SAN FRANCISCO -- You have to be good and lucky to win a division, and the Giants were both Sunday night while adding another game to their National League West lead.
The luck came three hours before the first pitch of the 4-0 Giants victory, when Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw was scratched from the lineup with a hip injury. Kershaw had given up just 11 earned runs in his previous 10 starts against the Giants, but Barry Zito would have been his equal Sunday night.
Zito toyed with the Dodgers' vaunted lineup, giving up four hits and three walks while striking out four. He twice got Hanley Ramirez, the Dodgers' cleanup hitter, to strike out looking.
In four starts against the second-place Dodgers this season, Zito has a 2.55 ERA.
"This game obviously is bigger because not only is it against our rival in the West, but it's the Dodgers, too," Zito said. "It was fun because it was against the Dodgers. When you're facing the guys in blue, you love it."
Zito loved not having to face Kershaw, too, but not because he was afraid of the pitching matchup. Zito simply didn't want to have to hit off Kershaw, and neither did the rest of the Giants.
"Sure, when you don't have to face Kershaw, you don't mind that," manager Bruce Bochy said. "He's one of the best pitchers in the game, and we haven't done a lot with him. But we still had our work cut out for us."
The Giants had just six runs in four games against Kershaw this
Pagan helped the Giants tack on another run of support in the fifth, hitting a one-out triple to the right-field corner and scoring on a Marco Scutaro sacrifice fly.
Buster Posey continued his late-season MVP push in the bottom of the sixth with a solo homer to center field. The home run was Posey's 20th, a career-high, and his first since Aug. 11. It came at the end of a 10-pitch at-bat that included six foul balls.
"That's one of the best at-bats I've ever had off of me," Blanton said. "I threw him at least five put-away pitches, I thought. And he just kept fouling them off. I make one mistake and it's a homer."
Zito didn't make many mistakes, but he ran into a bit of trouble in the seventh. He left to a standing ovation with one out in the inning after putting two runners on. Santiago Casilla entered and struck out Bobby Abreu before walking Mark Ellis to load the bases. But Casilla got Shane Victorino to fly out to left to end the threat and preserve Zito's scoreless outing.
Four relievers combined to shut the Dodgers down in the final two innings, clinching Zito's 11th victory of the season, which ties his high as a Giant. The victory was the Giants' fourth shutout of the Dodgers this season, two of which have been started by Zito.
"He was sharp and his stuff was crisp," Bochy said. "He was just on top of his game, and that's a very important game. He's pitched some big ones for us when we're needed a win, and he did it tonight."
In the clubhouse, Pence eschewed a question about his own at-bat and instead pointed to Zito, saying, "He really clutched up for us."
Sergio Romo, who got the final two outs, said he saw a different look on Zito's face Sunday night. "It was his serious face," Romo said. "He ain't backing down from those guys."
The Dodgers came into AT&T Park with aspirations of taking back a game in the standings. Instead, they fell another game back, in large part because of a lack of contributions from their growing collection of star power. Matt Kemp missed the final two games with a shoulder injury and Kershaw was held out Sunday despite his desire to pitch a day after having a cortisone shot in his hip.
Ramirez, Kemp, Adrian Gonzalez and Andre Ethier combined to go 5 for 36 in the three-game series.
"This was a critical game for us to win," Bochy said. "Zito came through for us, and we all played very well tonight. A lot of good things happened out there."
"He's doing well," Bochy said. "He feels like he's really coming around."
YANKEES WIN: New York beats Baltimore to reclaim top spot in the A.L. East.
Giants (Ryan Vogelsong 12-7) at Colorado (Alex White 2-8), 5:40 p.m. CSNBA
N.L. West race
W L Pct. GB
Giants 79 61 .564 --
Dodgers 74 67 .525 5½
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