LOS ANGELES -- Next Man Up has never been more important than it was Monday night at Dodger Stadium.
The Giants put Brandon Crawford, their most valuable player over the last four months, on the IL three hours before the start of a huge four-game series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, but his replacements helped lead the way in a 7-2 win that stretched the NL West lead to two games.
Jason Vosler took Crawford's spot on the active roster and came up with a big pinch-hit sac fly. Thairo Estrada will play shortstop while Crawford is out, and he followed with a two-run double that busted the game open.
The four-run seventh represented the first rally for either side since a wild first inning, and it allowed the bullpen to have a little breathing room on a night when the group was dominant. Five Giants relievers combined for six scoreless innings and allowed just one hit.
This game looked like it was going to go off the rails early on, but both staffs stepped up after the five-run first, with a rapidly-improving Giants bullpen backing Kevin Gausman, who recorded just nine outs. Eventually, though, one cracked.
The Giants hammered Dodgers lefty Victor Gonzales in the seventh, tacking on four runs to take a five-run lead into the bottom of the inning. In a left-on-left matchup, Vosler hit a deep sac fly to right to make it 4-2. Estrada then yanked a double down the left field line, bringing two more runs in. Austin Slater capped the big seventh inning with another RBI double.
The fans started streaming for the exits at that point, although the game was played at Dodger Stadium so that might have been unrelated. Anyway, here are three more things to know:
Back-to-Back ... to ... Back-to-Back
The Giants and Dodgers have played more than 2,500 times, but never have they seen a first inning quite like this one. Buster Posey and Wilmer Flores went back-to-back in the top of the inning and Max Muncy and Justin Turner did it in the bottom of the inning. It was the first time in rivalry history that both teams went back-to-back in the first.
The inning lasted 38 minutes in all, with the Giants holding a one-run advantage because LaMonte Wade Jr. had doubled ahead of Posey's 13th homer of the season. This was the sixth time already that the Giants have gone back-to-back, and Posey has been involved twice.
Vosler, incredibly, has been involved three times, twice getting the first homer and once hitting the second one. He has just three homers all year.
The Duel Fizzles
Gausman is the Giants' ace and Tony Gonsolin entered with a 2.13 ERA but they struggled with the two NL lineups that grind the hardest. The Giants lead the NL in pitches per plate appearance and they got Gonsolin out after 3 1/3 innings. Gausman lasted just three innings against a lineup that's seen the most total pitches in the Majors.
The outing was Gausman's shortest of the season, but he did a great job of buckling down in tight spots. The Dodgers were 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position in those three innings and left the bases loaded in the second. They made Gausman work for every strike and out, though. Gausman was at 58 pitches after two innings and needed 22 more to get through a 1-2-3 third. He has faced the Dodgers twice in the last month and has needed 170 pitches to get through eight innings.
Coming Up Huge
The Giants got particularly good work from guys who weren't part of the mix early on this season for different reasons.
Zack Littell started the season in Triple-A but has helped stabilize the right side of the bullpen, and he got five big outs after Gausman departed, including a grounder from Turner and strikeout from Will Smith with the tying runner on in the fifth. Littell gave way to Jarlin Garcia, who entered the night with a 1.88 ERA in 22 appearances since coming off the IL.
When Garcia returned from a groin strain he felt that he was back to his 2020 self, and that's been the case. He struck out two of the four batters he faced, getting the 3-2 lead to the seventh. The lineup finally busted out after that.