Pill's homer just enough to beat Kershaw

Pill's homer just enough to beat Kershaw

Pill's homer just enough to beat Kershaw
LOS ANGELES -- For one night, the Giants vanquished their most formidable demons: their shabby defense. Their lack of power. Clayton Kershaw. And, of course, the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The Giants knew they must sustain a virtually perfect effort Tuesday to defeat Kershaw, the National League's reigning Cy Young Award winner. They delivered the necessary excellence by turning four double plays, receiving Brett Pill's two-run homer and relying on clutch pitching from Ryan Vogelsong and Javier Lopez to subdue the Dodgers, 2-1.

This was an epic victory for the Giants in multiple ways. They defeated Kershaw, the Dodgers' ace whose 1.25 ERA against them was the lowest for any pitcher whom they faced for at least 50 career innings. Moreover, the left-hander was 6-1 against them lifetime, including 5-0 last year. Kershaw also had won 12 consecutive decisions at Dodger Stadium and 10 in a row overall. Finally, the Giants handed the Dodgers only their third defeat in 14 home games.

The Giants' performance also chased any insecurity that might have lingered after their embarrassing three-error, 9-1 loss in Monday's series opener.

"It was nice to be able to bounce back after last night's game," said Lopez, who set up Santiago Casilla's sixth save. "It was a little bit of a comedy of errors last night, and guys just kind of focused and played sound, fundamental baseball."

To top Kershaw (2-1), Vogelsong had to summon a determined effort.

"His numbers speak for themselves," Vogelsong said. "It's no secret how tough he is against us, especially here. I just wanted to make sure when the game was over that I couldn't say that I wasn't focused on every pitch. I really felt like I did a good job of staying concentrated tonight."

Indeed, hours before the game, Vogelsong stood by his Dodger Stadium dressing stall and stared intently at nothing in particular. He clearly seemed mentally prepared.

"He always has that look," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "He has that focus and concentration every time he pitches."

Vogelsong sustained those qualities as he limited Los Angeles to its lone run and eight hits in 7 1/3 innings, a season high. He explained that he made a mechanical adjustment since his last start that improved his command.

"I think this is as strong as he's been all year, as far as moving the ball on both sides of the plate," catcher Buster Posey said.

The outcome began developing in the second inning, which Posey christened with a single. Pill ended a six-game streak without a San Francisco homer by hoisting the next pitch over the left-field barrier. It was his second home run of the season and the Giants' first since Pablo Sandoval went deep in the sixth inning at AT&T Park on May 1 against Florida.

Pill recalled seeing plenty of first-pitch fastballs while going 0-for-6 with four strikeouts against Kershaw last September. He expected another, and got it.

"I could either take it or hit it foul," Pill said. "Luckily he left one over the plate."

If the best offense is a good defense, as football folks like to say, this was a high-scoring game for the Giants. Andre Ethier, the Major League leader in RBIs with 30, grounded into a double play with runners on first and second and one out to end the third inning.

The Dodgers' chances looked better in the seventh, when they had runners on first and second with nobody out. Then Posey pounced on a bunt by ex-Giant Juan Uribe and fired the ball to third base to start another double play.

One inning later, Vogelsong walked pinch-hitter Bobby Abreu before Dee Gordon hustled out a bunt single. Mark Ellis sacrificed the runners ahead, prompting an intentional walk to the indomitable Matt Kemp. That loaded the bases for the left-handed-batting Ethier, which prompted Bochy to beckon left-hander Lopez. Result: another double-play grounder.

Dodgers critics questioned manager Don Mattingly's strategy in the seventh and eighth innings.

"I wouldn't change anything. We've just got to execute, that's all," Mattingly said. "The one [bunt leading to Kemp's walk] I'd do it all the time, to get Andre with the bases loaded and one out. I'd take that every day. He's leading the league in RBIs. We didn't finish the deal. And Juan, he's not trying to bunt the ball that soft. Nothing in those decisions I'd look back and change."

The Giants wouldn't change anything about this game, either.

"It definitely feels like there's a little more energy in here tonight after this win," Vogelsong said. "I've been one to say it before a few times, and it hasn't worked out that way. But there's definitely a diffferent feel on this win, so hopefully this will be the one that kind of gets us going a little bit."

Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.