SAN FRANCISCO — The Dodgers were caught in the current and bearing down on a precipitous, crashing waterfall. They tried to fight the current, but it was too strong. Cut to the Dodgers’ faces as the music builds. Cut back to the waterfall. Dodgers. Waterfall.
And then, just when it seemed all was lost, our heroes came to the rescue. The heroes of course being Clayton Kershaw — and the Giants.
Los Angeles’ 5-3 win at AT&T Park on Tuesday night quieted a losing streak. And who knows? Maybe it did more. Perhaps this was the game that allowed the Dodgers to pivot once again and send their season back into an upswing. It would be a perfect supporting role for the 2017 Giants.
The Dodgers’ season has been one of the weirdest in MLB history. In mid-May they were 22-18, solidly in third place in the National League West. Then they became the most terrifying team of the 21st century, going 69-18 in their next 87 games, winning close contests with such flair and poise that even Giants fans had to feel a twinge of awe.
The Dodgers built a Secretariat-like lead over the rest of the West and took aim at historic win totals.
And then, because this is baseball and baseball is ultimately unknowable, they immediately fell off the treadmill with an awkward thud. It happened so suddenly, it was like an old Kurt Russell movie where the starting catcher finds a creepy amulet and stashes it in his locker and all hell breaks loose.
On Aug. 25, the Dodgers were 91-36 and had lost consecutive games just once since the first week in June. Their division lead was 21 games. Then the trapdoor opened. As you may have heard, LA entered Tuesday’s game having lost 11 consecutive games, and 16 out of 17. The Team That Couldn’t Lose simply couldn’t win. It was a lonely ray of light in an otherwise dismal year for Giants fans.
And even a dose of the last-place Giants didn’t immediately cure the Dodgers’ condition. Playing here Monday night, in a game that rain delays pushed past 2 a.m., the Giants prevailed 8-6. That seemed to seal the Dodgers’ fate. They’re going to make the playoffs, no doubt about that. But if you can’t even beat the Giants, how will you have a prayer against the Nationals or the Cubs?
Enter Kershaw — or as he’s called around here, the Giant Killer.
He’s a future first-ballot Hall of Famer and a three-time (and counting) Cy Young Award winner, and he makes things very hard on just about everybody. But he’s an absolute bully against the Giants. Heading into Tuesday’s game, Kershaw’s career record against SF was 20-9, his career earned run average 1.62. That ERA was the second lowest by one pitcher against one team (minimum of 20 starts) among all National Leaguers in the live-ball era, which dates back to 1920. Kershaw-vs.-Giants trailed only the 1.44 that Sandy Koufax rang up against the Mets.
And remember, Kershaw’s reign has stretched across all three of the Giants’ World Series seasons. It’s not like the Northern California guys have been pushovers. They just haven’t stood a chance against Clayton Kershaw.