SAN FRANCISCO -- Clayton Kershaw stopped the nonsense Tuesday night, pitching and batting and even running the Dodgers into the postseason. A 5-3 win over the Giants at AT&T Park clinched an October berth for the Dodgers, ended a historic 11-game losing streak and cut the magic number for a fifth consecutive division title to eight.
"Tonight wasn't easy. Nothing about the past two weeks has been easy, so we shouldn't have expected it to be," said Kershaw.
Kershaw limited the Giants to two runs (one earned) on eight hits in six innings. The Dodgers chased Johnny Cueto in a four-run fourth inning that began with No. 8 hitter Chase Utley's 403-foot home run (107.7 mph exit velocity per Statcast™) into McCovey Cove. The inning got weird when Giants left fielder Austin Slater fanned on Kershaw's liner that was scored a double, and Yasiel Puig's two-run double provided breathing room.
Kershaw, 17-3 on the season, was making his third start since coming off the disabled list for a lower back strain.
"A little better than the game before, but just a lot of hits," said Kershaw, who lasted only 3 2/3 innings against Colorado in a 9-1 loss. "I felt a little better, but still wasn't great. Right now I'm just glad we won."
He is 13-1 in his last 17 starts, 21-9 in 39 career starts against the Giants and 13-4 at AT&T Park. Kershaw has 301 career strikeouts against the Giants, becoming the third active pitcher to record 300 or more strikeouts against a single opponent. The Dodgers are 21-3 in his starts this year, the third-highest team win percentage in a pitcher's starts since 1920.
"That wasn't ideal for us, but he found way to get two punchouts," Roberts said. "There's a lot of relief in that clubhouse."
Cueto lasted 3 2/3 innings but struck out eight batters, two off his season high -- despite his shortest start in a Giants uniform.
"It was a tough night for Johnny," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "The defense was not there and you're going against one of the elite pitchers in the game, somebody as good as Kershaw. You have to play your best ball. We didn't do that. We tried. We came back."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Superman on offense, too: Kershaw caused all kinds of excitement in the top of the fourth inning and it had nothing to do with his pitching. After Utley's homer, Slater appeared to lose Kershaw's liner to left-center and it went to the wall for a double. Kershaw then should have been thrown out trying to advance on Chris Taylor's grounder to short, but Kelby Tomlinson's throw to third base was wide and Kershaw was safe. Play was stopped briefly as Kershaw came up with a sore knee, but not too sore that he couldn't score on Corey Seager's sacrifice fly. Roberts later said the knee was fine.
"The throw was just a little off-line," Bochy said of Tomlinson's toss. "He really had him. He threw it a little too far left of the bag where we could get Kershaw. That would have been a big play. It turned out to be a play that ended up hurting us. It opened up the floodgates there for a four-run inning."
Fighting the Fed: Kershaw had six strikeouts, none more vital than with two outs in the bottom of the sixth inning and a two-run lead, one run in, the bases loaded and former batterymate Tim Federowicz pinch-hitting. Kershaw fell behind Federowicz 3-1, got him to swing and miss at a slider, then fan on a curveball in the dirt. Kershaw pounded his glove in satisfaction.
"The weird thing for this game, not to say it doesn't mean anything, but for it to have the significance it does," said Kershaw, "more than anything, it's a sense of relief now that we got a win. We can't obviously let up, but every time the losses keep mounting and mounting, it becomes that much harder to win a game. That's what was spilling out tonight."
"When you're rolling, you feel like can't lose. When you're losing, it feels like no matter what you do you can't dig out of it. Changing those trends is a hard thing to do." -- Kershaw on ending losing streaks
"I feel that I'm there now. I feel that it's Johnny Cueto pitching. I'm painting the corners and I have three more outings to go." -- Cueto, on his third start back from the disabled list
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
During the third, Tomlinson became the 25th San Francisco player to hit a home run this season, tying the MLB record for most players to homer in a season. The 2016 Mets, 2011 D-backs and 2001 Rockies all had 25 players record a home run.
Cody Bellinger became the first Dodger to be intentionally walked three times in a game since Jose Hernandez on June 4, 2004, at Arizona.
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
The Dodgers challenged a safe call at first base when Justin Turner made a slick backhand pick of Slater's grounder, but Turner's high throw was ruled to have pulled Bellinger off the bag. The call was overturned, as Bellinger tagged Slater going by.
WHAT'S NEXT Dodgers:Yu Darvish starts Wednesday night's series finale, with first pitch at 7:15 p.m. PT. Darvish was lights-out in his Dodgers debut but has struggled with mechanics ever since. He is coming off a 5-4 loss to Colorado, allowing five runs in 4 1/3 innings. It will be Darvish's first career start against the Giants.
Giants:Matt Moore gets the ball Wednesday for the series finale. After a two-inning relief appearance, Moore was sharp against the White Sox, lasting 6 2/3 innings while allowing two runs, but he's struggled against the Dodgers this year with a 7.02 ERA.