Dodgers back Kershaw to finish sweep of Giants
Three-run sixth the difference as Los Angeles wins fifth straight
LOS ANGELES -- With the tying runs on base, Kenley Jansen didn't blow the save, he got the final out of a 4-2 win over the Giants on Wednesday night that allowed Dodgers manager Don Mattingly to sum up the beauty of a season-high five-game win streak.
"When this is going on," he said, "you expect to win. In the other scenario, you expect something to go wrong."
Nothing went wrong as the Dodgers completed a three-game series sweep. They got eight-plus innings from Clayton Kershaw, RBI hits from Hanley Ramirez, Andre Ethier and A.J. Ellis and another save from Jansen.
They came from behind, then hung on, even with Matt Kemp spending 8 1/2 innings of scheduled rest on the bench a day after his dramatic return from the disabled list.
Not necessarily having an impact on the outcome, but impact rookie Yasiel Puig did have another three-hit game, overshadowing another of his overly aggressive baserunning blunders. He's tied for second all-time with 13 multi-hit games in the first 22 career games, even if Giants manager Bruce Bochy doesn't feel Puig deserves to be an All-Star.
The five-game win streak has come against National League West opponents San Diego and San Francisco, and it has tightened up the division. The Dodgers are still in last place, but they have cut the deficit behind leader Arizona to six games for the first time since May 25 and are only 2 1/2 games behind the fourth-place Giants.
"It's nice that Arizona lost today and you pick up another game and all of a sudden you're creeping back where it doesn't seem so far away," said Mattingly.
This was Kershaw's first win since May 20, but it ran his record to 5-0 against Tim Lincecum in the latest duel of Cy Young winners.
"You kind of look forward to it because it makes you rise to the occasion and pitch better," said Lincecum. "I had a chance to do that today, and I didn't."
Kershaw is 10-4 against the Giants lifetime and although he's only 6-5 on the season, his ERA is 2.08. He leads the league in innings pitched. He was more upset with a walk of Marco Scutaro just before Buster Posey's home run, but overall agreed with the manager that the club's confidence is on the rise.
"When you start losing games, and you start losing in games, you have to fight the feeling of 'here we go again,'" he said "I think right now when we're down, there's not a whole lot of panic. It's a good sign."
Ramirez ran his RBI streak to a team-high six games and his hitting streak to nine (hitting .485 during the streak). He had two singles, a walk and a key stolen base in the decisive three-run sixth inning. But better than all of that was the comparison Mattingly drew.
"Hanley is really good; he can really hit," he said. "I'm watching him tonight, I'm thinking of Manny [Ramirez] -- he's just that good. A special talent."
"That's a good compliment. He's the top hitter in the game and it makes me keep working to stay at this level," said Hanley Ramirez, who is batting .375 after overcoming two serious injuries and comparing his feel at the plate to his batting title season of 2009. "Every day he talks to me, telling me to stay in the middle, and that's what I've been doing."
Ramirez singled in the Dodgers' first run and scored the second on Ethier's one-out hit in the sixth that pulled the Dodgers even after Posey's two-run homer in the fourth inning. Mattingly said Ethier's hit was a big one, and it was followed by an RBI double from Ellis, who would score on a wild pitch.
The Dodgers even got lucky, as Ellis missed a hit-and-run sign, but Ethier was able to steal second anyway when catcher Hector Sanchez's throw bounced. Then Ellis doubled home Ethier.
Naturally, with a bullpen that Mattingly said before the game has been "a fairly big issue this year," there would be some ninth-inning drama.
Kershaw came into the ninth with a three-hitter and 97 pitches, but Scutaro led off with a single and Mattingly brought in Jansen to face Posey for his fourth appearance in five days.
"Buster just scares me. He always comes through and he got Kersh once," explained Mattingly. "Would you rather have Kersh at the end of his rope or a fresh Kenley? It also gives Kenley a little breathing room."
He needed it, allowing a single to Posey before fanning Hunter Pence and Pablo Sandoval, then ending the game with a popout from pinch-hitter Brandon Belt.
Jansen is back in charge of the ninth inning, a role he filled until sidelined by last year's irregular heartbeat. Brandon League took over, but has since lost the job back to Jansen.
"He was a good guy about it," Mattingly said of Jansen. "He lost the job because of his heart. In his mind, he felt he was a closer."