LOS ANGELES -- Madison Bumgarner's rookie season ended with a brilliant performance on baseball's biggest stage, so it's little surprise that the left-hander was able to calmly steal the spotlight Monday night at Dodger Stadium.
Facing the reigning Cy Young Award winner in a nationally televised matchup of the National League West's top two teams, Bumgarner was dominant. He carried the Giants to a 2-1 victory over Clayton Kershaw and the Los Angeles Dodgers, pitching eight shutout innings to help vault the Giants back into first place.
"It was just terrific," manager Bruce Bochy said, shaking his head. "This kid, going back to (the 2010 World Series), has got great poise. He's got great stuff and focus.
"He's a tremendous talent, and his makeup is off the charts."
Bumgarner, 23, showed off both traits while getting the better of the 24-year-old Kershaw, viewed by many as the best left-hander in the game. The duo combined for 16 innings, 20 strikeouts (10 apiece) and zero walks, but Kershaw gave up a run in the first and another in the sixth. With the way Bumgarner was pitching, that was all it took.
Asked if he felt any added pressure to shine brighter than Kershaw, Bumgarner shrugged. "You better pitch better if you want to win," he said.
It isn't that easy, but Bumgarner (14-7) made it look that way while throwing 123 pitches, the second-highest total of his career. He said he felt just as good in the eighth as he did in the
"He's a big, strong boy, and I wasn't concerned with the pitch count," Bochy said. "It's probably harder to take him out."
The Dodgers certainly breathed a sigh of relief when Bumgarner exited, and they nearly erased his fine work when Hanley Ramirez hit a two-out, two-strike homer off Sergio Romo in the ninth. But Javier Lopez took his turn for the closer committee and got the final out for his second save.
"Closer-by-committee is not something that's ideal, but it works for us," Lopez said. "We've taken our lumps, but overall I think we've hit our stride."
For much of the night, Lopez felt like the 36,878 fans at Dodger Stadium.
"Watching those guys was a treat," he said of Bumgarner and Kershaw. "Although I don't think the hitters would tell you that."
As the race heats up, Bumgarner has been at his best. In each of his last two starts he has faced teams that were in first place and given up just one run over 17 innings against the Dodgers and Washington Nationals.
The Giants got to Kershaw early. Angel Pagan hit a leadoff double, took third on a sacrifice bunt by Marco Scutaro and scored on a sacrifice fly from Pablo Sandoval.
Afterward, Bochy lauded Scutaro for calling the bunt on his own in an attempt to give Bumgarner an early cushion.
"Somehow, you have to get to the guy," Scutaro said of Kershaw. "I don't care if it's the first inning."
The Giants got to Kershaw again in the sixth when Pagan hit a two-out infield single and slid under a tag at home two batters later. That was more than enough support for Bumgarner. He struck out a Dodger in seven of his eight innings, but none of the pitches was as big as a two-out slider that struck out Matt Kemp with a runner on third in the sixth inning.
Bumgarner, the unflappable one, flashed a rare show of emotion as he walked off the mound with tens of thousands of raucous Dodgers fans quickly quieting.
"That was a big strikeout for me," he said. "It was a big point in the game, and I got excited."
In the Giants bullpen, 300 feet away, there was the same feeling. The Giants were swept by the Dodgers at home last month, and there was nothing more gratifying than watching their rising star get the better of the Dodgers' own talented left-hander.
"They came into our house and dominated us the whole weekend, and it's something we all thought about," Lopez said. "For us, Bumgarner pitched in the World Series at 21. That was amazing, and to see that he hasn't skipped a beat is nice to see, especially going into September."
For more on the Giants, see Alex Pavlovic's Giants Extra blog at blogs.mercurynews.com/Giants.
Giants 67-55 --
Dodgers 67-56 1/2
Arizona 62-60 5