The Dodgers were shutout on opening day for the eighth time in the last 111 years, and for the first time since 1998. It was their first 1-0 defeat in an opener since Brooklyn lost to the Phillies in 1930.
Ty Blach kept the Dodgers off balance through five scoreless frames, lowering his career ERA against them to 1.96 in 41⅓ innings. Blach in three career starts against Clayton Kershaw has allowed just two total runs in 18 innings. San Francisco has won two of the three games.
Dave Roberts in his first two seasons as Dodgers manager won on opening day by scores of 15-0 and 14-3. Thursday didn’t go nearly as well.
Kershaw channeled Steven Soderbergh on Thursday, directing traffic for nearly all of his start.
Kershaw allowed multiple hits in each of the first two innings, then did so again in the fifth. Allowing 2+ hits in an inning was something he did in just four innings of his previous seven opening day starts.
He escaped both early jams thanks to a strikeout with a runner on third base, by Buster Posey in the first inning and Blach in the second. But the key play of each inning was the batter before the whiff. In the first inning, Andrew McCutchen grounded into a double play in his first Giant at-bat, then in the second Brandon Crawford popped out in foul territory with runners on the corners.
In his six innings Kershaw permitted the Giants just one run, a solo home run down the right field line by Joe Panik in the fifth inning that looked like it had designs on going foul. Kershaw struck out seven, finishing off four by slider and two by curveball, and left trailing by a run.
“I was fortunate to get out of a few jams there, but Panik one good swing on a ball and it cost us the game,” Kershaw said.
San Francisco was unable to inflict further damage on Kershaw by going just 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position. The Giants had a runner on third base with less than two outs in three separate innings against Kershaw but were unable to bring any of them home.
“He made pitches when he needed to,” Roberts said. “Those guys are a tough lineup to navigate through, but I thought Clayton handled himself really well. The curveball was really good today.”
Still, that Giants offense dwarfed what the Dodgers were able to do against Blach, who was pushed into opening day duties after Madison Bumgarner broke his pinkie last week.
Blach allowed only three walks and three singles in his five innings, with two of the hits by Kershaw.
It was the 13th multi-hit game of Kershaw’s career, and his first since April 26, 2016 against Miami.
“I probably should have hit Clayton third,” joked Roberts.
Against reliever Cory Gearrin in the seventh inning the Dodgers staged their best scoring opportunity of the night. Yasmani Grandal singled with one out, then pinch-hitter Chase Utley followed with a two out single to put runners at the corners.
Utley, representing the go-ahead run, got in scoring position by stealing second without a throw, but Chris Taylor struck out looking to end the threat. For Utley, at 39 years and 102 days old is the oldest Dodger to steal a base since 40-year-old catcher Brad Ausmus in 2009.
Grandal on the night had two hits — one from each side of the plate — and a walk.
“Yasmani cleaned up some things mechanically right-handed,” Roberts said before the game. “He’s really in a good place offensively.”
But on Thursday at least, not many Dodgers joined Grandal in that good place.
Home run: Joe Panik (1)
WP - Ty Blach (1-0): 5 IP, 3 hits, 3 walks, 3 strikeouts
LP - Clayton Kershaw (0-1): 6 IP, 8 hits, 1 run, 2 walks, 7 strikeouts
Sv - Hunter Strickland (1): 1 IP, 1 hit, 1 strikeout