SF Giants drop first game vs. Dodgers in Rodón-Urias duel

LOS ANGELES — When the air is thick as it was Tuesday night over Chavez Ravine, it’s the mistake pitches outside the strike zone that make the difference.

In their first time facing off this season, in what is expected to be a 19-round title bout for the NL West, fly balls off Giants and Dodgers bats alike were dying and both starting pitchers were dealing. The only blemish for either Carlos Rodón or Julio Urías were two free passes issued by the Giants starter, which came home to score in the second inning and proved the difference in a 3-1 loss to the Dodgers.

The two storied rivals sprinted to the finish line last season, and if Tuesday night was any indication, they are destined for something similar this season, even if their 213 combined wins might be hard to replicate.

After making it through the first inning on six pitches — managing to outdo the display of efficiency by Urías, completing the top half of the frame on only eight pitches — Rodón needed 27 during a laborious second inning.

He walked Max Muncy, then Cody Bellinger. And put both runners in scoring position on a Mr. Snappy-esque wild pitch — a breaking ball that flew well over the glove of catcher Joey Bart — before Chris Taylor drove both home on a single to right field.

San Francisco Giants center fielder Austin Slater makes a catch on a ball hit by Los Angeles Dodgers’ Will Smith during the sixth inning of a baseball game Tuesday, May 3, 2022, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Rodón regained composure and retired the next eight batters, until Taylor slapped a double in his next at-bat. But he stranded him at second base, and the score remained 2-0 until both starters left the game.

Although it wasn’t for a lack of trying.

Will Smith and Max Muncy sent two balls flying a combined 694 feet off Rodón. Both found leather. Cody Bellinger slugged another that looked destined for the outfield bleachers but died — 390 feet away — in the glove of Mauricio Dubón.

Flyball outs off the bats of newly acquired third baseman Kevin Padlo and Mauricio Dubón traveled a combined 725 feet.

So perhaps it was only fitting that the Giants’ only run came off a sacrifice fly traveled a mere 291 feet. But Luis Gonzalez’s meager pop fly proved more than enough distance for even Wilmer Flores to tag and score from third.

Austin Slater and Thairo Estrada were the only Giants to manage to reach base off Urías. Each did so twice — no ball better-hit than Estrada’s second-inning double into right-center field — but each time, they were immediately followed by outs.

Slater singled to lead off the game, but he was quickly erased on a ground ball double play off the bat of Darin Ruf. Urías let the leadoff man on and still finished the inning on only eight pitches. That was just how the night was going to go.

San Francisco Giants’ Wilmer Flores, right, breaks his bat as he hits a single while Los Angeles Dodgers catcher Will Smith watches during the seventh inning of a baseball game Tuesday, May 3, 2022, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

The Giants only mustered a run once Brusdar Graterol relieved Urías in the seventh inning. Flores reached on a broken-bat infield hit and advanced to second on a throwing error from Justin Turner, then scored from third on the sac fly from Gonzalez, who was pinch-hitting for Padlo (who went 0-for-2 on two well -hit flyballs in his club debut).

Joc Pederson, who went to three World Series with the Dodgers, made his return to Los Angeles and also returned from a groin strain when he was called upon to bat for Joey Bart in the eighth. But he didn’t fare as well as Gonzalez, striking out swinging, just as fellow pinch-hitter Jason Vosler would two batters later.

Another wild pitch — this one from José Álvarez — gave the Dodgers their third run, after two hits to lead off the bottom of the eighth. A ball in the dirt scooted away from Curt Casali, who replaced Bart behind the plate, and Hanser Alberto, who doubled to start the inning, sprinted home from third base.

Urías blanked the Giants for six innings, not allowing a base runner besides Slater and Estrada, and did so on only 65 pitches. But manager Dave Roberts turned to the bullpen, rather than let Urías keep mowing.

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