Darin Ruf impacted more than just the bullpen door at Dodger Stadium on Sunday night.
Ruf, who crashed through the unlocked gate in left field after ranging back to make a nice catch in the sixth inning, did it all in the Giants’ 3-1 win over the Dodgers, going 2-for-4 with an RBI and stealing a base to set up a key insurance run.
After Mauricio Dubón broke out of an early slump and delivered a tiebreaking single off Adam Kolarek in the sixth, Ruf gave the Giants some extra breathing room by helping to manufacture another run in the seventh.
The 33-year-old slugger drew a one-out walk before nabbing only the second stolen base of his career with Dodgers reliever Pedro Báez on the mound. Ruf then scored from second on a single by Donovan Solano to give the Giants a two-run cushion. He hadn’t anticipated having such an eventful night.
“I'd give, going into that game, both a pretty, pretty low probability,” Ruf said of his unusual catch and his steal.
After opening their season with two blowout losses to the Dodgers, the Giants rebounded to win two straight and secure a split of this four-game series. They will now return to San Francisco and send veteran Jeff Samardzija to the mound for their home opener against the Padres on Tuesday.
“I think the first few games were unquestionably sloppy,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “And this game was kind of equally clean. I think that's a good sign. It's a sign of a team that can make adjustments.”
Left-hander Drew Smyly gave up one run over 3 1/3 innings in his first start and second appearance of the season. San Francisco’s bullpen took care of the rest, with Shaun Anderson, Wandy Peralta, Rico Garcia, Sam Coonrod, Tyler Rogers and Trevor Gott combining for 5 2/3 scoreless innings.
Kapler has refrained from naming an official closer, but he’s made it clear that he will give his relievers an opportunity to seize the role. Gott, 27, has excelled in his first two opportunities to pitch the ninth, converting each of the Giants’ two saves so far this season.
“It was awesome,” Gott said. “I'm really, really happy I got the opportunity, but we’ve got a lot of good, young arms down there. I think these past two games you all have seen that. That's a good lineup over there, and I think the past two games we showed that we have arms that are going to be able to compete.”
Ruf, who is back in the Majors for the first time since 2016 after spending the previous three seasons playing in South Korea, put the Giants on the board with an RBI single off Dodgers left-hander Julio Urías in the third. Signed primarily to give the Giants additional right-handed punch against lefties, Ruf has already emerged as a contributor, going 3-for-8 with two RBIs and one walk over his first two games.
Ruf was originally slated to start on Opening Day against Clayton Kershaw, but those plans changed when the Dodgers’ ace was scratched with back tightness. Ruf had to wait until Saturday to make his Giants debut, but he said the extra time helped calm him ahead of his long-awaited return to the big leagues.
“I was pretty nervous going into that Opening Day thinking Kershaw was going to throw,” Ruf said. “I had some butterflies going. ... It was nice to get the nerves out of the way those first two games and be able to relax and just go out there and play baseball.”
While the Giants view Ruf as particularly dangerous against left-handed pitching, Kapler said he would like to give the first baseman/outfielder a chance to prove that he can also do damage against righties.
“He brings a tough at-bat to the lineup every night, and I think one of the interesting considerations is, can he also hit right-handed pitching at the Major League level?” Kapler said. “A lot of us believe that he can. I certainly believe that he can. We're going to continue to look for the best matchups for Darin. We see him as an asset against left-handed pitching. But he’s a super tough at-bat against righties as well.”