It’s nice to actually watch the Dodgers beat the Giants, isn’t it? The Dodgers started the season 3-7 against their northern rivals, but behind the arms of Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw, they’ve won the first two games of the series.
Opposing Kershaw was Ryan Vogelsong, and his start began like what Dodger fans have come to expect. Vogelsong is not a great pitcher, but for whatever reason (small sample size, really), he always seems to be tougher against the Dodgers. Tonight started with some confirmation bias, as Vogelsong retired the first eleven batters he faced. However, that’s when things fell apart. It started innocently enough, with a sun-aided double by Adrian Gonzalez. Hanley Ramirez followed it up with a bloop single to left field, driving in the first run.
The Dodgers picked up where they left off in the fifth inning. Carl Crawford, Matt Kemp, and Juan Uribe hit consecutive singles to plate another run. The Dodgers scored two more against Vogelsong in the sixth, driven in by a Carl Crawford fielder’s choice/throwing error by Dan Uggla and a Juan Uribe bloop double. When all was said and done, Vogelsong gave up eight hits, walked one (intentionally), and struck out four batters in six innings. Given the way his day started, he can’t be happy with the end result.
The Dodgers later added another run against Jean Machi, but even one run would have been enough for Kershaw. He looked almost unstoppable. Gregor Blanco singled against him in the first inning as he spent some time finding his control. Kershaw settled down in the way that only he can, not allowing another hit until Michael Morse found a hole in the infield in the seventh. And that was it. All three pitches were working for Kershaw tonight; weak contact off the curve, swing-and-miss off the slider, and great fastball command. It was “vintage” Kershaw, even if he didn’t strike out quite as many as expected (seven), he allowed just the two hits and one walk in a complete game shutout.
For good measure, Kershaw has always been great against the Giants, and tonight’s start was sort of typical. Entering tonight’s game, Kershaw had a 1.48 ERA in 164 innings against them. That ERA is down to 1.40. It isn’t really statistically meaningful (beyond Kershaw just being really good in general), but it is certainly satisfying to watch.
Tonight’s start lowed Kershaw’s ERA to 1.76, once again the best ERA in baseball. It actually raised his FIP, which just shows how great he has been up to now. After starting high, Kershaw’s season BABIP and HR/FB have regressed to where they have been during his peak. There just isn’t much else you can say. He’s Clayton Kershaw and he’s the best.
Since outfield defense has been such a concern lately, it’s worth running down how the Dodgers did. Yasiel Puig continued to look relatively comfortable in center, though neither of his two chances were particularly difficult. Matt Kemp also seems to be adapting to his new position; he made a nice sliding catch among the bullpen mounds. Kemp still looks a step or two slower than he did in his prime, but he looks much better in right so far. Only more time will tell if Kemp’s defense is actually better, but first impressions are positive.
After tonight’s win, the Dodgers have regained possession of first place. They’ll need to win tomorrow to maintain it, though. Hyun-jin Ryu will go up against the newest Giant Jake Peavy for another game on Sunday Night Baseball.