LOS ANGELES – The Giants plunked Yasiel Puig in the first inning Monday night. Who could have known a throw from 250 feet could sting more than one from 60 feet, 6 inches?
Puig’s electric strike to the plate threw out Brandon Belt in the 11th inning, and sucked all life out of the visiting dugout at Dodger Stadium. It was the most exceptional moment in an instant classic between two storied rivals Monday night.
But the Giants survived it. And they survived in the NL West standings, too. Andrew Susac hit a tiebreaking pinch single in the 13th inning and Hunter Strickland used 100 mph heat to record his first career save as the Giants prevailed 5-2 over their archrivals.
The Giants climbed within 3 ½ games of the Dodgers in the NL West, remained tied with the Pittsburgh Pirates atop the wild card standings, and although they’d prefer to win the division, their magic number to clinch a playoff spot is down to two.
Any combination of two Giants victories or Milwaukee Brewers losses would guarantee the Giants a wild card berth, at least. The Dodgers still can clinch the NL West by winning the next two games of this series.
The Giants bullpen did not allow a hit in six shutout innings. The Dodgers bullpen allowed 11 hits in their six innings. Finally, after the middle of the order wasted several scoring chances and Puig prevented another with his arm, Susac came through in the 13th.
Starting pitching report
Jake Peavy entered with a 6-1 record and 1.13 ERA over his previous seven starts and his 14 victories against the Dodgers is the most of any active pitcher. He was a central-casting choice to open this series.
He did not disappoint, snapping off nasty sinkers and making the Dodgers dive out over the plate while holding them to two runs in seven innings. He left more than a few pitches in the zone, though, and three or four turned into outs on the warning track.
Carl Crawford nudged his drive a little deeper in the fifth, hitting a home run that broke both Peavy’s no-hit bid as well as his shutout. Juan Uribe followed with a sinking line drive to left field and Chris Dominguez got a late break on it. Then the converted third baseman committed an even graver sin, especially with two outs, as he tried to make a sliding catch and let the ball get past him for a double.
A.J. Ellis followed with a single to put runners at the corners and Dee Gordon hit a fly ball to medium left field. Dominguez is known for his arm strength, but neither throw he’s made in two big league starts has been anywhere near the plate. This one sailed eight feet over catcher Buster Posey’s head as Uribe scored the tying run.
At least Peavy was backing up the play to keep Ellis from advancing. He got Puig to pop up to end the inning, and then the outfield defense helped Peavy for a change in the sixth when Hunter Pence made a sliding catch.
Peavy contributed one more piece to the team when he plunked Puig with an 0-1 pitch in the first inning – apparent retaliation for Puig’s late and hard slide into shortstop Brandon Crawford when the Dodgers led 8-0 in a game Sept. 13.
Peavy held the Dodgers to two runs on four hits, one walk and two hit batters in seven innings. He struck out four and threw 85 pitches.
Sergio Romo brushed off any pregame tensions and pitched perhaps his most impressive inning of the season. He struck out Puig with a slider and got fly outs from Adrian Gonzalez and Matt Kemp, retiring the Dodgers’ 2-3-4 hitters on eight pitches in the eighth.
Jean Machi survived a warning-track out from Hanley Ramirez in the ninth and retired all six batters he faced, even helping himself out and showing his surprising agility by fielding Gordon’s bunt.
Santiago Casilla pitched around Brandon Crawford’s error to start the 11th, getting Kemp to hit into a double play. He induced one more in the 12th after hitting Darwin Barney with a pitch.
The Dodgers probably didn’t know what they were getting when Strickland jogged in from the bullpen. He was warmed up and ready to protect a one-run lead before Gregor Blanco’s double and the Dodgers’ foibles extended it to three.
At the plate
For most of the evening, the Giants’ best offense was the Dodgers defense.
Gregor Blanco led off the game with a home run but Dan Haren faced 25 batters and didn’t allow a hit after that. The Giants’ other run off Haren came in the third, when Kemp and Puig called each other off on Blanco’s drive to right-center. Kemp, most likely fearing a collision, had the ball deflect off his glove as Blanco raced all the way to third base. He scored on Joe Panik’s safety squeeze.
The Dodgers gave away outs in the fourth and seventh but the Giants couldn’t turn the errors into runs. They didn’t even advance either runner past first base.
Panik delivered their second hit of the game with two outs in the eighth off J.P. Howell, setting up a Posey-Brian Wilson matchup that wasn’t going to end with a Buster Hug. Wilson, who blew a game in his previous appearance Saturday at Wrigley Field while throwing in the upper 80s, appeared to struggle again. He walked Posey and fell behind 3-0 to Pablo Sandoval. But Sandoval took two strikes before tapping out to shortstop on the 3-2 pitch.
Sandoval hit .336 in August. His average is down to .188 in September. And Wilson remained unscored upon in six career innings against the Giants spanning seven appearances. They’re batting .143 against him.
Pence walked against Kenley Jansen in the ninth and hustled to third on Crawford’s single to right field, but pinch hitter Travis Ishikawa struck out. The Giants threatened again in the 10th after Panik and Posey singled, but Sandoval stepped into a big moment and again failed to deliver. He grounded into a double play.
The Giants had two baserunners with one out again in the 11th after Brandon Belt beat out an infield single that shortstop Erisbel Arruebarrena did well to knock down, then Juan Perez delivered his first hit in 14 at-bats on the road trip.
Crawford followed with a line single up the middle. Belt sprinted around third base. It was an automatic send for third base coach Tim Flannery. It took a perfect throw. Puig made it, on the fly, and catcher Drew Butera barely had to move his glove while applying the tag on Belt. Pinch hitter Joaquin Arias struck out to strand two runners in scoring position.
Panik had three singles, each in the eighth inning or later, and off three different left-handed relievers. He reached again with one out in the 12th, but Posey and Sandoval flied out.
Belt singled with one out in the 13th, advanced on a ground out and the Dodgers had Kevin Correia intentionally walk Crawford to get to the pitcher’s spot. Susac came off the bench and jumped on a first-pitch curveball, serving it to left field. This time, Carl Crawford’s throw was way off line and Belt scored from second base.
Blanco’s double scored Crawford and Blanco kept running around second, not realizing Flannery had held Susac. The Dodgers got Blanco in a rundown but didn’t throw home when Susac broke for the plate, and he scored before a tag could be applied for the third out.
Dominguez stole 21 bases at Triple-A Fresno, but he was lifted for pinch runner Juan Perez after reaching on an error in the seventh. Upgrading the outfield defense was doubtless part of that move, although it nearly backfired when the Dodgers almost picked Perez off first base. Don Mattingly challenged the safe call but replays weren’t conclusive that Gonzalez ever applied the tag. The call stood.
The Dodgers announced 53,500 paid – a sellout, and the largest attended game in the major leagues this season.
The Giants and Dodgers continue their three-game series at Dodger Stadium on Tuesday. Madison Bumgarner (18-9, 2.91 ERA) takes the mound against Dodgers right-hander Zack Greinke (15-8, 2.76). First pitch is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. PDT.