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No joker: Blach draws better hand vs. LA ace

MLB.com

LOS ANGELES -- Ty Blach performed extremely well Thursday, especially for somebody who wasn't supposed to be on the mound.

Blach stymied the Dodgers for five innings, going toe-to-toe with Los Angeles ace Clayton Kershaw, the fellow left-hander who was expected to mute the Giants. Kershaw did exactly that until Joe Panik homered with two outs in the fifth inning to account for the scoring in the Giants' 1-0 triumph.

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LOS ANGELES -- Ty Blach performed extremely well Thursday, especially for somebody who wasn't supposed to be on the mound.

Blach stymied the Dodgers for five innings, going toe-to-toe with Los Angeles ace Clayton Kershaw, the fellow left-hander who was expected to mute the Giants. Kershaw did exactly that until Joe Panik homered with two outs in the fifth inning to account for the scoring in the Giants' 1-0 triumph.

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Video: SF@LAD: Panik lifts a towering homer off Kershaw

That enabled Blach to earn the decision, a nice reward for blanking the powerful Dodgers on three hits during his stint. Blach also walked three, struck out three and induced a pair of double-play grounders. Los Angeles went 0-for-3 against Blach with runners in scoring position.

This was the game that Madison Bumgarner would have started had he avoided the line drive by Kansas City's Whit Merrifield that fractured his pitching hand last Friday. And when Bumgarner was sidelined, it was widely assumed that No. 2 starter Johnny Cueto, not Blach, would pitch this high-profile game for the Giants.

Moreover, before Bumgarner and Jeff Samardzija (right pectoral muscle) were injured, Giants manager Bruce Bochy had assigned Blach the fifth starter's spot, meaning the 27-year-old wouldn't pitch until April 10, due to the numerous off-days on San Francisco's schedule.

However, Blach had established a pattern of success against the Dodgers during his brief Major League career. He earned his first career victory against them on Oct. 1, 2016, working eight innings and even collecting two hits off Kershaw in a 3-0 decision. Blach entered this game with a 2-2 record and a 1.67 ERA in four starts against the Dodgers.

Video: SF@LAD: Blach starts off his outing with a strikeout

"We knew he wouldn't be nervous or scared or in awe of everything," Bochy said. "We were very confident he would give us a chance to win today."

Blach used the memory of his initial big league win to his advantage. Because of that game, he said, "I definitely knew I was going to have some adrenaline today, so ... I was able to harness it."

"He's thrown the ball well against us," Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. "Tough to see, a tough visual early (4 p.m. local start time). Make one mistake to Panik and he kept it fair. Credit to him and we'll be ready tomorrow."

With Dodgers legends Sandy Koufax and Kirk Gibson watching, Panik generated his own heroics by lofting a 2-2 slider just inside the right-field foul pole.

Kershaw made his franchise-record eighth consecutive Opening Day start and lost for the first time. Kershaw had two of the six hits for the Dodgers offense, which was playing without injured No. 3 hitter Justin Turner.

Video: SF@LAD: Kershaw rips two hits, fans seven on the day

Panik, slugging only his third career homer off a left-handed pitcher, turned on a 92 mph sidearm fastball, one of the fastest Kershaw threw in the game. The ball stayed just fair, as Panik hesitated and watched until first-base umpire Jim Reynolds signaled home run.

Four Giants relievers, working one inning apiece, preserved the lead. Freshly promoted closer Hunter Strickland anchored the group by working the ninth to record the save.

Video: SF@LAD: Strickland induces grounder, gets the save

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Pitcher's best friend: The Giants turned two inning-ending double-plays behind Blach, getting Logan Forsythe in the second inning 4-6-3 and Corey Seager in the third, started by Blach on a comebacker for a 1-6-3 twin-killing.

In Gearrin: The biggest at-bat of the game might have been reliever Cory Gearrin's called strikeout on a 3-2 pitch down the middle to Chris Taylor, with runners on second and third to end the bottom of the seventh inning.

Video: SF@LAD: Gearrin strands tying, go-ahead run with a K

SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Kershaw has base hits in six of his eight Opening Day starts.

WHAT'S NEXT
Cueto, who drew a noisy reaction from Dodgers fans during pregame introductions on Opening Day, will give them a chance to yell at him some more when he starts Friday's 7:10 p.m. PT encounter. The Dodgers will try to even the series behind Alex Wood, one of three left-handers they'll start in this series against the Giants.

Watch every out-of-market regular-season game live on MLB.TV.

Chris Haft has covered the Giants since 2005, and for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat and listen to his podcast.

Ty Blach, Clayton Kershaw, Joe Panik