A meeting between two rivals and two aces certainly lived up to its billing. Matt Cain threw six scoreless innings. But on the other side, Clayton Kershaw was even better, tossing a complete game shutout to down the Giants on Opening Day, 4-0.
After about three innings, you could get the sense that runs were going to be of the premium. Cain allowed three base-runners in the first inning–one walk, one hit batter and one single—but the Dodgers weren’t making loud contract. Cain did, however, have to use 29 pitches to work out of a jam that involved Buster Posey throwing Carl Crawford out trying to steal third and an 11-pitch battle with Matt Kemp.
On the other side, Kershaw was extremely efficient. He never threw more than 16 pitches in any inning and didn’t allow any free passes. The box score will show that he surrendered four hits (two to Pablo Sandoval and two to Angel Pagan), but only Sandoval’s hits were clean. Pagan reached on two infield singles, one of which nearly lined into Kershaw’s glove.
Overmatched wouldn’t even be the right word to describe the Giants hitting performance on Monday. In each inning except the first and sixth, Kershaw had a strike percentage more than 60 percent. And they weren’t just “strikes.” They were quality pitches that were tough to hit. Then again, that’s Clayton Kershaw for you.
The lefty threw 25 sliders—seven were swung and missed—and his curveball seemed un-hittable, especially when he occasionally dropped it in on the first pitch of the at-bat, when the Giants weren’t looking for it.
Additionally, seven of the 17 curveballs he threw were not put in play. To put that in context, 11 of the 17 resulted in strikes. It’s safe to say that he had a good feel for both his off-speed pitches, and the Giants, well, didn’t.
Outside of the first inning, Cain was also very good. Not quite Kershaw good, but he got the job done for six innings. He struck out the side in the third inning on 15 pitches, and worked out of jams (not including the first inning) in the fourth and sixth innings.
Cain’s slider was his most reliable pitch. Yes, even including his four-seamer, which he threw 31 times. He threw his slider 23 times and compiled a 52 percent strike percentage with it. His battle with Kemp in the first inning included six sliders, including the final pitch, which Kemp swung through.
Cain struck out eight on just one walk and four hits. Kershaw struck out seven, but didn’t even need 100 pitches to toss his third career complete game against San Francisco.
What else could Kershaw do to make his outing even better? Well, he could so something with the bat. Perhaps a home run?
Yeah, it was his day. He hit a solo go-ahead home run in the bottom of the eighth inning to fuel what would be a four-run inning by Los Angeles. That would be more than enough for Kershaw, who needed only nine pitches to get through the top of the Giants lineup in the ninth inning.
George Kontos yielded three straight hits in the Dodgers big eighth inning, including Kershaw’s first career homer. He was tagged with three earned runs, as Santiago Casilla couldn’t pick him up. He bounced a wild pitch past Posey and walked Kemp before being summoned for Jeremy Affeldt.
Affeldt hit Adrian Gonzalez to load the bases. Obviously, not intentionally. And while he did induce two ground balls, they were too slowly hit to turn a double play on. He struck out Justin Sellers to end the mess.