. They were fortunate enough that he was on the disabled list with a strained muscle in his upper back for the first two series meetings between these clubs.
As you know by now, Kershaw entered with a 1.38 ERA in 22 career games (21 starts) against the Giants – the best of any pitcher against them in their franchise history.
Bochy felt compelled to rest some of his regulars on the 10th day of a road trip (and amid a span of 17 days without a day off). So he found himself with Sandoval, a .173-hitting cleanup man, followed by these averages in the next five slots: .198 (Hicks), .173 (.Joaquin Arias), .059 (Juan Perez), .154 (Ehire Adrianza) and .125 (Hudson).
Well, baseball is anything but predictable. The Giants struck for a run in the first inning when Sandoval hit an RBI double for the last of a three-hit rally. It was Sandoval’s first RBI in 21 games; he had been 2 for 28 with runners in scoring position.
Kershaw was Kershaw after that. He faced one more than the minimum over the next five innings, but the Giants struck in the sixth. Sandoval reached out and singled on a 1-2 pitch – and the count was notable because he was 2 for 60 (.033) with two strikes entering the game. Then Hicks didn’t miss a hanging, 0-2 curveball for his seventh home run this season.
It was just the second time in 22 career starts that the Giants scored three earned runs against Kershaw. He struck out nine in seven innings and did not walk a batter.
The Giants added a run in the eighth off Chris Withrow, a right-hander who entered having held opponents to three hits in 59 at-bats (good for a silly .059 average). Pagan drew a walk and scored on Posey’s two-out single.
They hit the Dodgers bullpen again in the 10th. Jansen walked Pagan and in what could have been a sacrifice situation, Bochy trusted Hunter Pence to swing away. Pence lined a single to left field, and after a wild pitch advanced the runners, Buster Posey drew an intentional walk.
Sandoval stepped to the plate again and snuck a single through the left side for another RBI hit. He pumped his fist all the way down the line. It was his first three-hit game of the season, and just his fourth with multiple hits.
Somebody’s going to have to break the news to him: He can’t use his pink Mother’s Day bat again until next year.
The Giants kept hitting in the 10th. Hector Sanchez made it a 6-4 lead when he blooped a pinch single, improving him to 2-for 2 with a sacrifice fly, a grand slam and six RBIs when he bats with the bases loaded in extra innings this season.
Another run scored on a wild pitch, capping the three-run 10th inning.
The Giants improved to 5-2 on replay challenges when officials overturned a safe call on Gordon’s swinging bunt in the seventh inning. Posey sprang from the crouch to field it and threw wide as Gordon ran inside the line and Arias stretched to catch it. Umpire Paul Schrieber called Gordon safe but replays showed Arias stayed on the bag just long enough.
Arias made several impressive stretches in what amounted to a spot start at first base. And Brandon Crawford, who entered as part of a double switch in the seventh, made a long throw from very deep in the hole to take a hit away from Ramirez to end the inning.
Between those plays, and the two outs recorded at the plate, it was another solid game on what was a tremendous road trip afield. The Giants have played error-free for five consecutive games.
The Dodgers announced 51,369 paid. Yes, even Dodgers fans have mothers who love them.
The Giants begin a seven-game homestand when they welcome the Atlanta Braves to AT&T Park to start a three-game series on Monday. Tim Lincecum (2-2, 5.55 ERA) takes the mound against Braves right-hander Gavin Floyd (0-0, 1.29). First pitch is scheduled for 7:15 p.m. PDT. It’ll be Ryan Vogelsong (1-1, 3.93) against left-hander Mike Minor (0-2, 6.97) on Tuesday and Madison Bumgarner (4-3, 2.83) vs. right-hander Julio Teheran (2-2, 1.71) on Wednesday.