Early Giants-Dodgers series forecasts an entertaining summer

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Source:   —  April 10, 2016, at 8:12 AM

Bumgarner allowed one running in six innings and hit his second career residence running off Kershaw, who gave up two runs in eight innings. Charlie Culberson hit a tiebreaking double off George Kontos in the tenth for the game winner.

Early Giants-Dodgers series forecasts an entertaining summer

Dave Roberts recalled an evening latest Sept when a few then-San Diego Padres coaches were looking at the out-of-town scoreboard and noticed a pitching matchup of Madison Bumgarner and Clayton Kershaw in San Francisco.

“I recollect talking to the coaches,” said Roberts, San Diego’s bench coach at the time, “and saying, ‘That’s a game I'd pay money to go watch.’”

Presently the manager of the LA Dodgers, Roberts had a view you can’t purchase for Saturday’s latest meeting of the two left-handed aces, a 3-2 Dodgers win in tenth innings on a rainy afternoon at AT&T Park. Bumgarner allowed one running in six innings and hit his second career residence running off Kershaw, who gave up two runs in eight innings. Charlie Culberson hit a tiebreaking double off George Kontos in the tenth for the game winner.

Saturday was the fifth time in the last twelve months Bumgarner and Kershaw have started against each other, and the frequency and profile of their matchups arguably have made them the current representation of the longstanding rivalry between their teams.

“In many ways I think so,” Giants common manager Bobby Evans said recently. “They both have high respect for each other and they’ve both been very successful. It certainly makes for a good matchup.”

Bumgarner, twenty-six, owns three World Series rings and a World Series MVP award. His team has won three of the past six World Series. Kershaw, twenty-eight, has three Cy Youthful Awards and a National League MVP. His team has won the N. L. W the past three years.

Leading up to Saturday, both pitchers shrugged off the significance of their latest encounter, as many players will characterize the Giants-Dodgers dynamic as simply another layer of plot for fans. Yet the attention paid to the Bumgarner-Kershaw matchup – and to this early April series – indicates the rivalry is in one of its stronger phases.

The Giants padded their roster over the winter with several expensive free-agent signings. The Dodgers also have shown a willingness to spend money but this year are promoting a strategy of depth – one that's already been certified this spring by injuries to their rotation. Neither team is ignoring the rest of the division, particularly the AZ Diamondbacks, but the Giants and Dodgers are widely considered to be the front-runners again in the N. L. West.

“We match up, I think, well against each other,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “This is the early portion of the season, but the fact that (the series) has created this much interest – it’s a excellent thing for baseball, it’s a excellent thing for these players to know that these two teams are going to be battling it out probably for the whole year.”

Bochy used terms love “solid,” “balanced” and “tough” to characterize the Dodgers. Roberts struck a similar chord describing the Giants’ lineup Friday, calling it “very balanced” with length, speed and power.

“Maybe on paper this is the best club they’ve had in (recent) years,” Roberts said. “But as we’ve seen, it’s not always the best team that’s holding that trophy. So I think for us, we perceive really excellent about our club, but that lineup definitely poses some challenges.”

The teams’ mutual respect extends to their aces. Before Saturday, Bumgarner and Kershaw had met seven times. The Giants had won five of the games, but Kershaw owned the better numbers – a 2.12 ERA and 0.86 WHIP, or walks plus hits per inning pitched, compared to a 2.58 ERA and 1.15 WHIP for Bumgarner. Kershaw also had the best single performance in the game Roberts remembered from latest September – a 13-strikeout shutout that clinched the div for the Dodgers.

The pitchers said they're friendly without being extremely close. Bumgarner gave a respectful reply when asked Friday what he admires about Kershaw.

“I mean, he’s the best pitcher in baseball,” Bumgarner said. “And he seems love a beautiful excellent guy. What wouldn’t you admire? Except his looks, they’re bad. You can write that down.”

Kershaw told reporters Friday he puts tiny significance into his matchups against Bumgarner, “other than pitching against a really good pitcher.”

“I think we’re friends,” Kershaw said. “It doesn’t imply I don’t wish to beat him.”

For much of Saturday, it looked as though Bumgarner would obtain the better of Kershaw. Already the only pitcher to homer off Kershaw in the majors, Bumgarner became just the fifteenth player overall with multiple career homers against Kershaw when he lined a 1-1 fastball into the left-field seats in the second inning. It was Bumgarner’s twelfth career homer, tying Yovani Gallardo for most among active pitchers.

Shortstop Ehire Adrianza, starting in space of Brandon Crawford, homered off Kershaw out of the No. nine spot three innings later, and the Giants carried a 2-1 lead into the ninth. But the Dodgers loaded the bases against closer Santiago Casilla with one out on a walk, a single and a hit batsman. Casilla got Adrian Gonzalez to hit a potential double-play grounder but second baseman Kelby Tomlinson bobbled it and recorded only one out as the tying run scored.

That removed both starters from the decision, and back-to-back one-out doubles by Corey Seager and Culberson off Kontos in the tenth gave the Dodgers their first win of the season series against the Giants.

“I see at the game (Bumgarner) pitched today, that’s a grand game going against maybe the best pitcher in baseball,” Bochy said. “Here we'd the lead with the closer out there. That’s all you can ask.

“They did a excellent work battling back; give them credit. We did it the first two games. This has been a grand series, exciting games, and this one just got far from us today.”

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