It took more than two weeks, but the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers finally will offer the matchup that was expected when the season began on July 23.
While the Giants will have No. 1 starter Johnny Cueto on the mound for Saturday night’s game between rivals at Dodger Stadium, the Dodgers will counter with Clayton Kershaw in his first home start of 2020.
Cueto vs. Kershaw was the expected matchup in the season opener before the Dodgers’ left-hander went on the disabled list with a minor lower-back injury. Kershaw (1-0, 0.00 ERA) made his season debut Sunday at Arizona and looked sharp, allowing three hits over 5 2/3 scoreless innings. He has been stellar against the Giants throughout his career, posting a 23-12 record in 47 starts with a 1.74 ERA.
Cueto (0-0, 4.97) has been a mixed bag in the early going, although he had an efficient start on Opening Day, giving up one run on five hits over four innings with a walk and three strikeouts. The Dodgers eventually blew the game open against the San Francisco bullpen and went on to an 8-1 victory.
The Giants rallied to split the season-opening four-game series and had an early 1-0 lead in Friday’s series opener before the Dodgers showed off their power with four home runs. One of those homers came from Max Muncy, who was dropped to No. 6 in the order from his usual No. 2 spot.
Muncy had just two hits in his previous 22 at-bats before Friday’s game, but his new look served him well with his fourth home run of the season, which carried over the right-field wall in the fourth inning against Giants right-hander Jeff Samardzija. It was his lone hit of the game.
“I like the way he’s still taking walks, and there’s still some slug in there,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said of Muncy before the game. “I think that when Max goes right-center to left-center, he’s a considerably better hitter. I think he (was) getting a heavy dose … of breaking balls and releasing the barrel and putting it on the ground.”
In less positive news, the Dodgers are awaiting a status report on shortstop Corey Seager, who left in the third inning Friday with a lower back injury.
When the Giants earned consecutive victories over the Dodgers to split the opening series, optimism started to show for the rebuilding club. When they were 5-4 during the second weekend of the season, that optimism only grew.
Since Sunday, though, the Giants are just 1-5 and are in the middle of a season-long 10-game trip that started at Colorado and continues in Houston after the weekend in Los Angeles is complete.
After the bullpen had to pick up four innings Friday in relief of Samardzija, the Giants could use a deep start from Cueto. On Monday at Colorado, he pitched into the sixth inning. Lifetime against the Dodgers he is 7-9 (21 starts) with a 3.49 ERA.
Cueto produced a moment of levity when he tried his signature shimmy as he delivered a pitch, lost his balance, regained his momentum to the plate and was able to coax a groundout from the Rockies’ Chris Owings.
“I think Johnny himself was giggling as he came off the mound,” Giants manager Gabe Kapler said. “Losing his balance, collecting himself and delivering a secondary pitch for a strike, it’s just really impressive. There’s not many people out there that can do that.”
It’s a long road trip. The Giants hope that will not be the highlight.
–Field Level Media