LOS ANGELES - Hunter Pence walked into the visiting dugout at Dodger Stadium on Monday afternoon and starting asking reporters how they were doing. At the time, Pence's stat line said that he had just one homer. The smile on his face said he wasn't all that concerned.
"April showers bring May flowers," he said, beaming as he headed onto the field.
The first day of May ended up bringing what felt like a hurricane of offense.
Pence banged a Clayton Kershaw curveball over the wall for a two-run shot and Buster Posey later added a solo blast, his first in nearly a month, on a hanging slider. The Giants put eight hits and four runs on Kershaw's line, both matching his career-highs against his rival. The early onslaught - and that's what four runs is against Kershaw, especially in his home park - held up for a 4-3 win on the first day of May.
"We took good, aggressive swings," Posey said. "We were able to work counts and foul off tough pitches. Any time you can do that against Kershaw, it's a good night."
The tough at-bats came up and down the lineup. Christian Arroyo saw 27 pitches in four plate appearances, and he had two hits off Kershaw, who gave up the first of Arroyo's career last Tuesday. Joe Panik saw 24 pitches. Gorkys Hernandez put down a bunt, advanced on an error, and scored a needed insurance run on Arroyo's second knock.
It all left Bruce Bochy grinning ear to ear. This is how he likes to manage. This is how it's supposed to be for the 2017 Giants. The bullpen showed some depth, backing the lineup and Johnny Cueto, who was sharp through seven.
Cueto entered the night with a 5.10 ERA, but he finally revealed a minor ailment that team officials have been whispering about during the rough start. Cueto dealt with a blister during his last start of March and he said it never went away.
"I've been dealing with it for a month," Cueto said through interpreter Erwin Higueros. "It's nagging me."
The blister flared up in the third inning Monday, but Cueto buckled down, as if annoyed by its presence. After Kershaw's RBI single in the second, Cueto retired 13 straight. The run ended in the seventh, when an infield single, a slick bunt by rookie Cody Bellinger, and a pinch-hit single got the Dodgers within one. Bochy made the slow walk to the mound. Cueto was at 100 pitches, and Bochy needed to look not at his finger, but at his eyes.
Bochy liked what he saw. Cueto got Andrew Toles to ground out to first, yelling as he walked back to the dugout.
"I needed to go ahead and strap up my pants and start pitching," Cueto said.
Bochy will occasionally publicly tells his players to pull their Big Boy Pants on, and two young relievers did so on a night when the closer wasn't available. Mark Melancon pitched four of five days to end the homestand, and five of seven overall.
"He's fine, but I talked to him," Bochy said. "He wanted to be available. He threw four of five and that would have been five of six. We have a lot of baseball left."
Melancon told the younger relievers that he was down for the night, and they responded. Steven Okert was the first out of the ‘pen and he got Corey Seager, Justin Turner and Yasmani Grandal in order in the eighth. He came out for the ninth as Derek Law warmed up, and down went lefties Adrian Gonzalez and Bellinger.
"Oh my gosh, he pretty much saved the game for us," Law said. "That's a big turning point right there. To come in and shut them down like that, they pretty much had no chance."
Yasiel Puig was the last chance for the Dodgers and Bochy called on Law. He threw five pitches, striking out Puig for his first save of the season. The fist-pump at the end capped a stirring night for the Giants, who hope beating Kershaw is the springboard for a big road trip. At the very least, it brought some laughs back to a clubhouse that suffered two brutal losses over the weekend.
"He's a good friend for letting me get that save," Law said as Okert got dressed a few feet away.
"Great save," he said to Law. "He went in there and did exactly what was needed."