LOS ANGELES (AP) — Turns out, pitching wasn’t a problem for the Giants on opening day.
With replacements in the starting and closing roles, San Francisco edged the Los Angeles Dodgers 1-0 Thursday behind Joe Panik’s homer off Clayton Kershaw.
Kershaw, a three-time NL Cy Young Award winner, took his first loss in his franchise-record eighth consecutive opening day start.
Ty Blach opened in place of injured ace Madison Bumgarner, who is on the disabled list along with fellow starter Jeff Samardzija and closer Mark Melancon. Blach allowed three hits in five innings, struck out three and walked three in his first opening day start after 26 career starts in the majors, second-fewest of any Giants opening day starter since 1958.
“I knew he wouldn’t be scared or nervous or anything, he has a great makeup about him,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said.
Hunter Strickland gave up a leadoff single to Matt Kemp in the ninth before retiring three straight batters for the save.
“I just try to remind myself that I’ve been in this situation before,” Strickland said. “It just calms me down a bit. Then you’re comfortable in that situation.”
Panik pulled the ball down the right-field line with two outs.
“When you hit those balls and you see it start to curve, you think it’s going to keep curving. I guess I stayed inside the ball long enough,” he said. “To get a lead in this ballpark is always a good thing, especially knowing the kind of bullpen we have.”
Panik’s homer was the first run allowed this year by Kershaw, including spring training. The eight hits given up by the left-hander are the most off him on opening day, when he is 5-1 with a 1.05 ERA — second-lowest all-time in a season opener behind Rick Mahler’s mark of 0.92.
“There’s a lot of things that I could have done better,” Kershaw said. “It was pitch execution more than anything.”
Kershaw struck out seven and walked two in six innings of the Dodgers’ first opening day loss since 2010.
Andrew McCutchen, acquired from Pittsburgh during the offseason, was 1 for 4 with a double in his Giants debut. Evan Longoria, obtained by San Francisco from Tampa Bay, was 0 for 4 with three strikeouts.
Blach has pitched well against the Dodgers in his career, going 3-2 with a 1.96 ERA. He’s held them to a .212 average in eight games, including five starts.
“Last year was a really big learning experience for a lot of us,” Blach said. “We learned it takes 25 guys to win and you can’t just rely on one guy. Even though it’s nice to have Bum opening day, over the course of the year you’re going to have injuries and you have to work through it.”
Kershaw had his hands full from the start against the NL West’s worst team last year, giving up hits in every inning but the third when he retired the side.
The five-time NL West champion Dodgers had the potential tying run on third in the seventh. Yasmani Grandal singled and took third on pinch-hitter Chase Utley’s two-out single. But leadoff hitter Chris Taylor was out on a called third strike from Cory Gearrin.
After Kershaw departed, J.T. Chargois, Josh Fields and Tony Cingrani combined to toss three scoreless innings, but the Dodgers couldn’t generate any offense beyond three singles.
Giants: Melancon has a right elbow flexor strain.
Dodgers: They began the season with three players on the DL: 3B Justin Turner (broken wrist), RHP Tom Koehler (shoulder) and LHP Julio Urias (shoulder surgery).
ON THE ROAD
The Giants opened on the road for the ninth consecutive year and improved to 23-16 in openers away from home.
KERSHAW AT THE PLATE
Kershaw was 2 for 2 at the plate, singling in the third and fifth innings, leading manager Dave Roberts to joke that he should have hit cleanup.
Kemp was warmly received by the sellout crowd of 53,595 during pre-game introductions in his first opening day at Dodger Stadium since 2014. “That was pretty awesome,” he said. “I didn’t really expect it. That was a lot of emotion for me.” He started in left field and went 1 for 3 with a walk and a strikeout.
The Giants start RHP Johnny Cueto against the Dodgers’ LHP Alex Wood, a 16-game winner last year, on Friday in the second game of the four-game series.