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What we learned as Giants defeat Dodgers, win season series

NBC Sports
Brandon Belt

SAN FRANCISCO -- The stunned expression Walker Buehler wore on his face after every run-scoring hit on Sunday night probably summed up the way the Dodgers feel about the Giants in general.

The Dodgers have the better roster and they entered the year as overwhelming favorites, but with 25 games to go in the season, it's once again the Giants who are atop the National League West. The lineup hammered Buehler, who entered the night as the league's Cy Young Award favorite, and a bullpen game held up. With a 6-4 win at Oracle Park, the Giants moved a game up in the division race.

The Giants stranded 26 runners in the first two games of this series, but Gabe Kapler insisted late Saturday night that it usually evens out, and it certainly did in the finale. After a first-inning blast from Brandon Belt, the Giants put three runs across in the second inning with a pair of huge hits with runners in scoring position. Back-to-back doubles by LaMonte Wade Jr. and Brandon Crawford added a run in the third and Curt Casali's single made it 6-1.

On the other side, the Dodgers left two runners in scoring position in the second and then scored just one run while loading the bases in the third and the fifth. They finally came to life in the ninth, with Albert Pujols hitting a two-run homer off Jake McGee that cut the deficit in half. The Dodgers brought the tying run to the plate, but McGee got out of it. 


Short Walk

Buehler pulled a Clayton Kershaw this season, pitching in all six Giants-Dodgers series. Until Sunday night, he was pulling a Kershaw on the mound, too. Buehler had allowed just three earned runs in 34 innings against the Giants in five previous starts this year, but he was rocked early and often.

Buehler's three-inning start was his shortest since last September. He had gone at least six innings in 26 of his previous 27 starts this season. The six earned runs were one off his career-high and his most since 2019. 

For all the trouble Buehler gave the Giants this season, they actually finished 3-3 when facing him. They also struck a blow to the chances of a Dodger winning the Cy Young this season. Buehler still leads MLB in ERA (2.31), but he entered the day at 2.05, which was a pretty big lead over Brandon Woodruff (2.35) and Corbin Burnes (2.38). 

Back With A Vengeance 

The Giants made two roster moves Sunday afternoon and both immediately paid off. 

With Austin Slater suffering a concussion, Steven Duggar was recalled and started in center field. Duggar was terrific earlier in the season, but the reports out of Triple-A were that he wasn't getting off his best swings. That wasn't the case against Buehler. 

Duggar came up with two on and one out in the second and yanked a triple into the right field corner. As he hit the bag at third, he looked into the Giants dugout and screamed, "Lets go!" A few seconds later he was jogging home on Darin Ruf's single that made it 4-1. 

Camilo Doval was the newcomer with an even harder assignment. Gabe Kapler called for him with the bases loaded and Will Smith due up in the fifth. Doval threw a 99 mph seed on a 3-2 pitch but he didn't get the call, even though the ball appeared to nick the edge of the zone. A run scored, but Doval got out of the inning by blowing 98 mph past Chris Taylor. 

Bullpen Game No. 2

The first bullpen game didn't go well, with Jay Jackson giving up three runs in the first inning Saturday night, but the second attempt was a smashing success. 

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Dominic Leone got the start this time and needed just 13 pitches -- most of them 97 mph -- to get through Trea Turner, Max Muncy and Mookie Betts. The baton was handed off to Jose Alvarez, who had no command and didn't record an out, but Zack Littell picked him up by getting Chris Taylor to pop up and striking out a completely lost Cody Bellinger and Buehler. 

It wasn't all smooth sailing -- the Dodgers twice left the bases loaded in the first five innings -- but the Giants relievers picked each other up and gave Kapler a "quality start." Seven different relievers combined to get the ball to Tyler Rogers in the eighth. They allowed just two runs on four hits and struck out eight. 


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