SAN FRANCISCO - The Giants’ effort against Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers on Sunday was fundamentally flawed. That is, it wasn’t a great example of baseball fundamentals.
The Giants took LA into extra innings, but two mistakes, one mental and one mechanical, weighed heavily in the Dodgers’ 2-1 win. The question is whether the home team made a third fundamental blunder that ultimately sealed the loss.
Back to that issue in a moment. First, the clear transgressions.
Kershaw was nearly untouchable for five innings, but the Giants put men on first and second with one out in the sixth. Joe Panik followed with a line drive to right field and the Dodgers’ Yasiel Puig, after a slow break on the ball, wound up catching it in a dive. Gorkys Hernandez was San Francisco’s lead runner, and he watched the whole thing unfold from the comfort of third base, where he had streaked without hesitation. Puig threw to second to complete an easy double play, and the rally was over.
The second flub came in the eighth inning, after the Giants had chased Kershaw on back-to-back hits, and Buster Posey had tied the score on a pinch-hit single against J.T. Chargois. There were still none out when Austin Jackson came to plate. He’s known as a good bunter. But the veteran failed to get one down fair, and with two strikes he grounded into a double play. Panik flied to left field to end the inning.
The Giants were still alive after both of those blunders, though. They had survived a 14-inning marathon the night before, thanks to Andrew McCutchen’s three-run walk-off home run, and had to be feeling confident when this one went into extras.
Even when the Dodgers’ Kyle Farmer put his team ahead on a pinch-hit double in the top of the 10th — all these big pinch hits; it must have had something to do with Manny Mota representing the Dodgers for a pregame rivalry ceremony — the Giants made noise. Hunter Pence bounced a single through the left side of the infield against closer Kenley Jansen and stole second base.
That’s where he was when Brandon Belt came to the plate with two outs, another pinch hitter trying to make an impact. But Belt didn’t even put a ball in play. He fouled off three pitches from Jansen, took a couple for balls, then slumped helplessly as home plate umpire Bruce Dreckman rang him up for a called third strike.
On Saturday, the Giants had won a heart-stopping thriller. On Sunday, they lost in the most passive way possible.
Question No. 1: Was it a strike?
Breckman clearly thought so. The graphic strike zone on the game telecast suggested otherwise. This high-tech mapping tool placed Jansen’s pitch just north of the zone. Dodgers catcher Yasmani Grandal did a good job of framing the pitch.
To the Giants, the answer was obvious.
“It was easily, easily too high,” Belt said, his voice still edgy after the game. “I mean, there’s not much else you can say about it, it just wasn’t a strike.”
I asked him how hard it is for a batter to widen his strike zone when an important two-strike pitch is close to the mark.