LOS ANGELES — There were so many pitches that flew out of Jeff Samardzija’s right hand Sunday night that had teammates and coaches absolutely beaming. Samardzija went 96 mph, 96, 92, 96 to strike out Yasiel Puig in the second. In the third inning he sat at 96 while whiffing Chase Utley. Puig got a second chance in the fifth and took a second strikeout on a devastating 93 mph cutter.
“He threw the ball great,” catcher Buster Posey said. “It’s unfortunate there … we kind of made a mistake to Pederson and he put a good swing on it.”
Ahh, that one mistake. It was the only one the Dodgers needed for a 3-1 win behind Kenta Maeda, one of their big offseason acquisitions. Maeda allowed one run in seven innings and Samardzija, who had better stuff and a better pace early on, doubled that with the one pitch to Pederson.
The Dodgers trailed by a run in the fifth and had one on with two outs. Pederson is struggling, but he hit 26 homers last year and feasts on fastballs that leak over the plate. Samardzija tried to throw him a two-strike sinker down and away, but it stayed true and cut right back in on Pederson, who blasted a shot to deep right.
“We were sinking him away and off and it just stayed on the plate,” Samardzija said. “He put a good swing on it. If it starts too much on the plate, it’s going to stay there.”
[INSTANT REPLAY: Giants lose to Dodgers in LA]
A week ago, the deep lineup might have overcome that one pitch. But this offense is a much different show when even a couple of guys are slumping, and two key bats had a rough trip. Buster Posey was hitless in 18 at-bats dating back to last Sunday before a single in the ninth inning Sunday, but insisted a sore foot that kept him out of two games in Denver is fine. Matt Duffy played in every game on this 2-4 trip but went just 2-for-23.
“I think it’s fair to say he’s been trying to find it,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “He’s a good hitter. They’re all going to go through it. His timing is off, you can see it. He’s out front. I need to give him a break, I know, and I probably will in a couple of days.”
Duffy has kept his head up. He said he’s just battling inconsistency.
“Baseball has a way of humbling you,” he said.
This road trip may have done that to the Giants a bit. They had their top three going against the Dodgers’ top three this weekend, and Los Angeles took the series. Maeda allowed just four hits in seven innings, showing that when a couple of key bats are slumping, this lineup can be pitched to.
“They’ll get it going," Bochy said. "They’re too good of hitters to stay down.”
The issues at the plate were magnified by decisions that went south. Bochy let Samardzija hit for himself in the seventh because he felt he was throwing well enough to pitch another couple innings and he was confident that No. 9 hitter Angel Pagan would have a good shot to drive Brandon Crawford in if he was on second with two outs. Instead, Samardzija bunted into an inning-ending double play.
“That was really close to being a day we could be proud of,” Samardzija said. “But unfortunately it took a different turn.”