Joe Panik’s Solo Home Run Enough For Giants To Beat Dodgers, Hand Clayton Kershaw First Career Opening Day Loss
Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Clayton Kershaw had an atypical start, particularly when compared to his career outings on Opening Day, and the Los Angeles Dodgers rung in the 2018 season with a xx-xx loss to the San Francisco Giants. The loss snapped the Dodgers’ Opening Day winning streak at seven games, which was tied for the longest such stretch.

Moreover, it fell on Kershaw’s ledger, leaving him no longer unblemished on Opening Day, now at 5-1 in his franchise record eight starts in a season opener.

Kershaw faced trouble from first pitch of the Thursday matinee game at Dodger Stadium, as Austin Jackson and Joe Panik combined for back-to-back singles to put two on with nobody out in the first inning. Kershaw induced Andrew McCutchen into a double play and struck out Buster Posey, but the base hits set the tone.

The Giants again put two runners on in the second inning, behind a Hunter Pence double and Brandon Belt single. For Belt, it was a breakthrough of sorts as he entered a career 3-for-51 with 27 strikeouts against the Dodgers’ left-handed ace.

Perhaps benefitting from facing the bottom of the Giants’ lineup, Kershaw again escaped trouble. He needed just seven pitches to get through a 1-2-3 third inning, and stranded runners at the corners in the fourth.

To that point, the Giants were an abysmal 0-for-5 with three strikeouts with a man on third base. Oddly enough, when they broke through it was with the bases empty and two outs in the fifth inning.

Joe Panik hooked a sidearm fastball from Kershaw just inside the right-field foul pole for a solo home run that broke up the scoreless tie. Last season, Panik had just seven extra-base hits (one homer) in 175 plate appearances against a lefty.

To his credit, despite laboring through his six innings of work, Kershaw finished with seven strikeouts and limited the Giants to the one run. He also had represented the bulk of the Dodgers’ offense against Ty Blach, collecting two of the team’s three hits off the young lefty.

A Giants bullpen that sprung many a leaks last season rose to the occasion, despite not having the services of closer Mark Melancon. That’s not to say the Dodgers didn’t have their opportunities, however.

Chase Utley’s pinch-hit single in the bottom of the eighth put runners at the corners with two outs. Utley then stole second base, but Cory Gearrin struck out Chris Taylor looking to strand the tying and go-ahead runners.

Former Dodger Tony Watson walked Kiké Hernandez with two outs in the eighth but otherwise struck out the side, consisting of Corey Seager, Yasiel Puig and Cody Bellinger. Hunter Strickland then worked around a Matt Kemp leadoff single in the bottom of the ninth to convert the save opportunity.