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LAD@SF: Kershaw stifles Giants to earn fifth shutout

SAN FRANCISCO -- Clayton Kershaw knows what the acquisition of Hanley Ramirez, and any others in the next two days, really means to the Dodgers.

"We understand this is our year," said Kershaw.

The reigning Cy Young winner and the Dodgers did that in this bounceback weekend series that pulled the Dodgers back into a first-place tie with the Giants. After allowing eight runs in St. Louis on Tuesday, Kershaw threw a five-hit shutout of the Giants on Sunday in a 4-0 win, completing a three-game Dodgers sweep that avenged getting swept here without scoring a run a month ago.

That was then, this is now. That team was missing the injured Matt Kemp and Mark Ellis, with Andre Ethier joining them when he got hurt in that series finale. This team has Kemp, Ellis, Ethier and Ramirez for good measure.

This team also has a journeyman playing like a veteran in Luis Cruz, who drove in two of the runs and extended his hitting streak to 12 games in place of the injured Dee Gordon. Cruz has 16 RBIs in 22 games after having only six RBIs in 56 Major League games before this season.

"Any time you sweep the Giants at home, regardless of what happened the previous series, it's a big deal," said Kershaw. "We've got some momentum going back and we've got to be ready for the Diamondbacks."

Following Saturday's 10-0 shutout win, Kershaw's fifth career shutout gave the Dodgers back-to-back shutouts over the Giants for the first time since 1957, the year before both clubs left New York for California. The Dodgers finished the three-city trip 7-3.

"Unfortunately in this game you're going to get it handed to you sometimes," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "I don't care who you are, it's going to happen to you sometimes. It was the opposite of what happened last time. That's baseball."

In Kershaw's eighth complete game, he struck out seven and walked one. It was his first win over the Giants this year after two losses, but he's 7-3 with a 1.32 ERA lifetime. He's even better at AT&T Park, where he has a ridiculous 0.66 ERA in seven starts.

"I hope I get to pitch here a long time," he said. "Usually, it's a big game. I don't know the secret. Sometimes it goes your way."

Kershaw, who has given up eight leads this year, got two runs to work with in the third inning and nothing more until the eighth, as the Dodgers got to the Giants' bullpen each game while resting setup man Ronald Belisario and closer Kenley Jansen in back-to-back wins.

Manager Don Mattingly, a former batting champ, hitting coach and matchup professor, has a take on what the addition of Ramirez has done to the opposition during his five-game Dodgers tenure.

"When you've got Matt, Andre and Hanley at three, four and five, it makes you work as a pitcher," said Mattingly. "Cruz got a couple of RBIs and Mark Ellis got a big hit. The pitcher has to work so hard to get through the middle guys, it's only natural to let down a little and you can only make so many good pitches. We're making them work harder to get outs."

Ramirez had a single, beat out a double-play grounder that allowed a run to score for an RBI and scored a run. James Loney had a pair of hits, as did Ethier. And catcher A.J. Ellis had four walks, so he accounted for four of the eight runners left on base when Kershaw struck out three times and bunted into a force.

"His hitting stinks," said Ellis, who has made a second career insulting Kershaw when he's not praising him, which he does plenty. One of the topics from this game was how Kershaw, who allowed eight runs in St. Louis on Tuesday, rebounded with his second shutout of the season.

"It's what he does best, although in St. Louis he didn't pitch that bad, it just snowballed," said Ellis. "He was dominating today. Plus, it was the Giants, and Clayton can raise his game."

Even though, as both Kershaw and Ellis pointed out, the lefty didn't think he was on his game in the early innings, lacking "little extra," as Kershaw said.

"After the third inning I asked him how he felt and he said, 'I'm not feeling very good,'" said Ellis. "After the last out I went to the mound and said, 'How you feeling now, buddy?'"

Kershaw didn't have his best fastball, but seemed to have a sharper slider than he's had most of the year, although he said it wasn't any different than it was in St. Louis.

Along with the customary postgame icing of his left shoulder, Kershaw had to ice his right (non-throwing) hand at the underside of the wrist, which took a Marco Scutaro liner in the seventh inning. Despite the bruise, Kershaw wasn't coming out of a shutout.

Mattingly said Kershaw bounces back from a bad start because he "keeps grinding." And one other thing:

"Guys do that who are really, really good," Mattingly said. "They don't let one bad one affect the next one. We tell guys in Spring Training, we want them to be harder on themselves than anyone else has to be. We want them to be held accountable."

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