Bumgarner outduels Kershaw as Giants beat Dodgers 

click to enlarge Madison Bumgarner
  • Danny Moloshok/AP
  • Madison Bumgarner pitched eight strong innings Tuesday to help the Giants beat the Dodgers 2-1.

LOS ANGELES — The matchup was gripping despite it being played out 381 miles north six days earlier, the kind of elite faceoff that lights up marquees in all geographic locations.

Madison Bumgarner. Clayton Kershaw. Same mound. Same game. And to this moment in the season, same kind of struggles.

But for as spinny as the sliders are coming in these days, and for as undeceiving as the changeups can be and for as poorly placed as the fastballs are ending up, three-deck Dodger Stadium was still loaded to the top for this one on a nongiveaway night, 50,000-plus strong. Arguably the game's two best left-handed pitchers — or pitchers, period — and division rivals with expectations dripping from everywhere meeting for the second time within a week.

This time, one ace was good while the other showed why he should be turning the corner to great again soon. Bumgarner outdueled Kershaw on Tuesday night, and with the help of a couple of opportunistic Buster Posey hits, the Giants evened the series with a 2-1 win to pull within 3½ games of the first-place Dodgers.

"He understands he's got to be on top of his game when he goes against Kershaw," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said of Bumgarner. "Both guys threw very well, and you figure it's going to be a tight game. I think pitchers, when they go against a certain pitcher they better pitch well because they don't expect a lot of runs."

Even for as well Bumgarner dissected his way through a lineup that missed Adrian Gonzalez and Joc Pederson, two of Los Angeles' hottest hitters, there were slight faults in the early innings. Mostly it was a lack of command leading to hittable pitches. The Dodgers took good hacks, but Bumgarner was just effective enough to get the ball a little above or beneath the bat barrels, leading to sharp ground balls or sky-high fly balls, most of them resulting in outs.

In the end, the line looked stellar even if the details at times scuffed: eight innings, five hits, one run, nine strikeouts.

"Definitely today I felt really good," Bumgarner said. "If I would have given up six runs, I woulda told you the same. I just felt great today."

While this wasn't the Bumgarner the Dodgers wanted, this was the Kershaw the last-place Giants needed. A man using his left arm to throw flat sliders and fastballs that missed their locations by feet, not inches.

He was nearly as elusive as Bumgarner, striking out eight without a walk to take the major-league lead with 43 K's for the season. But the Giants caught Kershaw's command slipping just enough times to lead by the time manager Don Mattingly lifted him after seven innings.

Even Joaquin Arias, owner of a .354 slugging percentage going into this game, barreled up a pair of misplaced Kershaw pitches to account for two of the harder hit balls through the Chavez Ravine air.

Angel Pagan blitzed Kershaw first, smacking a hanging curveball for a double off the left-field wall and missing a home run by a couple inches in the first inning. One badly located fastball later, Pagan was in on a Posey single.

Three innings later, Kershaw made another fastball mistake to Posey in nearly the identical location. This time, Posey stuck it in some fan's hand beyond the center-field fence for his third home run of the season.

For the second time as many meetings, Kershaw was not good enough to beat Bumgarner or the other Giants.

"Bottom line, I just got outpitched tonight," Kershaw said. "Madison pitched better than I did. I gave up two, he gave up one. He pitched eight innings, and I pitched seven. So, yeah, I got outpitched."

Bumgarner exited the game after 110 pitches, and Bochy knew not to push the issue to get his guy the complete game. After all, it's possible overuse issues in the past facilitated the declines of Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain, who threw off flat ground Tuesday for the first time since spring training as he makes his way back from strained flexor tendon.

Bochy understands this dilemma, but instead of fussing with it in 2015, he figures to err on the side of caution when he can. If an opportunity presents itself to rest Bumgarner, as it did Tuesday with his pitch count already in the triple digits and closer Santiago Casilla not having pitched since Saturday, Bochy plans to take advantage.

"I could have pushed him, but the closer was fresh and he did his job by that point," Bochy said. "I didn't want to push him. We pushed him pretty good last year. He had gone far enough. It was an impressive day."

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Anthony Witrado

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