LOS ANGELES — The Giants will face three left-handed starters in this series, and before the first game, manager Bruce Bochy talked of getting some extra work for right-handed-hitting outfielders Gorkys Hernandez and Hunter Pence. A date with Clayton Kershaw seemed a good opportunity to do that, but Bochy instead let rookie Steven Duggar get his first look at the future Hall-of-Famer.
“I think his at-bats against lefties have been pretty good. He’s got discipline. I’m fine putting him out there,” Bochy said. “He’s going to be playing in games like this, so this is going to be good for him.”
The Giants envision Duggar as their center fielder and leadoff hitter of the future. Ideally, he’ll be capable of starting everyday against lefties and righties, no matter the caliber of opposing arm. Ideally, he’ll also be starting in some pretty important games down the line, and Kershaw vs. Bumgarner at Dodger Stadium was a nice taste of a “big game” feel.
Duggar said he talked to a few teammates about what it’s like to face Kershaw, but mostly he relied on his own instincts and research.
“It’s just developing a plan after watching video of past starts and looking at numbers and things of that nature,” he said. “It came to fruition for a couple of at-bats there, so that’s good.”
Duggar’s goal was not to fall behind in counts. That didn’t last long. His first time up, Duggar swung at a first-pitch fastball and then got a big curveball for strike two. But he poked a high fastball up the middle and beat Brian Dozier’s throw to first. Kershaw caught Duggar leaning off first, but he was speedy enough to make it to second before Cody Bellinger’s throw to the bag.
Duggar didn’t wait around the next time. He got a first-pitch fastball in the sixth and smoked it into right-center. Two batters later, he scored.
“I did want to be aggressive, but be aggressive on certain pitches,” Duggar said. “I knew his curveball was going to be really tough. I just stuck to my plan and had a good idea of what I wanted to do … just trust (the plan) and try to get the barrel to the ball.”
Of course, this is Kershaw, and eventually he’s going to get to his plan, too. Kershaw quickly jumped ahead 0-2 in their final matchup and threw a wicked slider down and a way for a strikeout. Duggar said the stuff lived up to the hype.
“He’s Clayton Kershaw for a reason,” he said. “He does not miss his spots often. Every pitch he makes, there’s a purpose behind it.”
The Giants have learned that all too well over the years. Kershaw has a 1.58 ERA against them and few Giants have even an average career line when facing him. Bochy knew that, so he gave his newest starter a shot to prove he belongs. On Monday night, Duggar delivered.