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Pomeranz, Giants win duel with Kershaw

@mi_guardado
June 8, 2019

SAN FRANCISCO -- The biggest test for Drew Pomeranz came early. In the first inning, the Dodgers loaded the bases with one out against Pomeranz, who entered Friday with an ugly 8.08 ERA. It was the type of situation that had spelled recent trouble for the 30-year-old left-hander, but he

SAN FRANCISCO -- The biggest test for Drew Pomeranz came early.

In the first inning, the Dodgers loaded the bases with one out against Pomeranz, who entered Friday with an ugly 8.08 ERA. It was the type of situation that had spelled recent trouble for the 30-year-old left-hander, but he crucially managed to navigate the jam and emerge unscathed.

Pomeranz cruised after that, striking out seven over five scoreless innings to help the Giants topple Clayton Kershaw and the first-place Dodgers, 2-1, in the series opener at Oracle Park. It was a much-needed rebound for Pomeranz, whose rotation spot had appeared increasingly tenuous after he went 0-4 with a 15.70 ERA over his previous five starts.

Box score

“What a great job keeping his poise in that first inning,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “With the way things have gone, it probably put a little added pressure on him, but he made the pitches there to get out of that inning. To me, that was the ballgame there.”

A week ago, there was some doubt as to whether Pomeranz would get another start with the Giants. His struggles culminated in a disastrous start against the last-place Orioles on May 31, when he surrendered eight runs over 1 2/3 innings in the shortest outing of his career. Still, the Giants decided to stick with Pomeranz, pushing his next start back to give him extra time to work between outings and to line him up against the Dodgers, whose lineup skews left-handed.

Seeking an adjustment, Pomeranz used the break to work on raising his arm slot and getting on top of the ball better.

“I think I’ve been on the side of [the ball] a little bit in the past couple years and some this year,” Pomeranz said. “It just makes everything flatten out. I hadn’t really been getting the swings I wanted to on some stuff, so I worked really hard on just committing to staying on top of the ball.”

Pomeranz opened his start by striking out Chris Taylor, but he then yielded back-to-back singles to Max Muncy and Justin Turner. That brought up Cody Bellinger, who worked a walk to load the bases for David Freese. But Pomeranz prevented the situation from spiraling, striking out Freese and Corey Seager to get through the 30-pitch inning without allowing any damage.

“I think confidence is huge,” Pomeranz said. “Getting out of that first inning, when it seems like everything is not going your way and you start wiggling out of those jams, it’s huge for you as a pitcher. Instead of feeling like you’re not getting out of anything, you start rolling with those situations and focusing on one pitch at a time.”

Pomeranz went on to retire 14 of the final 15 batters he faced, yielding only a two-out single to Seager in the fourth. He departed after allowing three hits -- all singles -- and throwing 92 pitches. It marked his best start since he tossed six scoreless innings against the Blue Jays on April 24.

“I think, no question, it was key for him to have a good outing today,” Bochy said. “I don’t care how long you’ve been pitching or how long you’ve been playing, you still need a little success, because it’s all built on confidence. Hitting, pitching, it’s how you feel and what you believe. He put together a nice game, so this should do a lot for him.”

The Giants made sure Pomeranz’s effort didn’t go to waste.

After being shut out by Kershaw through the first five innings, the Giants managed to scratch a pair of runs across in the sixth. They caught a break after Chris Taylor tripped over a bullpen mound in left field while attempting to chase down a fly ball off the bat of Brandon Belt, who then drew a leadoff walk to spark the rally. It was only Belt’s fourth walk against Kershaw, who has held the Giants’ first baseman to a .071 (4-for-56) batting average over his career.

Belt advanced to second on a single by Evan Longoria before scoring on Kevin Pillar’s base hit to left field to put the Giants on the board. The Dodgers played their infield in against Brandon Crawford in hopes of keeping the Giants from extending their lead, but Crawford bounced a grounder to second baseman Max Muncy, allowing Longoria to race home from third and beat Muncy’s throw to the plate.

Taylor homered off Tony Watson to bring the Dodgers within one in the eighth, but closer Will Smith worked a scoreless ninth to shut the door for the Giants, who handed Kershaw his first loss in 22 starts.

“The biggest thing was the intensity level was raised during this game,” Belt said. “We need to take that into series against teams who aren’t the best teams in the league, and if we can do that, we can win a lot more ballgames.”

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