LOS ANGELES -- Chase Utley's first home run as a Dodger was the difference as reigning National League MVP Clayton Kershaw tied a career high with 15 strikeouts in a six-hit, 2-1 win Wednesday night that gave the Dodgers a sweep of their three-game showdown series against the division-rival Giants at Dodger Stadium.
The Dodgers, who have won eight of their last nine games, have a season-high 6 1/2-game lead over the Giants, who have lost five straight. The teams play one more series in San Francisco the last week of the season.
"This is the last thing we wanted to have happen, but it happened," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said, referring to the Dodgers' first sweep of San Francisco at Chavez Ravine since June 24-26, 2013. "We've never done anything the easy way, anyway."
Kershaw is 12-6 with a 2.18 ERA after his third complete game, during which he threw a career-high-tying 132 pitches. His NL-leading 251 strikeouts are a career high. The lefty is 15-7 with a 1.61 ERA in his career against the Giants.
"It was just a game where we felt like we were going to let him go for it," manager Don Mattingly said. "It was pretty much smooth sailing all night. Not a lot of battles."
The Dodgers scored in the second inning on Carl Crawford's RBI double. The Giants tied the game in the top of the sixth on a walk by Kelby Tomlinson, who stole second and scored when Angel Pagan's two-out ground-ball single ate up third baseman Justin Turner. Utley's home run to center off Mike Leake came with one out in the bottom of the inning.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Finishing it off: Despite holding a one-run lead against their division rival, the Dodgers didn't have closer Kenley Jansen available, as he pitched in four of the previous five nights, nor did they have Chris Hatcher, who threw three innings in Monday's game. After Kershaw allowed a two-out, ninth-inning single to Matt Duffy, the Dodgers had Jim Johnson and Luis Avilan warming in the bullpen. It was all for naught, however, as Kershaw slammed the door with his 15th strikeout of the night to end the game. More >
Wayward baserunning: By now, the Giants know that beating Kershaw requires an airtight effort. But they lapsed on the few occasions they put runners on base. Buster Posey was picked off first in the second inning and Pagan was caught leaning the wrong way and thrown out at second base in a sloppy stolen-base attempt in the sixth.
Busy night: One night after his Bobblehead Night, Turner was in the middle of nearly everything. He singled and scored the first Dodgers run on Crawford's double, was hit by a pitch on the left hand in the fourth inning, was credited with a stolen base after a miraculous slide, then was doubled off second base on Crawford's lineout to center. Turner later was chewed up by Pagan's hard-hit RBI single. More >
Good enough to win: Leake remained winless in four starts as a Giant. But he improved his ERA in those games to 3.16 while working seven innings and allowing both Dodgers runs. Leake relished the opportunity to oppose a performer such as Kershaw, who brings out the best in others.
"With him, you know it's going to be within a run. He showed tonight, it's going to be a zero- or one-run game," said Leake, who added that pitching against Kershaw is "not added stress, but it's a fun challenge."
"It's a continuous thing. It's not like he does it one day and it takes a month or two to do it again. When he puts up numbers like this, striking out 14, 15, it's what you expect him to do." -- Dodgers catcher Yasmani Grandal, on Kershaw
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Kershaw's 251 strikeouts on the season tied Don Drysdale's total in 1963 for the fifth-most in Los Angeles history.
Kershaw's 15 strikeouts were the most in a single game against San Francisco since Nolan Ryan struck out 16 Giants on Sept. 9, 1987.
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
The Dodgers successfully challenged umpire Mark Wegner's safe call at first base on a Kershaw pickoff attempt of Posey in the second inning. The call was overturned by a replay official and Posey was ruled out for the first out of the inning.
Under similar circumstances, Tomlinson led off the sixth inning with a walk before Kershaw picked him off first base. Or so everybody thought until the Giants requested a review, resulting in the ruling on the field being overturned. It was a key ruling, as Tomlinson would score on Pagan's single.
WHAT'S NEXT Giants: There's no telling how starter Ryan Vogelsong will fare in Thursday's 5:40 p.m. PT series opener against the Rockies. Earlier this year, he permitted just two hits in six shutout innings on May 22 at Coors Field. He's also 2-3 with a 7.75 ERA and a .321 opponents' batting average in his last seven starts at Colorado.
Dodgers: A four-game series in San Diego opens Thursday at 7:05 p.m. PT, with Mat Latos trying to snap a dubious streak of three consecutive starts without finishing the fifth inning. Latos was acquired to stabilize the back end of the Dodgers' rotation, but has already been bumped to the bullpen once.