SAN FRANCISCO – Justin Maxwell made an outstanding defensive play during the top of the eighth inning to preserve a San Francisco lead and then launched a two-run home run during the bottom of the frame to help power the Giants to a 6-2 win over rival the Los Angeles Dodgers (9-4) on Tuesday night at AT&T Park.
With San Francisco (5-10) clinging to a 4-1 lead and runners on first and second with one out, Dodger slugger Yasiel Puig stepped into the batter’s box to face Sergio Romo. Puig, who in his short Major League career has had a flair for the dramatic, was on the other end of a highlight-reel play as Maxwell went sliding into the wall in foul territory along the right-field line for the second out of the inning. It appeared that Maxwell hurt his left knee on the play as he slammed into the brick beneath the padding, but the right fielder had the wherewithal to throw the ball into the cutoff man, allowing Justin Turner and Jimmy Rollins to only tag up and advance one base.
Maxwell’s fine defensive play was not the only outstanding defensive effort of the evening turned in by the Giants as the double-play duo of Brandon Crawford and Joe Panik combined for another sparkling double play, which helped make a winner out of Tim Lincecum.
Lincecum (1-1), who allowed one run on five hits while walking three and striking out five in six innings of work, was the benefactor of a double play reminiscent of the one Crawford and Panik turned during Game 7 of the 2014 World Series. Only, instead of Panik making the diving stop and flip to Crawford, it was the other way around.
During a crucial part of the game, Los Angeles had the heart of the order coming up in the top of the sixth inning against Lincecum. Once a hard-throwing Cy Young Award winner, Lincecum’s fastball sat between 86-88 MPH with the majority of the pitches registering 86 on the radar gun. Certainly not the type of stuff that hitters like Puig, Gonzalez and Howie Kendrick fear.
Immediately Lincecum was forced into the stretch as Puig singled to start the sixth inning, bringing a red-hot Gonzalez to the plate. Through the early portion of the season, Gonzalez has been punishing opposing pitchers, ranking second in the National League with 14 RBI and five home runs at the start of Tuesday’s game.
But this time Gonzalez was unable to come through as Lincecum recorded the first out of the inning by getting the Dodger first baseman to chase a 3-2 changeup for strike three, setting up the hightlight-reel double play.
Kendrick hit a shot up the middle, which appeared destined for a single to center field. But Crawford dove to his left and flipped the ball with his glove to Panik, who in turn unloaded a strike to first that Buster Posey dug out of the dirt just before Kendrick touched the bag. The play was reviewed an upheld, ending a potential Los Angeles rally and deflating the visiting dugout.
San Francisco took an early 1-0 lead during the bottom the second.
Maxwell, who finished the game 2-for-3, tripled with two outs off of Dodger starter Brett Anderson (1-1). Crawford then beat out a bunt single to drive in Maxwell with the first run of the game.
The Giants extended the lead to 2-0 during the bottom of the third on Posey’s RBI single that scored Panik.
San Francisco would score for the third straight inning during the bottom of the fourth when Nori Aoki‘s infield single drove in Maxwell. On the play, Gonzalez had a throwing error that allowed Crawford to score a second run.
The Giants led 4-0 before Los Angeles threatened.
The Dodgers pushed across a run during the top of the fifth inning when pinch-hitter Alex Guerrerro ripped a Lincecum offering down the left-field line for a double that brought home Juan Uribe.
Los Angeles made things interesting during the top of the ninth, loading the bases against San Francisco reliever Jean Machi. With Machi struggling, Giants Manager Bruce Bochy called on closer Santiago Casilla to preserve the win, although it did not come easy.
Casilla came on and faced Turner, promptly unloading a wild pitch that brought home Joc Pederson with the Dodgers second run of the game. The San Francisco closer quickly got his bearings, retiring Turner on a groundout to Panik for the final out of the game.
While Maxwell had a strong performance, five other San Francisco players collected two hits. Joining the right fielder were Angel Pagan, Aoki, Posey, Susac and Crawford.
The Giants and Dodgers play game two of a three-game set at 10:15 p.m. EST. Madison Bumgarner looks to get back on track and he will need to do so in a hurry as Los Angeles counters with reigning Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw.