Usually, when your team throws a one-hitter, they win those games and the dugout is feeling good. Twice this year for the Giants, however, throwing a no-hitter is synonymous with a crushing defeat.
On a night where Barry Zito was fabulous, he still took the loss and fell to 8-13. Although his last two starts were stellar, he has received just 2 runs of support in those 2 games and has only yielded 3 runs (2 earned). On Tuesday night, in front of 36,076 at AT&T park, his line looked like this: 5.2 IP, 1 R (0 earned), 1 hit, 3BB, 5 strikeouts.
The lone run for the Dodgers and of the game came in the sixth inning. With 1 out, Reed Johnson was hit on a 1-2 pitch. The next batter, Clayton Kershaw, bunted him over to second. The next two batters, Rafael Furcal and Andre Ethier, walked bring up Casey Blake. Blake hit a sharp ground ball up the middle, ticketed for center field, that hit the side of the mound and took a funny hop toward Juan Uribe. Uribe got to it, but the ball hit off the heel of his glove and rolled away from him, allowing Reed Johnson to score from third. Uribe flipped a desperation throw to second, but it was too late. Television replays concluded that Uribe would have probably recorded the out at first if he fielded it cleanly.
Uribe himself owned up to his error. "Yeah, yeah, it's an error. It's an easy play. It's my fault. If no error, maybe no score." With the big home runs Uribe has hit this season (10 of the 20 have either tied the game or gave the giants the lead), it is easy to forgive him for this one mishap. After all, it was the only run of the game. The offense has to score to win.
The Giants, however, could not do that. The Dodgers' ace, Clayton Kershaw (12-10), was simply fantastic, recording his first career complete game shut out of his career. In his 9 shutout innings pitched, he gave up 4 hits and no walks, constantly pounding the strike zone with strike 1.
The Giants had their best scoring opportunity off Kershaw in the sixth inning. Cody Ross doubled with 2 outs, but Freddy Sanchez hit a ball well to right center right at Matt Kemp. Freddy Sanchez was the only bright spot offensively for the Giants, going 2 for 4 (2 singles). The other hit for the Giants came from a single by Juan Uribe in the fifth.
The bullpen once again was superb, throwing 3 1/3 innings of perfect baseball. The Giants combined for a one hitter, but still lost to the Dodgers 1-0. The Giants will surely want to shrug this one off and get them tomorrow, but it will be awfully tough when this was such a winnable game.
For me, today's game is just one where you have to tip your cap to Clayton Kershaw. He was just a strike-throwing machine no matter what the count was or who was on base. He was able to get both the fastball and off-speed pitches over. 72 out of his 111 were strikes. Simply put, the way Kershaw pitched last night, many good offenses would have struggled against him.
The Giants did put up some good at-bats. Eugenio Velez pinch hit in the sixth and got the count to 3-2, but hit a sharp ground ball into the hole at 3rd that Casey Blake dove for and made the play on. Cody Ross did double later in the inning, so if Velez gets on there, the Giants would have had a good shot to tie the game. I thought Pat Burrell also just missed two home runs in his ABs. Even though he popped out twice, going 0 for 3, he just missed those 2 pop-ups. According to F.P. Santangelo, if Burrell hits those balls a quarter of an inch in a different direction of the bat, those two balls could have cleared the left field wall. Not to mention, Aubrey Huff just missed hitting one a long way in the ninth off Kershaw, but he fouled it straight back. Such is the game of baseball, a game of not just inches, but quarter-inches.
I hope Cody Ross is back hitting lead-off tonight. He is a streaky hitter, and that double might be just the thing to get him going. A few ABs may get him into the flow of things, since it is so hard to get your timing down if you are a regular player who is all of a sudden assigned to pinch hitting duties. He also has good speed and is a better fielder than the alternatives. If Ross doesn't work out, I like Marty Lurie's idea of letting Darren Ford lead off one game and play center field. He can't be any worse than Rowand or Ross if he struggles, and he might even beat out some ground balls to short. Yes, he is that fast.
Meanwhile, on the out of town scoreboard, the Braves lost 4-2 to the Nationals. The Giants could pull to within a half game of the Wild Card lead with a win. On the NL West watch, the Rockies are leading the Padres 9-3 in the 8th inning. If this holds up, the Giants would be just a half-game out in the West as well. Big game tonight.
The Giants lost both one-hitters that they have thrown this season, both at AT&T Park. The last time they lost a one-hitter was on May 13th vs. the San Diego Padres. Jonathan Sanchez was the hard-luck loser in that game, and Mat Latos got the win. Matt Kemp was caught stealing for the 15th time this year in 33 tries. Scott Podsednik missed his fourth straight game and likely is done for the season with plantar fasciitis in his left foot. Before the game, the Giants observed a moment of silence for the victims of the San Bruno explosion. $3 of every ticket purchased that game was donated to the San Bruno relief fund. In total, over $120,000 was raised for the fund. The Giants will face a tough pitcher tonight in Chad Billingsley (11-9, 3.65 ERA). They will counter with Matt Cain (11-10, 3.19 ERA). The Giants have not beat Billingsley this year, so it will be a tough one, but you never know what will happen in the game of baseball.