Before I get to talking about tonight’s game, I have to take a moment to recognize a great feat that occurred tonight in Houston, Texas. Rangers starting pitcher Yu Darvish faced 26 hitters without giving up a hit, a walk, an error, or a hit-by-pitch. The 27th batter managed to slap a single up the middle to break up the perfect game after 8 2/3 innings. To that point, Darvish had not only been perfect, he’d struck out 14 batters to boot. Not quite a perfect game, but a tremendous outing in Houston tonight by Darvish.
Tonight’s game featured new Dodger Korean sensation Hyun Jin Ryu. Ryu was a significant addition this off-season. While not as heralded as the Dodgers’ biggest signing off the off-season, Ryu was definitely a big pick-up, and looked fantastic during the spring.
Since I went to Opening Day, this was my first opportunity to hear Vin Scully call a game live this season. The cadence of the baritone rang through my living room and soothed my ears, the familiar voice of my 31 summers. What a treat to have Vin back in the booth for the 64th season, sounding as strong as ever, and as usual refusing to go quiet into that gentle night even in his mid-80’s. Vin’s body may be 85, but his voice is timeless.
So what was the verdict? Ryu didn’t look bad. He didn’t look great. Very early in the game the umpire seemed to pinch the outside corner on him a bit and that appeared to have some impact on how he placed his pitches. Unfortunately he left a few too many out leading to a barrage of Giants hits. But he also seemed to bear down when he needed to and through 6 innings had struck out 5 batters and benefitted from 3 double plays. He did exactly what your starting pitcher is supposed to do when he clearly doesn’t have his best stuff working for him: he battled through adversity. If not for Justin Sellers’ two costly throwing errors in the Top of the 7th, Ryu very well may have come out after 7 innings having only surrendered 1 run and giving the Dodgers a chance to get even with one swing of the bat, and you’ll take that out of a starter who doesn’t have his best stuff any night of the week. Instead, his line read 6 1/3 innings, 3 runs surrendered with only one of them earned (an ERA of 1.42 for those keeping score at home.) He gave up 10 hits, but had 5 strikeouts and no walks. He had moments where he seemed to find his rhythm as the game went along, but there were moments when he just looked nervous early.
Overall, I appreciated Ryu’s effort tonight. I hope he looks sharper next time out. That said, if the Dodgers’ offense showed up, this could have been a win or at least a no decision for Ryu.
On the other end, Madison Bumgarner was nearly as good tonight as Clayton Kershaw was yesterday afternoon. Bumgarner came out after 8 innings having only surrendered 2 hits. Adrian Gonzalez hit a long fly ball that might have gone out on a warmer night leading off the second inning that was caught at the wall. A.J. Ellis and Andre Ethier both got doubles off him. But outside of that, Bumgarner looked fantastic.
While Ryu gave up a run in the 4th to fall behind 1-0, it was Justin Sellers’ sudden inability to play defense in the Top of the 7th inning that really cost the team the game. His two wild threads gifted the Giants 2 runs and put the Dodgers in a deep hole. With Bumgarner dealing the way he was tonight, and Sergio Romo pitching a sharp 9th, the Dodgers all but lost the game on those two plays.
The Rubber Match of the series is tomorrow, with Josh Beckett taking the hill for the Dodgers against Tim Lincecum.
Bumgarner Wows: Madison Bumgarner was virtually unhittable most of the game. The Dodgers mustered a couple of doubles off him, but at one point he retired 18 in a row. The Dodger offense could never get going.
Posey’s Game Of Inches: After being a victim of some bad luck in what I called a “Game of Inches” yesterday, Buster Posey wound up getting things started for the Giants with a base hit in the 4th and scored what would eventually be the deciding run. It’s a fact: if Buster Posey is producing, the Giants are going to have a much better chance to win. Posey had to feel good about how he played his role tonight. In a game where the starters once again dug in and fought hard, it was the little things and taking advantage of miscues that won the game for San Francisco.
Sell Low: Justin Sellers was brought up for his supposed defensive prowess, but looked like Steve Sax or Chuck Knoblauch with a case of the Yips tonight in the 7th inning. While neither of the runs that came across due to Sellers’ error were the deciding run or a tying run, it put the Dodgers in a 3-0 hole and the way that Bumgarner was pitching this gave the Giants a significant psychological edge in this game.
The Legend of A.J. Ellis Continues… A.J. Ellis once again did a superb job behind the plate, guiding Ryu through several jams and helping the bullpen through 2 2/3 innings of what would have been shutout ball if not for Sellers’ second error.
Cruz Control: Luis Cruz was once again flawless in the field, making several key plays including a 5-4 double play with two runners on and no one out that might have been a triple play with a slower runner. Cruz is still looking to get going at the plate, but so far this season he has helped the Dodgers out tremendously in the field. Cruz’s defense was a big part of Kershaw’s shutout yesterday and was also a factor in helping Hyun-Jin Ryu get out of several jams tonight.
We’ll see you tomorrow night for the Rubber Match.