SAN FRANCISCO — For his second start in the majors, Ty Blach’s task was pretty simple: Beat Clayton Kershaw, boost San Francisco’s playoff chances.
The rookie left-hander outpitched Kershaw, and the Giants held onto their lead for the last NL wild-card spot going into the final day of the regular season, blanking the Los Angeles Dodgers 3-0 Saturday.
“Anytime you get the chance to go out there in a playoff race and give your team a chance, it’s a lot of fun,” the 25-year-old Blach said. “I appreciated the opportunity and tried to make the most of it.”
The Giants stayed one game ahead of St. Louis for the second NL wild-card slot. The Cardinals beat visiting Pittsburgh 4-3 earlier in the day.
Matt Moore will start for the Giants on Sunday, and a win — or St. Louis loss — puts them in the playoffs. The New York Mets will host the NL wild-card game on Wednesday night.
“We’re not getting too giddy here,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “We have work to do.”
Blach (1-0) earned his first big league victory, pitching eight innings of three-hit ball. He struck out six and walked one, and also got his first two hits.
This was the fourth game in the majors for Blach since he made his major league debut in September.
“That’s one of the best pitching performances I’ve seen, with this kid having a month in the major leagues, the stage he was on, what’s at stake, who he was going against,” Bochy said. “He just had great focus and great command. This kid was locked in. It’s hard to go pitch a better game than he did today.”
Sergio Romo pitched a hitless ninth for his fourth save.
Kershaw (12-4) gave up three runs, two of them unearned, in seven innings. Angel Pagan homered in the fifth to break a scoreless tie.
Kershaw is already set to pitch the opener in the best-of-five Division Series against Washington. The Dodgers’ loss gave the Nationals home-field advantage in that matchup.
“We’re on a little bit of a slide here,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said following his club’s fourth loss in five games. “Today wasn’t a good day for the quality of at-bats. Some with the lack of familiarity (with Blach), but even with that I think we gave away a lot of at-bats.”
The Dodgers-Giants result was posted on the videoboard at Nationals Park in the seventh inning while Washington played Miami. It was announced that the Nationals had clinched the home field, and the crowd responded with a standing ovation.
One day after gaining national attention for body-slamming a fan who had run onto the field, Pagan hit a 1-1 pitch from Kershaw into the left-field stands. It was Pagan’s 12th home run of the season and his first off Kershaw in 68 career at-bats.
The Dodgers were limited to three singles and got only one runner to second base.
Blach got Joc Pederson to ground into an inning-ending double play in the second after the Dodgers put two on, struck out the side looking in the third and retired 11 straight during one stretch.
“No matter how big the stage is, you have to go out and do the same thing as a pitcher,” Blach said. “I felt pretty good. We were able to get rolling in the first inning and after the second, with a couple guys on, was able to bounce back and just get into cruise mode from there and execute pitches.”
Los Angeles third baseman Justin Turner also committed a throwing error in the seventh when the Giants scored a pair of unearned runs off Kershaw.
Kershaw retired 12 of the first 13 before Pagan’s one-out homer leading off the fifth.
Giants: Eduardo Nunez ran on a treadmill but is all but certain to sit out the regular season finale and likely the wild card round of the playoffs. The team is optimistic that the veteran infielder can return if San Francisco gets deeper into the postseason.
Dodgers: Kenta Maeda (16-10) pitches the finale at AT&T Park on Sunday. The right-hander is unbeaten in three career starts against San Francisco.
Giants: Moore (12-12) faces the Dodgers after matching his career-high of 11 strikeouts against Colorado in his previous start.