The Unlikely Lefty Who Stole the Show in Giants-Dodgers Opening Day

LOS ANGELES -- Ty Blach was supposed to spend Thursday afternoon in the bullpen. He was set to be the swingman, serving as a long reliever or short-stint lefty until the Giants needed a fifth starter on April 10.

Instead, Blach spent the final hour of his second Opening Day on the dugout rail, watching a bend-but-don't-break bullpen close out a 1-0 victory at Dodger Stadium. The 'W' went to Blach. The 'L' to Clayton Kershaw. A national television audience may have been surprised. A young pitcher was not.

"That's what this game is about, it's about competing," Blach said. "I love the opportunity to go up against one of the best. It's a great opportunity. I loved every moment of it."

The Giants needed every moment of it. The two strikeouts in the first. The double plays in the second and third. The Chris Taylor groundout that stranded two in the fifth with Blach's pitch count getting near its limit. Without Madison Bumgarner and Jeff Samardzija, they needed someone to step up and lead the way, and Blach did that on a massive stage. 

Before the game, manager Bruce Bochy said he wasn't sure if Blach would start the home opener, a task once also set aside for Bumgarner. Now it seems a lock, and that would also set Blach up to come back and start next Sunday at AT&T Park against these Dodgers. In eight career appearances against them, Blach has a 1.96 ERA. 

That number dipped with his five shutout frames Thursday, but it wasn't the work on the mound that was so impressive. It was the fact that Blach was so unimpressed by the whole situation. He said he leaned on a playoff appearance and a clutch win over Kershaw and the Dodgers at the end of 2016 to prepare. 

"I'll tell you what, I said he wouldn't be nervous or scared or in awe of anything," Bochy said. "He's got a great makeup about him. We were very confident he would give us a chance to win today, which he did. That's why we picked him to go Opening Day."

Blach was backed by a strong bullpen and a hefty swing by Joe Panik. He took Kershaw deep in the fifth, wrapping a pitch around the pole for the game's only run. Both dugouts seemed surprised it stayed fair. It was the second extra-base hit in 119 at-bats against Kershaw by the team's three lefty infielders, Panik, Brandon Crawford and Brandon Belt. 

"When you hit those balls you see it start to curve and you figure it's going to keep curving," Panik said. "Hey, I'll take it."

The Giants will take all of this. It's one game, but hey, they have a winning record for the first time since Oct. 2, 2016. Blach's win over Kershaw at AT&T Park came the day before that, and on Thursday he once again took the wheel. 

"Obviously it hurts with Bum, Shark and Melancon starting on the DL, but Ty did a great job getting us that game and the 'pen did a great job," Buster Posey said. "That's a great feeling."

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