Neither matchup seemed all that appealing to Dodgers manager Dave Roberts in the seventh inning Wednesday night.
Should Roberts let the right-handed-hitting David Freese bat against San Francisco right-hander Reyes Moronta, who features a 97-mph fastball, nasty slider and a floating, fading changeup, with runners on first and third, two outs and the Dodgers down by a run?
Or should he send the left-handed-hitting Max Muncy up to pinch-hit for Freese, a move that Giants manager Bruce Bochy surely would have countered by summoning tough left-hander Tony Watson, who was warming in the bullpen?
Roberts chose the former, and Freese rewarded his manager with a two-run double off the right-center-field wall, the key blow in a 5-3 victory over the Giants before 51,170 in Dodger Stadium.
“I just feel like in a big spot, he’s going to stay in the strike zone,” Roberts said of Freese. “Moronta is a really good reliever, and they had a fresh Watson [in the bullpen]. Looking at the at-bats, our right-handed hitters had against Moronta, I just felt like Freese could handle the moment.
“I also felt that Moronta was stressed. When you get a reliever like that up into the 20-pitch range, I wanted to force their hand and keep our right-hander in there and try to have [Moronta] go deeper into the game.”
Austin Barnes sparked the seventh-inning rally with a broken-bat double down the left-field line. Pinch-hitter Alex Verdugo struck out, waving at a 2-and-2 changeup that was low and way outside. Enrique Hernandez walked, and Justin Turner flied to right, Barnes taking third.
With Hernandez running on a 2-and-2 pitch, Freese dug out a knee-high 97-mph fastball and split the gap in right-center to turn a 3-2 deficit into a 4-3 lead. The Dodgers added a run in the eighth when Cody Bellinger beat out a grounder to second for a single and scored on Chris Tayler’s double to right-center.
The comeback took Dodgers starter Ross Stripling off the hook after the right-hander’s somewhat odd 61/3-inning outing in which he gave up three runs and six hits, struck out three and walked one.
If the first three innings were a breeze for Stripling, who needed 27 pitches to record nine outs while giving up one hit, the fourth was like walking head-first into hurricane-force winds.
Stripling needed 34 pitches to notch three outs in an inning that turned a 2-0 Dodgers lead into a 3-2 deficit. Giants right fielder Steve Duggar led with a homer to right field, jumping all over an 87-mph slider that Stripling left middle-in.
Joe Panik grounded out, but Evan Longoria rifled a single to center, and Brandon Belt demolished another 87-mph slider — this one was belt-high and center-cut, sending it over the wall in right-center for a two-run homer and a 3-2 lead.
Brandon Crawford singled, but Stripling caught a break when Kevin Pillar was ruled out on interference for running inside the line on a dribbler back to the mound. Gerardo Parra walked and Erik Kratz was hit by a pitch to load the bases, but Giants pitcher Derek Holland flied to left to end the inning.
Stripling took the mound for the fifth as if the fourth inning never happened, striking out two of four batters.
It took the Dodgers all of four pitches to set a franchise record, Hernandez leading off the bottom of the first by crushing an up-and-in, 92-mph sinker from Holland into the left-center-field pavilion for a 1-0 Dodgers lead.
The fifth leadoff homer of Hernandez’s career, which left his bat at 106 mph and traveled 416 feet, gave the Dodgers homers in each of their first seven games to start the season, breaking the previous club record of homers in the first six games set by the 1954 Brooklyn Dodgers.
Freese and Corey Seager both walked with one out, and Freese scored from second on Bellinger’s single that was fielded by Panik, the Giants second baseman, in shallow right-center for a 2-0 lead.
Dodgers left fielder Chris Taylor helped keep the Giants off the board in the third, fielding Parra’s leadoff hit near the foul pole and firing a strong one-hop throw to second that was fielded by third baseman Justin Turner, who was covering the bag and applied the tag for an out that was upheld after a replay review.