The roster thinned as the game stretched into extra innings, the numbers pruned by injuries and in-game adjustments. The man who finished the game at shortstop started it on the bench. The left fielder started at shortstop. The second baseman started the day in Nashville.
Despite the attrition, the Dodgers outlasted the San Francisco Giants, 3-2, in 10 innings amid a downpour at AT&T Park. Charlie Culberson, the shortstop turned left fielder, delivered the go-ahead hit when his double drove in Corey Seager, the shortstop who didn’t start the game.
The Dodgers staved off the threat of a four-game sweep and recovered from a two-day swoon against their division rivals. A defeat would have been wounding. Clayton Kershaw gave up a home run to pitcher Madison Bumgarner. The hitters were two for 21 with runners in scoring position. The score-tying relay in the ninth inning resulted from a fielding mistake.
As the final inning unfolded, Manager Dave Roberts pondered the merits of using rookie pitcher Kenta Maeda as a pinch-hitter. The hit by Culberson saved Roberts the headache. Roberts will still have to manage the roster Sunday with Carl Crawford on the disabled list and fellow outfielder Scott Van Slyke nursing a tight lower back.
The two injuries created a whirlwind day for utility player Micah Johnson. Recalled from triple A because of Crawford’s injury, he connected through Las Vegas en route from Tennessee. He reached the park in the seventh inning. He entered the game in the ninth, the last of the team’s 13 position players to be used, and got spiked on a slide by catcher Buster Posey. It was that sort of afternoon.
“My [lineup] card is a mess,” Roberts said. “But for us, it’s a great day.”
The duel between Kershaw and Bumgarner lasted six innings, when Bumgarner exited. Kershaw worked two more innings. He committed two mistakes across eight frames. Both home runs disappeared into a swarm of orange and black in the stands beyond left field. Bumgarner supplied the first. He is the only pitcher who has hit a home run against Kershaw.
Rain soaked the city overnight, but the tarp blanketed the diamond. The game started after a 41-minute delay. Kershaw tangled with Bumgarner about 45 minutes later. Bumgarner fouled off a high fastball and passed on a slider. Kershaw tried a second fastball, 93-mph and headed for the inner half. Bumgarner turned on the pitch. Kershaw spat invective as the ball landed in the left-field seats.
“Any time you give up a homer to a pitcher, it doesn’t feel good, obviously,” Kershaw said. “He’s supposed to be the easiest guy you have. He’s a little different, obviously. He’s a pretty solid hitter.”
On the first day of spring training, Culberson told team officials he could play the outfield. He reminded the coaches Saturday when Van Slyke left. Roberts pocketed the tip.
Kershaw rolled into the fifth inning. He had allowed one base runner since Bumgarner’s home run. Then a slap-hitting infielder named Ehire Adrianza went to the plate. In his career, Adrianza had hit only one home run, against Andy Pettitte in Yankee Stadium in 2013.
Kershaw pumped a 92-mph fastball toward Adrianza’s hands, who started his swing early in hopes of seeing a heater. The gambit worked, and he pulled a home run down the left-field line.
“He was just more aggressive on the inner half and more willing to pull the ball there,” Ellis said. “Which is a good approach against Clayton.”
Down a run, the Dodgers wasted Trayce Thompson’s leadoff double in the sixth inning and Gonzalez’s leadoff double in the eighth. Roberts unloaded his bench, to no avail, in the eighth. He inserted Seager as a pinch-hitter and moved Culberson to left field.
With two outs in the inning, Angel Pagan hit a line drive to left field. Culberson chased after the ball, leaped and slid across the grass with the ball in his glove.
“I just went with instinct and threw my glove out,” Culberson said.
Two innings later, after Chris Hatcher teetered across the ninth-inning tightrope, Seager doubled against George Kontos. Culberson did the same. For the first time in the game, the Dodgers had the lead. Unlike the previous two games, the team did not relinquish the advantage.
“Just a pretty good job of grinding it out today,” Kershaw said. “For sure.”
Follow Andy McCullough on Twitter: @McCulloughTimes