LOS ANGELES — The boos at Dodger Stadium are usually reserved for Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner. Occasionally Brandon Crawford hears some grumbling, and now that he’s back, Pablo Sandoval is once again a target, but for the most part Dodgers fans save their energy for the team’s best pitcher and best hitter.
That changed Friday.
Joe Panik heard it in pre-game introductions, when the sellout crowd lightly booed the man who hit the game-winning homer on opening day. It was a little louder when he hit in the top of the first, and it continued throughout the game. When Panik took Kenley Jansen to the bleachers in the ninth, Dodgers fans hit full-on Posey Mode.
Panik soaked it all in.
“It’s a good feeling when you come into Dodger Stadium and you hit a homer and they start booing you in the ninth,” he said. “That’s a good feeling.”
Once again, Panik made sure the Giants had nothing but good feelings in their clubhouse. A day after taking Clayton Kershaw, the game’s best starter, deep, he did the same to Jansen, who could very easily claim the belt of Best Closer in the World.
Which feat was more impressive? Panik wouldn’t say. But Friday night’s did stand just a bit taller.
“They’re both really tough pitchers,” he said. “But the moment, a ninth-inning homer, you can’t beat that. That ninth inning, it doesn’t get much better than that.”
In smoking a down-and-in cutter into the right field seats, Panik did something the game has never seen. He’s the first player to hit solo homers in back-to-back 1-0 wins for his team, and the Giants became the first team since the 1943 Reds to win their first two games of the season by a 1-0 score.
This was a pitcher’s duel throughout, the story of Johnny Cueto vs. Alex Wood. Both were dominant, with Cueto allowing just a bloop to right in his seven innings and Wood surrendering only an infield single through eight. Panik said the starters set the stage for his moment.
When Cueto and Wood were done, Jansen jogged in from the bullpen, his familiar “California Love” walk-up song blaring through the park. Jansen is automatic, especially against the Giants. In all his years in this rivalry, only Denard Span and Pablo Sandoval have touched him up. Panik knew Jansen would throw cutters on his hands, and when one came in at only 90 mph, he crushed it, adding Jansen to his book.
“I’ve never seen that in all my years,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “For a guy to do that back-to-back games, particularly against the two guys we’re talking about.”
Bochy went on to say he hoped the wins would do a lot for the clubhouse psyche. Panik said that work was already done, that players will continue to rely on toughness to grind through this until some of their stars get healthy.
“Just find ways to win,” he said.
Nobody is doing that better than Panik at the moment.