San Francisco will remain in first place by percentage points (.545-.544) even if the Dodgers win Sunday to complete a three-game series sweep. But their sweep would seem more convincing than the one the Giants administered June 25-27, though each of those games was a shutout victory.
Asked if the Giants sense an urgency to step up their performance, given the addition of the offensively talented Hanley Ramirez to the Dodgers' lineup, San Francisco left-hander Barry Zito said, "We feel like we're going to have to step it up because we have to step it up. We know we can play better than we have the last couple of days."
For the second day in a row, Los Angeles' biggest hit was delivered by a performer who didn't participate in the Giants' sweep, creating the appearance that the Dodgers have jelled.
Sidelined by an injured left hamstring last month, Matt Kemp belted a two-run homer in Saturday's first inning to help Los Angeles establish immediate control against Zito (8-7), who allowed four runs and seven hits in 5 1/3 innings. Kemp finished with four RBIs and four hits. One night earlier, Ramirez socked a game-winning, 10th-inning, two-run homer in his third game since being obtained from Miami. Ramirez continued to reward the Dodgers for acquiring him by contributing an RBI double in the seventh inning and a two-run single in the ninth Saturday.
"With that deal, you got another Matt Kemp," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said, referring to the Ramirez trade.
Said Kemp, "This is a brand-new team."
The double-digit final margin represented the largest shutout defeat the Dodgers have administered to the Giants since AT&T Park opened in 2000. It also was Los Angeles' biggest shutout victory over San Francisco since an 11-0 decision on July 10, 1997, at Dodger Stadium.
"It's ugly," Giants center fielder Angel Pagan admitted.
The Dodgers, not the Giants, enjoyed the monopoly on dominant starting pitching. Chad Billingsley limited San Francisco to four hits in 7 1/3 innings and won his first game at AT&T Park since July 13, 2007, ending a personal losing streak of four consecutive decisions by the bay.
The right-hander twice allowed leadoff doubles in the first five innings but stranded both runners. Otherwise, the Giants, who have lost three games in a row, didn't move a runner into scoring position until they loaded the bases in the eighth.
Pagan said that the Dodgers' early lead "gave Billingsley the confidence to throw the ball well. That's the difference. He got enough run support early in the ballgame."
One of those runs, which Ramirez scored in the sixth, drew unusual attention. Ramirez and Giants catcher Buster Posey appeared destined for a home-plate collision as the former sped home from first base on Jerry Hairston Jr.'s double. But Posey, who sustained multiple left leg injuries in a play at the plate last May 25, missed an attempted swipe tag. Besides, Ramirez said, "I always slide around him. I don't want to get hurt either."
The Giants (55-45) hit the 100-game mark, which meant nothing except to offer a reminder that plenty can happen in their remaining 62 games. For example, the schedule could prove to be an equalizer. San Francisco doesn't have to travel farther east than Chicago, while the Dodgers still face a 10-game trip to Miami, Pittsburgh and Atlanta next month, as well as visits to Washington and Cincinnati in September.
The Giants insisted that they're primed for a close race, even as they clinched their first series loss after winning four in a row since the All-Star break.
"That's how we like it. It's the Major Leagues," Zito said. "We're excited to come down to the wire and fight it out for the next two months."