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June 27, 2013

What You Need to Know

LA Dodges a Giant Bullet

by Daniel Rathman


The Wednesday Takeaway
The scoring in the three-game set between the Giants and Dodgers in Los Angeles began in the bottom of the first inning of Monday’s opener, when Yasiel Puig launched the seventh homer of his young career. It ended in the last of the sixth on Wednesday night, when the Dodgers chased Tim Lincecum with four straight hits, a wild pitch, and two stolen bases off of back-up catcher Hector Sanchez.

In between, at one point every evening, the wheels came off for the Giants.

On Monday, it happened in the home half of the eighth inning, when Bruce Bochy stuck with Madison Bumgarner, even though the lefty’s pitch count was at 107. Nick Punto led off with a double, Bumgarner misfired on his throw to first base following a sacrifice bunt by Mark Ellis, and Puig drove home the go-ahead run with a single off of George Kontos. The makeshift high-leverage crew of Kontos, Javier Lopez, and Sandy Rosario coughed up one more run in the inning, on a line drive by Hanley Ramirez. And, all the while, the absence of the injured Santiago Casilla loomed large.

The Dodgers exposed the shallowness of San Francisco’s bullpen again in the middle match, when Bochy rode rookie Mike Kickham, who was making his second big-league start, into the sixth inning, even as the southpaw’s stuff lost its life. Kickham struck out Puig with breaking-ball-only diet, but Adrian Gonzalez doubled and Ramirez went yard to give Don Mattingly’s club the lead. Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier kept the line moving with singles, and after Bochy replaced Kickham with fellow first-year Jake Dunning, a base hit by Tim Federowicz supplied much-needed insurance. Then, with runners at the corners and pitcher Stephen Fife at the plate, Dunning threw away a pickoff try to first base, allowing the Dodgers to tack on one more run—a run that eventually proved pivotal, when the visitors’ ninth-inning rally came up one short.

Trouble stirred again in the sixth inning of Wednesday’s finale, in which Tim Lincecum was handed a 2-1 lead, a rarity for the Giants, who have often been blanked by Clayton Kershaw. Gonzalez lined out to open the frame, but Ramirez singled to left, and it was all downhill from there. Sanchez dropped a high-and-away “pitchout” and failed to get off a throw on Ramirez’s stolen base, a miscue that became critical when Ethier singled the shortstop home. Ethier then stole second himself, thanks largely to an errant throw from Sanchez, and scored on a double by A.J. Ellis. Juan Uribe’s single moved Ellis to third, and a wild pitch by Lincecum—compounded by Sanchez’s inability to contain the bounce—brought Ellis across the plate.

The three foregoing paragraphs contained the names of virtually every Dodgers starter, a fact that highlights the team-effort nature of the home nine’s sweep. With Ramirez, whose triple-slash line rose to .375/.414/.688 on five hits in the series, and Kemp, whose fine play in center halted the Giants’ comeback bid on Tuesday, healthy, the lineup is trending upward. With a dominant Kenley Jansen supplanting Brandon League in the ninth inning, late leads are looking more robust. And with Puig, whose three hits on Wednesday brought his average back up to .435, putting his toolsy, #want-filled stamp on every game, Carl Crawford’s injury is becoming an afterthought.

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