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Kershaw strikes out 13, wins 7th straight by beating Giants

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SAN FRANCISCO (AP) Clayton Kershaw struck out 13 in eight innings, Justin Turner hit a go-ahead homer in the top of the ninth and the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the San Francisco Giants 3-2 on Friday night.

Kershaw (9-1) outdueled Johnny Cueto to improve to 7-0 over his last eight starts, and with 82 strikeouts to just three walks during that stretch since an April 26 loss to Miami. He is 3-0 in six road starts.

Turner hit a 2-1 pitch from Santiago Casilla (1-2) to left field to start the ninth and the Dodgers shaved a game off the Giants’ NL West lead to pull within three – though both clubs know this race surely will be decided down the stretch.

The Dodgers have won the last five games against the Giants when Kershaw pitches, and the lefty is 18-7 in 33 starts facing rival San Francisco.

Kenley Jansen allowed Brandon Belt‘s two-out double in the ninth followed by a walk to pinch-hitter Gregor Blanco before striking out Brandon Crawford on a 3-2 pitch for his 17th save.

The Dodgers improved to 12-1 in Kershaw’s outings, while the Giants dropped to 11-2 when Cueto takes the mound. He had beaten Los Angeles in consecutive April starts.

Cueto, who was trying to become the majors’ third 10-game winner of the night after Washington’s Stephen Strasburg and Chris Sale of the White Sox, had his home scoreless streak of 29 1/3 innings snapped in the first when he fell behind 2-0.

The right-hander struck out eight in eight innings, allowing two runs on three hits with no walks.

The Dodgers went ahead on a balk that Cueto and manager Bruce Bochy debated with plate umpire D.J. Reyburn, then added on with Adrian Gonzalez‘s RBI single.

Matt Duffy homered in the bottom of the first, sending an 0-1 pitch into the left-field bleachers for just the fifth long ball given up by Los Angeles’ ace, and Buster Posey hit a tying double in the sixth.

Posey was back in the lineup to catch him after missing three straight games with an irritated nerve in his right thumb, but with two off days, he had five days of rest. He received an injection in the area Sunday.

The Dodgers challenged a ball call against Chase Utley in the fifth that actually hit Utley, and it was overturned after about a minute. Cueto then retired the final 10 hitters he faced in order.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Dodgers: RF Yasiel Puig, on the disabled list since June 3 with a strained left hamstring, will join Class A Rancho Cucamonga at home Monday with the hope he will be activated June 20 against the Nationals. Puig has been working in the batting cage on “shortening his stroke,” manager Dave Roberts said. When Puig is ready, Roberts will still try to get Trayce Thompson regular playing time, but Puig’s defense and strong arm are too valuable to keep him out of the lineup. … RHP Brandon McCarthy is slated to make his first rehab start and go two innings Saturday at Rancho Cucamonga as he works back from Tommy John surgery.

Giants: INF Kelby Tomlinson was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a sprained left thumb that happened on a dive Wednesday against Boston but didn’t initially become problematic. He will need a splint for about two weeks. … RF Hunter Pence underwent surgery Thursday on his torn right hamstring in Dallas and all went smoothly and as planned. He was expected back in the Bay Area on Friday night and at the ballpark Saturday. … RHP Sergio Romo (elbow strain), who was transferred to the 60-day DL to make room for the callup of INF Ramiro Pena from Triple-A Sacramento, could throw off the mound Saturday. … LF Angel Pagan (left hamstring strain) will begin a three-game rehab assignment with Sacramento beginning Saturday night in El Paso, Texas.

UP NEXT

Dodgers: LHP Scott Kazmir (5-3, 4.46 ERA) is 2-0 with 24 strikeouts and four walks in 17 innings over his last three starts.

Giants: Jeff Samardzija (7-4, 3.33) looks to bounce back from a loss at St. Louis in which he surrendered season highs of six runs and nine hits. He is 1-3 in five career outings – three starts – vs. L.A.

Mike Trout says Harper and Machado’s free agency experience sent up “red flags”

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Mike Trout signed a record-setting contract extension last week, agreeing to ten more years tacked on to his existing deal at $35.45 million a year. It’s certainly nothing to sneeze at and, I’m quite sure, Trout will not lose any sleep over financial matters for the rest of his days.

One wonders, though, what he might’ve commanded had he hit free agency. If he had been bid on by more than one team. Sure, there is some upward limit to how much even a guy of Trout’s caliber might get, but you have to assume that if a couple more teams were able to get in on that action that that $35.45 million a year could’ve been topped.

Did he give any thoughts to testing the market? Maybe not serious ones, but he certainly observed the market this past winter and didn’t much care for what he saw. He said this to Fabiran Ardaya of The Athletic last night:

“I kind of saw what Bryce and Manny went through and it drew a red flag for me. I talked to Manny and Bryce. It was a tough couple months in the offseason. They put it perspective in my mind.”

He added, “I obviously want to be an Angel for life. That was a big key,” so it’s not like this was purely some matter of Trout being scared off the market. But it’s also the case that the market has become fraught for even the best players in the game and has influenced their decision making to a considerable degree. Part of Mike Trout’s decision to sign that deal was how unwelcoming the free agent market looked like it’d be even for him.

And it’s not just Trout. To see how unpalatable free agency has become one need merely look at the bevy of contract extensions agreed to over the past week or two. Each one of those, however lucrative they may be, represent a player foregoing the open market in favor of negotiating with a single bidder with greater leverage as a result. While some of those choices, like Trout’s, do not cost the players much more than, perhaps, some rounding error on his ultimate contract, others, like pre-arbitration players, are likely foregoing tens of millions of dollars in order to make a deal now instead of a few years later. And, of course, each team that signs a player to an extension is less likely to be active in an upcoming free agency period, reducing the number of bidders and thus applying downward pressure on salaries for those players who do hit the open market.

For the first century or so of baseball history the Reserve Clause ruled baseball economics. Under that system, a team which possessed the rights to a player could not be deprived of that player’s services if it did not want to be. When it came time to decide what to pay a player only one team could bid, giving it all the leverage. Then free agency came. Owners fought like hell against its implementation. They lost that battle and then attempted to roll it back as much as they could, even employing illegal tactics at times in an effort to do so, but they didn’t have much luck.

In the past two or three years, however, they have done what decades of efforts could not do: they have effectively taken away a full and open free market for players and have returned the game to a state in which the team which holds a players’ rights is, effectively, the only bidder for his services and has the power to retain him on favorable terms.

It’s not the restoration of the old reserve clause, exactly, but when the best player in baseball since Willie Mays is wary of the open market, you have to admit that it’s far, far closer to it than anyone thought the owners would ever get.