SAN FRANCISCO — It doesn’t make sense, but it doesn’t have to. It’s baseball.
More than $100 million separated the starting lineups for Saturday’s nationally televised meeting at Oracle Park. One team had a two-time All-Star as its designated hitter; the other a recently acquired backup catcher. On the mound: a rookie starter logging the front end of a bullpen game versus a future first-ballot Hall-of-Famer.
Just like last season, when David prevailed over Goliath 10 of 19 times and won the division, the Giants’ patchwork squad did enough for a second straight day to defeat the Dodgers’ behemoth of megastars. The 3-2 win evened the teams’ season series at two games apiece and secured a series win for the Giants in the teams’ first meeting this season in San Francisco.
In a stellar game from San Francisco’s bullpen, Giants relievers twice escaped the jaws of death. With strikeouts of Freddie Freeman and Mookie Betts and a double-play ground ball from Trea Turner, Jarlín García and Camilo Doval escaped bases-loaded jams in the seventh and eighth innings to preserve the Giants’ slim lead.
After the Dodgers swept a two-game series in Los Angeles last month, many fans cried out about the disparity in depth, talent level and investment between the two NL West rivals. One team retained one All-Star acquisition and signed another, while the other did nothing to replace its living legend of a backstop and stuck with its aging core.
But games like the past two show the formula is still working in Farhan Zaidi’s platoon paradise.
Neither of the Giants’ two majors offseason additions, Joc Pederson and Carlos Rodón, started Saturday’s game. Two other high-priced veterans, Evan Longoria and Brandon Belt, were kept out of the lineup with injuries. That left Brandon Crawford ($16 million) as the only player in the Giants’ starting nine making even the average salary of a Dodgers starter.
With backup catcher Austin Wynn acting as the Giants’ last right-handed resort at designated hitter and rookie Heliot Ramos slotted in third in his fourth major-league start — against Clayton Kershaw, no less — the disparity in payroll on the field Saturday was more stark than usual.
The difference between the two starting nines: $107.2 million, according to figures from Spotrac. The chasm widens to $123.5 million when accounting for the difference between Kershaw ($17 million) and Sam Long, the Giants opener in a game that featured six innings of two-run ball from five relievers behind him.
It’s up for debate whether García or Doval took down the most important outs of the game.
García entered with no outs in the seventh, after the Dodgers had loaded the bases, with Freeman and Turner due up. García went to full count against Freeman, then put a 94 mph fastball past him for the crucial strike three. Turner, one of the fastest players in the majors, grounded into a double play to end the inning. Not to be overlooked was Crawford ‘s effort on the play before García entered, ranging to his right his to keep Betts ‘single contained to the infield and likely taking runs off the board.
Doval took over after García allowed three of the first four Dodgers of the eighth to reach base, aided by a fielding error from Thairo Estrada, who booted a ground ball from Justin Turner. After Cody Bellinger doubled home the Dodgers’ first run and Doval walked Chris Taylor, he fired sliders past Gavin Lux and Betts to end the threat.
José Álvarez recorded the final three outs for the save, though he made sure it was nerve-wracking for the 41,236 in attendance by allowing a solo shot to Freeman to lead off the inning that pulled the Dodgers within one.
Long outpitched Kershaw for the brief time both were in the game. Long tossed three shutout innings, while Kershaw, in his first start back from pelvic inflammation, was out of the game after four innings and two runs.
The Giants rallied for both their runs in the second inning, before adding one important insurance run in the eighth.
If there are any nerves that come with facing Kershaw for the first time, neither Luis González nor Estrada showed them. When each player stepped to the plate in the second, it was their first career at-bat against the three-time Cy Young winner. Both fell into two-strike counts, then delivered the Giants’ two RBI hits of the afternoon.
Estrada laid off a curveball out of the strike zone and fouled off two more pitches before Kershaw left a slider over the middle of the plate, which Estrada turned on and put into the left-field bleachers. The solo shot was Estrada’s fourth of the season and put the Giants up 1-0. After Crawford drew a walk, González singled him home with a base hit up the middle. His 21st RBI tied him with Chicago’s Seiya Suzuki for the most among National League rookies and made it 2-0.
Wynns, for his part, did the job description as a designated hitter: with two more singles, he’s 4-for-5 in two starts since the Giants acquired the 31-year-old career .221 hitter from Philadelphia.