Last season, the score “2-1” became symbolic of all the San Francisco Giants’ problems. About 98% of that (completely accurate) perception of the team came from three of Clayton Kershaw’s five victories over the Giants coming in games that ended with that exact score. In September Kershaw led the Dodgers to 2-1 victories over the Giants twice in a 12-day span, putting a couple nice bulletpoints his Cy Young resume and punctuating the worst offensive season in recent memory for San Francisco.
On Tuesday night, Kershaw got a taste of his own medicine … in Pill form (sorry).
— Isn’t it easier when the Giants only have to deal with one major team-wide flaw? Think of the Giants like a Prius (good lord, what a San Francisco thing to say). Like the Prius’ poor acceleration and tendency to overshift, the Giants’ below-average offense was/is a given. But sometimes you buy a Prius and the brakes stop working. That’s the kind of unexpected problem the Giants’ defense has caused several times in 2012. You can deal with a slow car as long as the mileage is great (in this case, the Giants’ starting rotation is the high MPG). But without brakes, you have nothing.
— No, I do not own a Prius.
— Brett Pill hit the Giants’ first home run in a long time, ending their streak of innings without a HR at 61. Sure seemed like 65 or 66 innings, didn’t it?
— Don Mattingly had to figure the Giants would go into Pelé mode on Mark Ellis’ bunt attempt in the 8th. Otherwise, why not let the best player in baseball, Matt Kemp, hit off Sergio Romo? Instead, Mattingly set up a double play with Andre Ethier facing Javier Lopez (who on Tuesday was the savior, only without the save). When you think about it, perhaps Mattingly’s decision signaled the one time when the Giants’ putrid defensive reputation actually helped them.
— Brandon Belt should start every day. Forget drawing the Giants’ only walk (of course) and his two other outstanding at-bats against Kershaw (0-for-2, but he drove the ball). That’s great, but his defense on those double plays in the 7th and 8th … wow. In the former — the one Buster Posey started — Belt took his foot off the base a split-second early and still sold it. In the 8th, he dug out Ryan Theriot’s throw when letting that throw get away would’ve meant a tie game. After watching Will Clark and J.T. Snow for so many years, it’s foreign to see first base defense that’s simply competent or worse. Belt’s more than competent.
— I was okay with Santiago Casilla coming in to face Juan Uribe. Uribe couldn’t hit an elite fastball when he was on the Giants, so it’s extremely doubtful he can catch up with one now. The powers of Romo’s slider are well known, but even in Uribe’s current state he can turn a hanging breaking ball around. That weak grounder to second off Casilla was pretty much the best case scenario for Uribe against 93/94 mph.
— Ryan Vogelsong only struck out one Dodger (Kershaw) and gave up 11 baserunners. He also induced 3 double plays and looks to be the exact same pitcher he was last year. This game was similar to a start Vogelsong had last July against the Mets, where he gave up 7 hits and 5 walks in 7 innings while striking out 2 and allowing 2 earned runs. The Giants lost that game 5-2, as Brian Wilson imploded in the top of the 9th with the game tied.
— Angel Pagan left due to a cramp but probably won’t play tomorrow, according to Bruce Bochy. That probably means Gregor Blanco moves to CF, but will Bruce Bochy put Aubrey Huff in left and Melky in right, or will Nate Schierholtz play? Huff’s lifetime numbers against Chad Billingsley: 29 PA, .148/.207/.185. Schierholtz vs. Billingsley: 20 PA, .421/.476/.684.
— If the Giants are going to keep trotting Theriot out there even though he’s hitting under .200 and has zero range at 2B, is Burriss just taking up a spot as a pinch runner? Or are they trying to build up Burriss’ service time and/or his pension? Even though Burriss can only hit singles, I wouldn’t mind seeing Theriot get a little break. Like May.
— The Giants were as low as they’ve been all year 24 hours ago, now they’re teetering on the edge of optimism. After Tim Lincecum allowed 4 free passes in his first three starts, he has walked 13 hitters in his last three. He also surrendered 12 fewer runs in his last three starts than in his first three. Can he combine scoreboard brilliance with command that stops reminding everyone of a right-handed Jonathan Sanchez? If so, the Giants might have a chance at their second 2-1 victory in as many nights.