SAN FRANCISCO — On paper, at least, the Giants are built to crush left-handed pitching. They’ve been struggling against lefties over the past few weeks. This flaw was evident at Oracle Park on Saturday night.
The Giants had few answers for Dodgers left-hander Julio Urias, who allowed only three hits over five innings of one-run ball in San Francisco’s 9-2 loss in Game 2 of the National League Division Series, evening this best-of-five showdown between the longtime rivals at one game apiece.
San Francisco trailed, 2-1, heading into the sixth inning, but the Dodgers broke the game open with a four-run rally that was sparked by Cody Bellinger’s two-run, bases-loaded double off Dominic Leone. After Brandon Crawford’s RBI double in the sixth, the Giants managed to score one more run. But their momentum was shattered when Wilmer Flores stole third base and ran into the third inning. This was after Mookie Betts’s spectacular throw.
Los Angeles tacked on three more runs in the eighth to turn what had once been a close affair into a blowout.
“It wasn’t our best effort tonight,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “The Dodgers swung better than us, made more pitch than us, and made more plays than we,” Gabe Kapler said. So as we’ve done all season long, we’ll turn the page, get ready for an off-day of preparation and get ready for Game 3.”
The series will now shift to Los Angeles, where the Giants and Dodgers will meet for Game 3 on Monday night at Dodger Stadium. Left-hander Alex Wood ,, a former Dodger will start for the Giants while Max Scherzer will be opposing.
In Division Series with the current 2-2-1 format, teams that have split the first two games in their opponent’s home ballpark, before returning home for Game 3, have gone on to win the series 23 of 36 times (64%). This excludes 2020 (Division Series played at neutral sites).
While facing Scherzer — a three-time Cy Young Award winner and future Hall of Famer — will be a tall task, the Giants have established a track record of success against righties this year. They’ve gone 80-35 (. 696) against right-handed starters, most recently tagging Dodgers ace Walker Buehler for three runs over 6 1/3 innings in their 4-0 win in Game 1 on Friday night.
Against lefties, though, their offense has been spottier. After being held in check by Urias, the Giants fell to 27-21 (. 574) against left-handed starters, including 11-11 since the All-Star break.
The Giants’ recent struggles against lefties are a bit confounding, as they regularly stack their lineup with right-handed bats when they face southpaws. Crawford and starter Kevin Gausman were the lone left-handed hitters in the Giants’ lineup on Saturday, which featured a deep pocket of lefty killers — Darin Ruf (1. 007 OPS vs. LHP during the regular season), Kris Bryant (. 910 OPS), Austin Slater (. 894 OPS), Buster Posey (1. 051 OPS) and Flores (. 803 OPS) — at the top half of the order.
Still, Urias managed to limit the Giants to only one run, which came via Donovan Solano’s sacrifice fly in the second.
“Every time we’ve put our right-handed-hitting lineup out there against a left-handed starter, we always feel really good about it because if you go man-for-man up and down our lineup, we just have good numbers, particularly against lefties,” Kapler said. You might think it would happen in games against left-handed starters but it hasn’t. This has been one of our areas that we have struggled in. And last year it was these types of lineups that just produced so much.”
Saturday put a bigger spotlight on slumping third baseman Evan Longoria, who posted a 1. 088 OPS against lefties during the regular season, but went hitless in four at-bats to remain mired in a 3-for-44 funk over his last 13 games.
“I thought his swing looked a little bit better tonight,” Kapler said. Evan is someone I trust a lot. He’s just a professional hitter who has done it very successfully for a very long time, had an excellent year for us, and is going through a period of time and a stretch of at-bats that aren’t going his way.”
The good news for the Giants is that the Dodgers’ rotation is not quite as left-handed now that Clayton Kershaw is out with a left elbow injury. The Giants’ bullpen in Los Angeles also has only two lefties, Alex Vesia (lefty) and David Price (righty). This will allow them to rebound from Saturday’s disappointing showing and have Tony Gonsolin as a possible Game 4 starter.
Still, it’s possible that the Giants might not have seen the last of Urias, who would likely be available to pitch in some capacity in a potential Game 5 along with Buehler.
“I [have] never seen him not having his stuff,” Flores said of Urias, who improved to 3-1 with a 3. 15 ERA over six starts against San Francisco this year. He’s always had it. Personally, I felt like I was a good at-bat hitter. Sometimes you don’t get the result. But I thought he had his stuff.”
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