I’m going to start you off with a mind-blowing piece of trivia from the always-excellent Giants Nirvana:
This was the first occurrence in baseball history in which both starters have gone 8+ innings with 10+ strikeouts and zero walks.
— Giants Nirvana (@GiantsNirvana) August 21, 2012
Holy crap, people. Holy crap. We are living in an age of baseball wonders, and two of those wonders are Clayton Kershaw and Madison Bumgarner. Kershaw, of course, is an unspeakable creature of Mordor, with nothing but spite and bile in his heart, as with all Dodgers. But the man can pitch, and pitch he did, contributing his half of the twenty strikeouts and making Buster Posey in particular look pretty silly. It was going to take a miraculous effort to scratch anything across, and while we’ll come back to that in a second, the corollary was that the inexplicably functional Dodgers offense was going to have to be shut down.
And right on cue, Madison Bumgarner. 23-years-old, walking less than two batters a game this season, and spending the dawn of his career casually working the inside corner against right-handed hitters like it ain’t no thang. Tonight, if there was a thang, it was nowhere within Bumgarner’s vicinity. He pounded the corners with his fastball, jammed hitters into feeble groundouts, and relied mostly on an absolutely murderous slider (with even more movement than usual, it seemed) to get nine swinging strikeouts. There was also a strikeout looking, too. It was Hanley Ramirez (on a slider that didn’t dive into the dirt!). That’s never not funny.
So yes. Bumgarner-Kershaw. That’s going to be a thing. I’m not talking Marichal-Drysdale yet, because, you know, history. But maybe it will be. It’ll probably be the closest thing this generation of baseball fans will see, and that is pretty spectacularly cool.
Of course, it’s always cooler when the good guys win. That they did, behind an offense consisting entirely of Pagan, Scutaro and Sandoval. Pagan may never be the OBP wonder you hope for from a leadoff man, but the dude can move, and he put that speed to good use tonight, scoring the deciding run from second on a disputed play (called correctly, by replay.) Scutaro moved him up, Panda brought him home. On Pablo: while the power is much in demand, since his return he’s been hitting at a solid clip and displaying a reasonable amount of patience. Panda’s gonna Panda, and then dingers will come.
So it wasn’t a banner night for the offense, but against Clayton Kershaw, all bets are off. The rest of the lineup certainly got a thorough Kershawing in; Buster, as mentioned, was struggling. It might be time to give him an actual, legitimate, non-first base kinda day off. (He’s already pencilled in at first tomorrow, of course. Hah.) That said, it’s pretty awesome that a “bad game” from Buster involves calling a shutout and throwing out two runners attempting to steal second. Not special. Just Buster. Let’s acknowledge that. Just Buster.
Beyond that, Hanley Ramirez continues to be an insufferable, venomous fish-man and I would really like it is Sergio Romo figured out how to get him out. (Hint: hanging sliders are not part of the plan.) Luckily, it didn’t affect the outcome of the game, and Javier Lopez made an ass out of Andre Ethier.
Side note: Andre Ethier has awful, awful platoon splits. His career numbers against LHP going into tonight: .230/.300/.353. That’s basically Ronny Cedeno. It’s looking up at Willie Bloomquist. Of all the things in this playoff race, watching Ethier take key ABs against lefties is going to be one of my favorites, until he hits an inexplicable grand slam.
But that heartbreak is in the future. Tonight, we watched another chapter in what promises to be a multi-season pitching saga, and the Giants are back in first place. Success!