Clayton Kershaw struck out 15 Giants on Wednesday night, matching his career game-high and setting his personal best single-season strikeouts mark at 251. The complete-game, 132-pitch effort landed the Dodgers’ ace his 12th win of the year, pushing the Dodgers’ record to 75-57. More importantly, the victory seals the sweep of the Giants, giving them a 6 and a half game lead over their division rivals with just 30 games to go in the regular season.
According to losangeles.cbslocal.com, “Kershaw became the first NL pitcher to strike out 250 batters in a season since Tim Lincecum of the Giants fanned 261 in 2009.”
With this win Kershaw picks up his first of the year against the Giants, and in a way it figuratively ended the season for the G-men in style (if you are a Dodger fan). This series could have gone two ways: Either the Giants take the series and make the NL West a race worth watching until the end, or the Dodgers take the series and make the division theirs for the taking borrowing a historic choke.
This is exactly what happened for the Dodgers when Kershaw struck out semi-newly-acquired outfielder Marlon Byrd in the 9th after a prolonged meeting on the mound including players and head coach Don Mattingly. Tip your cap to the Giants, each game this series was a one-run affair.
They certainly battled to the end in all three, but the two-headed snake of Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw bit the Giants after dropping the first game of the series. This is something you just cannot do against the Dodgers (drop a game against a starter not named Greinke or Kershaw).
Besides losing the first game of the series before the Dodgers’ co-aces took the hill Tuesday and Wednesday, the big problem for the Giants this series was giving up the long ball. Chase Utley, whom the Giants almost made a deal with the Phillies to bring to San Francisco, torched the Mike Leake with a solo shot to put the Dodgers ahead in the game by a score of 2-1 (which ended up being the final score).
Monday and Tuesday the other lefties (Adrian Gonzales, Andre Ethier, and Joc Pederson) lit up the Giants pitching staff like the 4th of July, hitting both towering, fly-ball homers, and line-drive shots just reaching the stands. The pitching from the Giants as a whole has been below the grade they have been used to in the last five years. Even in 2011 and 2013 when they missed the playoffs, the pitching was not this bad.
A huge reason the pitching staff has just not been the same is because Matt Cain has missed as much time as humanly possible to still get paid the fat contract he signed a few years back. “He is going to pitch a rehab game in Sacramento on Friday,” according to Giants’ Manager Bruce Bochy on blogs.mercurynews.com
It seems a little too late for Cain to come back and make any impact this season. But if the Giants want to get back to their winning ways of 2010, 12, and 14, they are going to need him to come back throwing hard and locating his pitches in the 2016 campaign.
On the offensive side of the ball, Joe Panik is going to play a few games for the River Cats this weekend, and the Giants hope to have him back and ready to play next Monday versus the Arizona Diamondbacks. He has been out for a little more than a month with lower back inflammation.
Brandon Crawford, the other side of the Giants’ All-Star middle-infield, has missed seven of his team’s last eight games due to a tight oblique and then a calf contusion after being plunked on Monday.
These injuries quickly piled up and it will cause the Giants to once again miss out on a postseason birth in an odd-numbered year.