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SAN FRANCISCO–A day after Andrew McCutchen fouled off seven offerings before blasting a three-run walk-off home run, the Giants had another chance to come from behind and stun the Dodgers in extra innings.
This time, an epic at-bat was not to be.
When a called strike three ended a 2-1 Giants loss in the 10th inning, pinch hitter Brandon Belt felt the bat was taken out of his hands.
It was easily too high, Belt said. Theres just not much else you can say about it. It wasnt a strike.
With the tying run at second and the go-ahead run at the plate, home plate umpire Bruce Dreckman thought Kenley Jansens 91-miler per hour cutter found the strike zone.
Dreckman raised an arm, and reached it across his body.
It wasnt close, Belt said.
After rewarding a rookie reliever with his first career win on Saturday night, the Giants fell just short of accomplishing the same feat Sunday.
Alas, Pierce Johnson would not experience the same joy felt by Roberto Gomez.
In the top of the 10th inning, Johnson allowed a go-ahead double to pinch hitter Kyle Farmer that gave the Dodgers the run they needed to seal up a series split.
We had some really good hitters coming up, so I did like my chances, manager Bruce Bochy said.
The chance the Giants had soon disappeared.
As he typically does, Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw spent much of the afternoon carving up Giants hitters and frustrating an offense that couldnt seem to figure him out.
But thanks to another impressive performance from the Giants pitching staff and an early hook from Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, San Francisco pushed across the game-tying run in the eighth inning against reliever J.T. Chargois.
After cruising through 7.0 scoreless frames against the Giants, Kershaw surrendered a Hunter Pence single to lead off the bottom of the eighth. The Giants next hitter, Kelby Tomlinson, pushed a bunt into no-mans land on the right side of the diamond that allowed him to reach, too.
When the Giants tabbed Buster Posey to pinch hit, Kershaw had thrown just 92 pitches.
Roberts said that was enough.
Enter Chargois, who allowed Posey to line a single to right that plated Pence and prevented Kershaw from earning his first win of the season.
With chances to add on in the eighth, the Giants failed to do so. After two unsuccessful bunt attempts with runners on first and second, Austin Jackson bounced into a double play, wiping out an opportunity to move ahead.
It really was looking good there, but they got out of it, Bochy said.
The fact San Francisco was in the game is a credit to left-hander Ty Blach, who battled his way through a Dodger lineup that makes him look like an All-Star instead of a rotational fill-in.
The lone blemish on Blachs line came in the top of the fourth, when he allowed a leadoff single to Yasiel Puig that barely blooped in front of Jackson in center field. After walking first baseman Kiké Hernandez, Blach surrendered an opposite field single to left fielder Matt Kemp that allowed Puig to dart home and break a scoreless tie.
Six solid innings, he held them to one run, Bochy said. Hes throwing the ball well.
After scoring a combined 17 runs in their previous two games, the Giants offense appeared to break out of its early-season funk. It hardly mattered, though, because the franchise has had a decade-long struggle against Kershaw.
If the offense was going to arrive, it would need to show up late.
With Blach cruising but the Giants lineup sputtering, Bochy gambled in the bottom of the sixth inning by pinch hitting for his starter. The tactical shift paid immediate dividends when Gorkys Hernandez drilled a single into center field, but backfired moments later.
After a Jackson single gave the Giants a pair of base runners with just one out, a Panik line drive to right field put Hernandez in a bind. The speedy outfielder took off for third base, but Yasiel Puig executed a nifty sliding grab to rob Panik of a base hit.
The split-second decision was a challenging one for Hernandez, who knew he would have to sprint around third base to have a chance to score if Paniks sinking liner fell in front of Puig. However, when Puig plucked the near-hit out of the air, Hernandez was too far from second to return and was easily doubled up.
Theres a couple spots in that game were the turning point, Bochy said. I thought in the sixth inning when Panik lined into a double play, we really had them on the ropes there.
The history between Blach and Kershaw doesnt just date back to Opening Day, but to the end of the 2016 season when the Giants lefty tossed eight innings of three-hit ball to outduel the Dodgers ace.
Blach credited that start, which eventually helped the Giants clinch a wildcard spot, with providing a foundation of confidence for him to go head to head with one of the games biggest stars.
He gives you everything hes got from the first pitch to the last pitch, Giants catcher Nick Hundley said.
Blachs impressive run continued with five shutout innings at Dodger Stadium to open the season, and again on Sunday when the Giants needed their starter to work deep into the ballgame.
After Bochy used all eight relievers in his bullpen in the Giants 14-inning walkoff win over the Dodgers Saturday, Blach labored for 6.0 innings before the skipper even sent a reliever down to warm up.
That pitcher, Cory Gearrin, entered after Blach was pinch hit for with just 81 pitches on his tab for the afternoon.
Though Blach likely could have pitched deeper into the game, he lowered his season ERA to 4.11 and kept the Giants in the game against Kershaw, which is no easy feat. Even though he allowed just the lone run, his ERA in starts against the Dodgers ticked up by a hundredth of a point, going from 1.41 to 1.42.
With splits in three straight series to open the year, the Giants will host a red-hot Diamondbacks team at AT&T Park this week to round out their homestand.
Its going to be a battle, Hundley said. The NL West is going to be a battle all year. Its going to be a grind.