SAN FRANCISCO — An incredible duel between two of the game’s best starters was decided by a homer off a closer who is running out of time.
Johnny Cueto and Clayton Kershaw took a tie game into the ninth and Justin Turner roped a solo shot off Santiago Casilla. Kenley Jansen closed it out for the Dodgers, stranding a runner on second to give them a 3-2 win in the first of three games at AT&T Park this weekend.
Cueto and Kershaw were magnificent, both getting through eight innings and allowing two runs. Cueto struck out eight and walked none; Kershaw whiffed 13 without walking a batter.
Cueto gave up five runs in the first inning when he beat the Dodgers on April 10, and Friday’s game got off to a brutal start, too. Chase Utley was hit by a pitch and Corey Seager reached on a spinning infield single. Both advanced on a wild pitch. Cueto tried to use his trademark shimmy on Turner, but first base umpire Bill Welke called him for a balk.
Cueto immediately threw his hands up in confusion and a livid Bruce Bochy came out to argue, but the call stood, putting a run on the board. The Dodgers went up 2-0 when Adrian Gonzalez pulled a single to right.
The Giants had a chance to pull even in the fifth after a couple of Dodgers blunders. Seager’s throwing error added a base to a Mac Williamson infield single, and runners ended up on the corners when Brandon Crawford hit a grounder to second a batter later. Utley tried to be cute and catch Williamson rounding third, but he ended up getting no outs on the play. It didn’t matter. Kershaw threw a perfect curveball to strike out Jarrett Parker and then got Cueto to ground out.
The Giants did end up tying the game an inning later. Joe Panik singled and raced all the way around when Buster Posey lined a ball to the left-center wall, giving Cueto a fresh slate. It was pure pitching dominance from both starters from that point on.
Starting pitching report: Cueto retired 23 of 24 after Trayce Thompson’s single in the first. The lone runner to reach was Utley, and he needed a review in the fifth to confirm that a pitch had grazed his pant leg.
Bullpen report: Casilla has allowed three runs in three appearances on this homestand, all coming in big spots.
At the plate: Duffy was just the fifth player to homer off Kershaw this season. It’s a strange and Giant-filled list: Duffy, Ehire Adrianza, Madison Bumgarner, Giancarlo Stanton, Asdrubal Cabrera.
In the field: Cueto woke up Friday having not made an error since Sept. 23, 2014, but he ended up with two by the end of the fifth, in an odd way. The league changed a Brandon Belt error (the throw to first in St. Louis) to a Cueto error earlier in the day, and then in the fifth inning Cueto tried to pick Utley off first and threw the ball away.
Attendance: The Giants announced a crowd of 41,208 human beings. Half of them went nuts for a Duffy foul ball in the sixth inning. Apparently that’s when the Warriors notification hit their phones.
Up next: Two free agent additions, Jeff Samardzija (7-4, 3.33) vs. Scott Kazmir (5-3, 4.46).