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After rocky 1st, Anderson settles in vs. Dodgers

@mi_guardado
June 19, 2019

LOS ANGELES -- Shaun Anderson’s Dodger Stadium debut began ominously. On his second pitch of the night, Anderson surrendered a leadoff home run to Joc Pederson. Alex Verdugo followed with a single, and Justin Turner drove him in with a double, giving the Dodgers a two-run lead before the 24-year-old

LOS ANGELES -- Shaun Anderson’s Dodger Stadium debut began ominously.

On his second pitch of the night, Anderson surrendered a leadoff home run to Joc Pederson. Alex Verdugo followed with a single, and Justin Turner drove him in with a double, giving the Dodgers a two-run lead before the 24-year-old rookie could record an out. Still, Anderson managed to keep his poise, retiring the next three batters to escape the first inning without allowing further damage.

Anderson eventually settled in and gave up three runs over 5 2/3 innings in his seventh career start, but he was bested by Dodgers left-hander Clayton Kershaw, who fired seven shutout innings to hand the Giants a 9-0 loss on Tuesday, evening the four-game series between the National League West rivals.

Box score

On the five-year anniversary of his no-hitter, Kershaw held the Giants to three hits and struck out six in his first scoreless start of 2019.

“He gave us a chance,” manager Bruce Bochy said of Anderson. “We didn’t do much with Kershaw. It’s always tough sledding when you’re going against him.”

The Giants kept the game close over the first six innings before the Dodgers erupted for six runs in the seventh, with the bulk of the damage coming via Enrique Hernandez’s grand slam off Trevor Gott. They were outhit by the Dodgers by a 14-4 margin and have produced only seven hits over the first two games of the series.

Anderson issued three walks and gave up seven hits, but he managed to pitch around traffic for most of his outing. After the rough start, Anderson blanked the Dodgers over the next four innings before running into trouble in the sixth.

Max Muncy drew a leadoff walk and advanced to third on a single by Matt Beaty, putting runners on the corners with no outs. Chris Taylor then laid down a bunt single to knock in Muncy from third, extending the Dodgers’ lead to 3-0. Anderson struck out Austin Barnes and retired Kershaw on a sacrifice bunt, but he was removed after reaching 99 pitches, leaving him one out shy of recording his fourth consecutive quality start for the Giants.

Since being called up on May 15, Anderson has quickly emerged as one of the club’s most reliable arms out of the rotation, but he’s proved vulnerable in the first inning. Opponents are hitting .438 (14-for-32) with four home runs, four doubles and eight RBIs in seven opening frames against him this year. He’s now allowed first-inning runs in five of his seven starts.

“It all comes down to execution,” Anderson said. “I don’t think I executed pitches in that first inning, and they got to them, obviously. But I just have to keep the same mentality throughout the game. After that first run scored, I’ve got to make sure another one doesn’t score and just limit the runs as much as I can.”

The Giants’ first-inning woes have been a recurring theme all season, and they aren’t limited to Anderson. The club has been outscored 68-19 while allowing a Major League-high 27 home runs in the first inning this season.

“If we had a real good answer, we would solve it, because there’s a few pitchers that have had that problem,” Bochy said. “But sometimes you tweak things with how you prepare. We’ve done some different things. We’ll talk about it. But you know what, the kid’s throwing well, so it’s not like we want to do a lot. He’s been on a good roll. Against that lineup, I thought he pitched very well.”

Anderson, a former closer at the University of Florida, said he plans to explore potential adjustments that might help him remedy the issue, such as throwing an inning in the bullpen before his starts.

“Nothing huge. Nothing drastic,” Anderson said. “But I do need to bear down a little bit on those first innings. This isn’t the first time it’s happened.”

Maria Guardado covers the Giants for MLB.com. She previously covered the Angels from 2017-18. Follow her on Twitter.