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It’s not panic time yet in Los Angeles, but it could be soon if the Dodgers can’t find a way to stop Joe Panik.
For the second straight game, the San Francisco Giants second baseman was the lone source of offense in the battle of division rivals.
On opening day, Panik secured a 1-0 win with a solo home run against Los Angeles ace Clayton Kershaw. On Friday, he duplicated that amazing feat, hitting a ninth-inning solo home run off All-Star closer Kenley Jansen to give San Francisco another 1-0 win.
If you’re scoring at home, that’s two games, two Joe Panik home runs and two 1-0 victories for the Giants.
It’s also baseball history.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Panik is the first player in major league history to hit a home run in consecutive 1-0 victories by his team. That applies to any point during the season, not just the first two games.
Beyond that, the Giants are the first team to win their first two games of a season by the score of 1-0 since the 1943 Reds. As for the Dodgers, it’s the first time in 50 seasons they’ve been shut out in the first two games of a season.
Panik’s power surge is a little unexpected. He’s logged at least 432 plate appearances in the last three seasons, but has never hit more than 10 homers in a single season. In his first 52 career games against the Dodgers, he hit only two. It’s an oddity that quickly reminds how wonderfully unpredictable baseball can be.
Understandably, Panik is getting most of the headlines. It’s the Giants pitching though that truly deserves the bulk of the credit.
With Madison Bumgarner and Jeff Samardzija starting the season on the disabled list, there wasn’t much optimism surrounding San Francisco’s rotation. Ty Blach eased those concerns some on opening day, tossing five scoreless innings before giving way to the bullpen. Johnny Cueto, who was limited by injuries last season, was even better on Friday, carrying a perfect game into the seventh.
Cueto allowed just one single over seven innings, but ended up with a no-decision. Former Dodger Tony Watson got the win with a perfect eighth, while fill-in closer Hunter Strickland earned his second save with a spotless ninth.
San Francisco will hand the ball to veteran left-hander Derek Holland on Saturday. The spotlight will be on Holland and Panik too as he looks to build on his strong start. It will also be on a Dodgers offense that would love to change the tone of opening weekend before panic truly does settle in at Dodger Stadium.
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