Giants have kickstarted season by abusing big-money Dodgers 

click to enlarge Giants catcher Buster Posey celebrates with teammates after completing a three-game sweep of the Los Angeles Dodgers on Thursday. - BECK DIEFENBACH/AP
  • Beck Diefenbach/AP
  • Giants catcher Buster Posey celebrates with teammates after completing a three-game sweep of the Los Angeles Dodgers on Thursday.

Formulas for baseball success do not include facing a two-time defending division champion with the sport's all-time highest payroll, a juggernaut of an offense and one of the best rotations in the game.

Then again, the Giants have hardly been typical over the previous five seasons. So their unconventional rebound recipe should not be completely stunning.

It continued working for them in a 4-0 win over the first-place Los Angeles Dodgers on Thursday at AT&T Park, completing a three-game sweep. The Dodgers did not score in the series, marking the second time the Giants have shut them out in a three-game set in the last four seasons.

It was the Giants' sixth consecutive victory, pushing their season record against their National League West rivals to 7-2 and leaving them 1½ games behind the Dodgers at the top of the National League West standings.

"It was a great series for us," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "That's a really good hitting ball club that our pitchers pitched really well against. ... It's good to be playing this brand of ball."

The Giants started the year winning three of their first four before the offense and pitching tanked. They lost eight in a row and nine of 10 to put them at 4-10 and in last place in the NL West when the Dodgers rolled through the first time on April 21.

That is where the season, to this point, turned around.

The Giants swept the Dodgers in that three-game series at AT&T Park, walking off the final two and beating Clayton Kershaw, baseball's best regular-season pitcher over the last five combined years, in the process. Since the start of that series, the Giants have gone 19-8, the second-best record in the majors in that time, to make up 4½ games in the standings.

During this current run, three of the wins have come in games Kershaw started. Madison Bumgarner opposed him in each of those, including Thursday's win that made the Giants 6-0 at home against Los Angeles, their longest home winning streak against the Dodgers since 1972.

"They have good pitching, and this is a tough place to hit. I think those things combined make it tough sometimes," Kershaw said. "But we've won here before. We've won a lot in a row before, too."

The Dodgers underwent a significant offseason overhaul that saw them reboot their front office, allow Hanley Ramirez to sign with the Boston Red Sox and get rid of Matt Kemp, one of the major league's best hitters in the second half of last season, and Dee Gordon, their All-Star second baseman. The moves, on paper, made the Dodgers a better all-around team, but injuries in the rotation, bullpen and to Yasiel Puig have kept the team from building a bigger lead in the standings.

The Giants made only minuscule headlines over the winter, and until that first series against the Dodgers, it looked like the Giants might regret not keeping up in the transaction department.

But those conclusions were jumped to using small sample sizes as the trampoline. As the season has matured, the Giants have shown, partly at the Dodgers' expense, that they will make this a summer-long race for the division title.

"We got off to a rough start," Bochy said. "We all knew that's not who we are. We've become more who we are right now. It's a nice run and you want to stay on it, but this game has its ups and downs and cycles. There was no question these guys would handle that fine, and there's probably going to be some more."

But the Giants have had a powerful characteristic during their three-championship run that other teams lack. "There's a lot of character in there," said Bochy, referring to a happy clubhouse.

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Anthony Witrado

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