SAN FRANCISCO -- Though the result was familiar, a 4-2 Dodgers win over the Giants at AT&T Park, this one didn't feel like your typical Clayton Kershaw dominance. Rather, the Giants had chances. They scratched out seven hits off Kershaw. They pieced together rallies in two innings. They made him work.
But ultimately, Kershaw's line looked like this: Eight innings, two runs, nine strikeouts and his major-league-best 19th win of the season. In 11 starts at AT&T Park, the Dodgers left-hander is now 8-2 with a 0.83 ERA. He has gone at least eight innings in each of his last seven starts this year, and won 16 of his last 17 decisions.
"With him, you've got to try to chip away whenever you can, and I felt like we put some good at-bats together throughout the game," Giants catcher Buster Posey said. "We just weren't able to come out on top."
Giants pitcher Yusmeiro Petit had a good at-bat in the third, working a nine-pitch walk. Posey had one later in the inning, lining an RBI single into left-center. But as Petit came in to score, Posey was thrown out trying for second by Yasiel Puig, leaving a runner on third and cleanup man Hunter Pence standing in the on-deck circle.
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The Giants also strung together three singles off Kershaw in the seventh, with Matt Duffy blooping one to center to score Andrew Susac and make it a 4-2 game. But Angel Pagan, batting with runners on first and third and two outs, grounded out to end the inning.
"We created some pretty good chances there," manager Bruce Bochy said. "We were just missing one more hit to really keep things rolling."
But the afternoon was not without one distinctly Kershaw moment, which came in his final inning, the eighth. With one out, Kershaw well over 100 pitches and Posey coming up, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly walked to the mound for a talk. It was brief, and it ended with Mattingly returning to the dugout and Kershaw staying in.
Posey struck out on three pitches. Pence flew out to end the inning. Kershaw walked off the mound with his season ERA at 1.70, on his way to a 19-3 record.
"I enjoy this feeling," Kershaw said afterward. "Right now, after the game, September (14th), I enjoy this feeling. I enjoy winning. It doesn't matter what team it's against, but obviously against the Giants, it feels good."
Kershaw had been asked if he particularly enjoys beating the Giants, against whom he now has a 1.44 career ERA. But as Posey said when asked about Kershaw's dominance of the Giants: "Is it us, or everybody?"
Kershaw on the road this season is 10-1 with a 1.64 ERA. Against N.L. West opponents, he's 11-1 with a 1.72 ERA. The Dodgers have won 19 of his last 20 starts. He missed all of April and the beginning of May with an injury, and still is the first MLB pitcher this season to reach 19 wins.
"Just pretty much what you'd expect," Posey said of Kershaw's outing Sunday.
As it lines up, the Giants will see Kershaw once more this regular season, in the finale of the teams' series a week from now in Los Angeles. By taking this series, the Dodgers left San Francisco with a three-game lead in the N.L. West. While Posey said "it'd be nice" to have that deficit remain at three or shrink before these teams reconvene, Bochy said it won't pay for the Giants to look too far ahead.
"There's no point in looking where you've got to get, as much as having that great concentration on the game you're playing," Bochy said.
"We've got, what, 13 left?" Posey said. "So there's still plenty that can happen."
Along with Kershaw's outing, the Giants made a handful of mistakes that hurt them on Sunday, which are covered in tomorrow's print story. Chief among them were two errors on one play in the second inning, when the Dodgers scored two runs, and Posey deciding to try for second on his RBI single and being thrown out for the final out of the third.
Of the Posey play, Bochy said it's "something you'd like to have back. But you want these guys going all-out and that's what he was doing." Posey also defended the play:
"When I rounded first, I didn't pick (the ball) up great," Posey said. "But I mean, (Puig) made a good play on it. I don't feel like it was a terrible mistake. I think the throw's off-line a little bit, I'm safe."
That was exactly the case on Petit's throw home in the second that was wild and allowed Hanley Ramirez to score. It illustrated the margin of error with Kershaw on the mound.
Aside from the throwing error, Petit made one other mistake, a 2-0 slider to Matt Kemp in the seventh that Kemp crushed for a two-run home run. It was the first time all day that Petit had fallen behind 2-0.
"I don't like pitching behind in the count," Petit said. "Sometimes you have to miss with a pitch, and you miss in the middle.
"I got behind two balls, zero strikes, and I threw the hanging slider and paid."
Otherwise, Petit gave what Bochy called a "great effort," Tasked with opposing Kershaw, Petit seemed to relish the challenge, pumping his fist after striking out the side in the first and popping his glove as he left the mound in the third following a double play.
Petit said the shows of emotion were the result more of those specific situations than the matchup with Kershaw. In an important game, he deviated little from his usual approach of filling up the strike zone, throwing 62 of his 82 pitches for strikes. In his last 10 games Petit has recorded 47 strikeouts and one walk.
"You've got a pretty darn good lineup there with the Dodgers, and they made him grind a little more than (his last outing, a complete game against Arizona)," said catcher Andrew Susac. "But all in all, I thought he did a good job. The pitch to Kemp spun on him a little bit and he ended up paying. Good hitters don't miss those pitches."
Susac had actually gone out to talk with Petit before the 2-0 pitch, and said the two were "basically getting on the same page, making sure we don't make a mistake -- like we did.
"That happens sometimes," Susac said. "(Kemp) just happened not to miss it."
Joaquin Arias started at shortstop and had two of the Giants' hits off Kershaw, giving Arias 19 hits in his last 41 at-bats. He has raised his average from .187 to .249 over that time, and Bochy said after Sunday's game Arias "has earned his playing time."
"You have to like the at-bats he's throwing out there," Bochy said. "He's going to be a big part of this the rest of the way."
Bochy also showed some faith in September call-up Hunter Strickland, bringing him in for the ninth to keep the deficit at two runs. Strickland allowed a one-out double by Carl Crawford but pitched out of the inning and reached 99 mph on the gun with his fastball.
After taking the first punch in this series, a 9-0 loss on Friday, the Dodgers countered by outscoring the Giants 21-2 over the final 18 innings.
"You hate to lose a series to the team in front of you," Bochy said. "But there's baseball left. These guys are a tough group ... We're heading to Arizona, we'll try to regroup and get going again there."
The pitching probables for that three-game series:
Monday: RHP Ryan Vogelsong (8-10, 3.90) vs. LHP Wade Miley (7-11, 4.28)
Tuesday: RHP Jake Peavy (5-4, 2.29) vs. RHP Josh Collmenter (10-7, 3.67)
Wednesday: LHP Madison Bumgarner (18-9, 2.91) vs. RHP Randall Delgado (3-4, 5.48)