Giants keep winning the close ones, sweep Houston

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It didn’t take 12 innings, like Saturday’s game did, but the Giants edged the Astros 3-2 for the second straight game Sunday, with Matt Cain picking up his 10th win in the process.

Cain, facing the Astros for the first time since he pitched a perfect game against them last month, allowed two runs — one earned — in 6 1/3 innings.

The Giants are now 49-40 this season, even though they’ve been outscored by three runs.

They’re one of three teams playing on the opposite side of their run differential:

Giants: 49-40 – 346 RS, 349 RA – (3)
Orioles: 46-42 – 361 RS, 400 RA – (39)
Indians: 45-43 – 395 RS, 425 RA – (30)

The big factor there: the Giants are 20-13 in one-run games. In fact, the Orioles, Indians and Giants (in that order) have MLB’s best winning percentages in one-run games this season.

There aren’t currently any teams under .500 with a positive run differential, though the Red Sox have fit that description for much of the season. They’re currently 45-44 with 438 runs scored and 395 runs allowed (+43). The Diamondbacks have exactly as many runs scored as runs allowed (377) and they’re 42-46.

The Rangers, at +73, have baseball’s best run differential, with the Yankees second at +68. Those are also the two teams with the best records in baseball. The Twins have the worst run differential at -96. The Astros, with baseball’s worst record, are second at -77.

Kershaw-Sale anything but a pitcher’s duel

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World Series Game 1 was billed as a battle of aces, the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw against Chris Sale of the Red Sox. Between them, they have 14 All-Star Game nominations. Kershaw has won three Cy Young Awards. Sale could his first Cy Young Award this year. Among his 10 seasons with at least 110 innings pitched, Kershaw has never posted a sub-2.92 ERA. Sale has been at 2.90 or below in each of the last two seasons. The two have combined for over 4,000 career strikeouts and both have averaged better than a strikeout per inning over their careers.

And yet Tuesday’s Game 1 was anything but a pitcher’s duel between Kershaw and Sale. Though a couple of fielding mistakes weren’t of any help to Kershaw in the first inning, Red Sox batters were squaring him up good. Of the five balls put in play in the first inning, three had exit velocities of 100 MPH or higher. Of the 12 total balls put in play against him overall, five reached triple digits in exit velo.

Kershaw gave up a pair of runs in the first, another run in the third on a J.D. Martinez double to straightaway center field, and another two in the fifth. Kershaw led off the fifth by walking Mookie Betts, then giving up a single to Andrew Benintendi, ending his night. Ryan Madson relieved Kershaw and proceeded to allow both inherited runners to score. All told, Kershaw yielded five runs on seven hits and three walks with five strikeouts on 79 pitches in four-plus innings.

Sale, meanwhile, was on the hook for individual runs in the second, third, and fifth. Dodger hitters weren’t squaring him up quite as well as the Red Sox batters squared up Kershaw, but Sale was still more hittable than usual. Of the eight balls put in play against him, four were at least 90 MPH in exit velo. One of the runs was a no-doubt solo home run to Matt Kemp in the second. The Dodgers chased Sale in the fifth when he issued a leadoff walk to Brian Dozier. Matt Barnes relieved him allowed the inherited runner to score. Overall, Sale threw 91 pitches in four-plus innings, serving up three runs on five hits and two walks with seven strikeouts.

The game is now, as has been generally the case throughout this postseason, a battle of the bullpens.