The Giants are deeper overall than they were this time a year ago, but they still have a serious, serious talent disparity when they step on the field at Dodger Stadium.
The Dodgers had to scratch Clayton Kershaw a few hours before first pitch and simply turned to Dustin May, a top prospect who was throwing 100-mph fastballs and 97-mph sinkers with ease.
This is all to say that the Giants had no margin for error Thursday night, and they certainly made their share of mistakes. A rundown to end a rally. A loss of command from relievers in the seventh. An ill-advised throw to second on a grounder. A slow reaction in another rundown that allowed two Dodgers to advance.
The end result was that a close game turned into a 8-1 loss in the first game of the Gabe Kapler Era. Here's what you need to know ...
Kapler had it set up the way he wanted. The game was tied after sixth, and Tyler Rogers -- who likely will be the Giants manager's best reliever -- was set to come in for possibly two innings. But Rogers didn't make it out of the seventh, giving up three runs after Mookie Betts and Cody Bellinger got back-to-back one-out hits. Those two will be a PROBLEM for years to come.
Rogers got what he wanted, a grounder to second, but Donovan Solano's throw home was a tick behind a great slide from Betts. Kiké Hernandez dropped a two-run single a few minutes later to give the Dodgers a cushion, and they tacked on two more against Dany Jimenez, who was making his MLB debut. By the end of the seventh, the Giants trailed 6-1.
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Two hours before the game, Kapler was asked if he could name his Friday starter. He declined, and now we know why.
Johnny Cueto went four innings and then gave way to ... Drew Smyly, one of four pitchers that seemed headed for the rotation.
Smyly has pitched in relief in some recent sim games and did so Monday in Oakland, so it's clear this was the plan all along. The Giants have planned to piggyback starters, but it was thought that would be the focus for guys like Tyler Anderson and Logan Webb, not Smyly, who was signed to be the No. 3 or No. 4 starter.
Both "starters" did well. Cueto shimmied and shook his way through four strong innings, allowing one run on five hits. Smyly ran into some trouble in the fifth but got out of the jam. He pitched just the one shutout inning.
The good and the bad
The first run in the National League this season was scored by Tyler Heineman. Who saw that coming?
Heineman put a bunt down to lead off the third and the Giants followed with a pair of singles. Pablo Sandoval managed to loft a nasty 97-mph sinker from May into deep left, and Heineman scored easily.
The Giants had a similar situation in the fifth, with runners on the corner for Sandoval. He bounced a ball back to the mound, and Heineman made a huge mistake, getting caught between third and home for the second out of an inning-ending double play.