SAN FRANCISCO -- Brandon Belt entered Friday with just four hits in 54 career at-bats against Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw. Twenty-eight of those at-bats have ended with a strikeout, and the Giants first baseman, known above all for his eye at the plate, had just three walks against the best pitcher of the last decade.
But Belt was not surprised when he walked into Oracle Park on Friday night and saw that he would hit second in the series opener against Kershaw and the Dodgers. He said his confidence has always remained high.
"Yeah, it's been a tough go against him, but what are you going to do when a guy gets lucky 55 times," Belt cracked after the Giants' 2-1 win Friday. "You've got to keep battling."
Belt always has, despite what the stats say. He always has felt like he's close to breaking through against his fellow Texan, and while he didn't have a hit in three chances Friday, he worked Kershaw hard and drew a walk that brought the Giants' first run home in the win.
Belt saw 19 pitches in three plate appearances against Kershaw, the final one a nine-pitch walk leading off the sixth. He took second on a single and raced home on Kevin Pillar's flare to left, scoring just ahead of Chris Taylor's throw.
"I snuck that size 14 in there," he said.
The Giants got two runs in the frame, and that was all they needed on a night when Drew Pomeranz was sharp and the bullpen locked it down. Manager Bruce Bochy knew this would have to be a tight one if the Giants were to win, and he wasn't going to go up there without any of his best. In the past, Belt and Brandon Crawford have gotten plenty of days off against Kershaw. But Belt hit second, and Crawford batted sixth Friday.
"It's not like there are a lot of guys that have hit Clayton," Bochy said. "With Buster (Posey) out, you want your guys out there."
Belt is one of them, and he was ready for the challenge. This is not the Kershaw of old -- the 95 mph fastball sits 89-90 now -- but Belt still marveled at how the fastball, slider and curveball all looked the same every time they came out of Kershaw's left hand.
"I still wasn't seeing it well," Belt said. "I went up there and did what I know, which is to have good at-bats."
The final time up helped the Giant hand Kershaw his first loss of the year. It was the lefty's first loss at Oracle Park since 2016, and Belt said the winning clubhouse needed to remember what this night's intensity felt like.
"We've got to take that into series with teams that aren't the best team in the league," he said. "If we do that, we'll win a lot more ballgames."