SAN FRANCISCO–When Clayton Kershaw pitches for the Dodgers, local television listings would be best served labeling the game as “The Clayton Kershaw Show.”
Baseball fans who look forward to Kershaw’s starts know that the Los Angeles southpaw has a penchant for stealing the spotlight.
But viewers who tuned in on Tuesday evening to watch Kershaw battle the San Francisco Giants would have been misled if they thought they were watching another episode of a Kershaw-centered reality series. Instead, they were treated to a three-hour long Kelby Tomlinson special.
“Tommy, it was a little bit of Tommy ball tonight we call it. He hit a home run, had another base hit, made a great play up the middle,” Giants’ manager Bruce Bochy said.
Even though Kershaw’s Dodgers upended Tomlinson’s Giants’ 5-3 to snap an 11-game losing streak, Tomlinson dominated Tuesday’s storylines thanks to a home run, a diving stop, and a costly throwing mistake that gave life to Los Angeles’ fourth inning rally.
Tomlinson began his Tuesday takeover with a solo shot off Kershaw in the bottom of the third inning that marked his first home run in 283 at-bats. The Giants’ utility player hadn’t homered since October 3, 2015, and had never recorded a hit off of Kershaw in 14 at-bats.
“Just something on the inner part of the plate,” Tomlinson said, when asked what he was looking for. “He (Kershaw) throws a lot of pitches there and he’s had a lot of success against me throwing to the inside part of the plate but I thought maybe with 2-0, he might really try to get it on the plate as opposed to getting it in there if it was 0-2.”
The home run gave the Giants a 1-0 lead, but Tomlinson’s night took a turn for the worst in the top of the fourth, when a throw to third baseman Orlando Calixte sailed wide of the bag. In an effort to cut down Kershaw on the base paths, the Giants’ shortstop hurried his throw which prevented Calixte from putting his tag down in time.
“The one play there at third, you know, the throw was just a little off line,” Bochy said. “He really had him. He threw it a little too far left of the bag to where we could get Kershaw, and that would have been a big play and it turned out to be a game that ended up hurting us and probably opened up the floodgates there for a four-run inning and that hurt us and it ended up being the difference in the ballgame.”
Tomlinson didn’t take long to atone for his errant throw, as he made a fantastic sliding stop to rob pinch hitter Enrique Hernandez of a single in the seventh. Ranging to his left, Tomlinson slid to the ground, hopped to his feet and fired a dart to Buster Posey at first base to end the inning.
Though he’s appeared all over the field this season, Tomlinson is most comfortable at shortstop, and he said he’s always ready to step in when starter Brandon Crawford needs a day off.
“I try to get a lot of my work in in batting practice. Generally when you’re comfortable there it makes third a little bit easier, second a little bit easier, it’s a little bit of a tougher position so I tried to get a lot of my work in there. I still get my work in other places, but I try to make sure that I do my best.”
While Tomlinson had two highlight-reel plays to celebrate on Tuesday night, his miscue in the top of the fourth inning haunted him after the game. It came a play after left fielder Austin Slater lost a Kershaw line drive in the lights, and helped starter Johnny Cueto’s pitch count skyrocket. If there’s one play the Giants wished they could have back from Tuesday night –and there were quite a few– Tomlinson’s throw would rank high on their list.
“I really wanted to get that one,” Tomlinson said. “Tried to make a play and you know, it didn’t work out and it makes it definitely tough when you look back at the end of the game and maybe if I got the out at first, we could have saved a run or so. But you don’t know what’s going to happen, you just try to make the best play, so that’s what I tried to do.”