Kershaw first to 19 wins; Dodgers add to lead
Ace allows two runs in eight innings to topple Giants
SAN FRANCISCO -- After the Giants and Dodgers traded football-score blowouts, Sunday was time for Clayton Kershaw to be the difference maker.
Kershaw became MLB's first 19-game winner this year in a gritty 4-2 Dodgers victory. Matt Kemp's clutch two-run homer in the sixth inning secured the series rubber game that restored the Dodgers' National League West lead to three games and trimmed the magic number for clinching the division to 11.
"We got the crowd out of these last two games, and that's the key to having success at AT&T Park," said Kemp. "We put runs up, they kind of hush up. That's what we did for two games. They beat us up the first game, the next two we came back."
A Dodgers offense that set records with 17 runs and 24 hits Saturday night needed Hanley Ramirez's aggressive baserunning to force a pair of Giants throwing errors for a two-run second inning. In the sixth, Kemp followed Adrian Gonzalez's double (misplayed by center fielder Angel Pagan) with his 20th home run (12th since the All-Star break) and career No. 177, tying Mike Piazza for fourth on the all-time Los Angeles list.
Kershaw allowed two runs on seven hits in eight innings with nine strikeouts and a nine-pitch walk to opposing pitcher Yusmeiro Petit that led to the first run. The second scored on a bloop pinch-single by Matt Duffy in the seventh.
Not bad, but his other numbers are staggering. He's 19-3, the first Dodger with that record since Orel Hershiser in 1985. He's won 16 of his last 17 decisions. He's 11-1 within the division, 10-1 on the road, 2-0 against San Francisco this year, 13-5 vs. the Giants lifetime and 8-2 with a 0.83 ERA lifetime at AT&T Park.
His ERA this season actually rose to 1.70 after pitching at least eight innings in a seventh consecutive start and at least seven innings in 17 straight. His 16 consecutive quality starts against the Giants are the most since Bob Gibson in 1968-72.
"Really, he's on the hunt all the time," manager Don Mattingly said of Kershaw's relentless competitiveness. "We call him the Big Train. He just keeps coming, on the attack. Everything's special with him. He doesn't want to let anybody get on or hit him. He doesn't get tired. That's why he trains so hard. He's never going to come out because he's tired."
Unable to keep up with power-hitting Zack Greinke, Kershaw did get a single, but was thrown out trying to stretch it for a double. Kenley Jansen pitched the ninth inning for his 42nd save.
There were two key moments for Kershaw, both ending with strikeouts. He got Gregor Blanco with two on and one out in the seventh inning, then overmatched Buster Posey on three pitches with one out in the eighth inning after "clarifying" to Mattingly in a mound meeting that he had no intention of leaving yet.
"At that point," said Mattingly, "who am I to stop him? Stay out of his way."
"Three amazing sliders," was the way catcher A.J. Ellis described the Posey strikeout.
The Giants threw the ball around in the top of the second inning while the Dodgers scored twice. Ramirez legged out an infield single and hustled to third on Juan Uribe's single to right. A good throw would have erased Ramirez, but Hunter Pence's skipped past third baseman Pablo Sandoval. Petit backed up the play, but threw wildly to the plate as Ramirez scored, allowing Uribe to take third. He scored on Ellis' sacrifice fly.
"Hanley manufactured a big run for us and set the tone for the whole day," said Gordon, who had two hits and his MLB-best 61st steal -- eight more than the Giants' team. "He's a very valuable asset for us. He showed us it was go time."
Kershaw had a rough second inning, walking Petit with one out on nine pitches, then giving up a line single to Joe Panik that moved Petit to second and an RBI single to Posey that scored Petit, but Posey ran out of the inning getting nailed by Puig's throw and Gordon's tag trying for a double.
"It's his read," said manager Bruce Bochy. "These guys are doing all they can to help win a ballgame; they're playing aggressive. He said he lost the ball there, so he was going for two. I'm sure that's something he'd like to have back. Give them credit, he made a good throw to get him."
The Giants put runners on first and second with one out in the seventh. Kershaw struck out Blanco. Duffy, batting for Petit, blooped a single to shallow center that scored Andrew Susac as Puig and Gordon collided, both shaken but remaining in the game. Pagan then grounded out and the Giants offense wasn't heard from again.
"It showed a lot about the team we have, to lose like that Friday [9-0] and come back yesterday [17-0], it was huge," said Kershaw. "The way we did it, to win the series, was pretty cool."
As tough as Kershaw was, Kemp's homer provided the needed cushion and earned his pitcher's endorsement.
"It's not only his power, but his timing," said Kershaw. "Big RBIs out of the four-hole are awesome. It's not easy to go dead-center in San Fran, so that shows he's close to healthy. It's pretty awesome."
Kemp, in a comeback season after shoulder and ankle injuries, agreed.
"I feel like if I keep playing, the power and everything else will come back," said Kemp, who has yet to regain his running speed. "I've had a pretty good second half and I hope it gets better."