(Sports Network) - Since its a longshot for the Los Angeles Dodgers to capture a postseason berth, they can at least make it more difficult for other clubs to achieve the feat.
Los Angeles got off to a good start playing spoiler by beating the San Francisco Giants, 1-0, last night in the opener of a three-game series at AT&T Park behind a four-hit shutout from Clayton Kershaw. LA will try again Wednesday in the second portion of this set with Chad Billingsley on the hill.
Kershaw struck out four batters in his first-career shutout and ended a four- start winless streak (0-3) in the process, helping the Dodgers to their third win in four tries following a six-game losing streak. The effort also pushed the Giants 1 1/2 games behind San Diego for the National League West lead.
"Every fifth day I'm ready to pitch," Kershaw said. "It's fun to play against teams that are right in the thick of things. That makes this game important, which is good."
Los Angeles scored the only run of the game in the sixth inning when Casey Blake grounded into a fielder's choice to score Reed Johnson, who was hit by a pitch. Giants shortstop Juan Uribe bobbled Blake's shot off the mound and couldn't get the force out at second base, allowing Johnson to score. Kershaw moved Johnson up a base with a bunt, and two walks later, Uribe's fielding error allowed the Dodgers to take the lead.
Matt Kemp recorded the only hit for Los Angeles, which is 10 1/2 games off the pace in both the NL West and wild card race.
Billingsley hopes to trim that deficit tonight and has alternated wins and losses over his past five decisions. He lost at San Diego last Wednesday and allowed all four runs and six hits in 5 1/3 innings of a 4-0 defeat. He fell to 11-9 in 27 starts and raised his earned run average to 3.65.
Before losing to the Padres, the righty defeated San Francisco on September 3 and held the Giants to two unearned runs in eight innings of a 4-2 victory. In 19 career games (14 starts) against the Giants, Billingsley is 6-2 with a 2.73 ERA.
San Francisco went 7-3 on a 10-game road trip before suffering last night's loss to the Dodgers. Barry Zito continued to struggle and his winless streak reached a career-high 12 outings. He has dropped seven straight starts and lasted 5 2/3 innings last night, striking out five and walking three. He allowed the only Los Angeles hit.
Relievers Santiago Casilla, Ramon Ramirez, Javier Lopez and Sergio Romo completed the one-hitter, but the results weren't satisfying. Freddy Sanchez recorded a game-best two hits in a losing cause.
"We've got to score," Giants manager Bruce Bochy told the team's site. "It wasn't pitching or really defense -- we've got to get runs on the board. We got shut out and that's the difference in the game."
Matt Cain will try make a difference when he takes the mound for Bochy's club tonight. Cain is 5-2 with a 2.96 earned run average in his last 11 starts, with the Giants going 9-2 in that span. The big righty recently limited the division-leading Padres to three runs in eight innings of last Thursday's 7-3 triumph at Petco Park. He struck out eight.
Cain, who improved to 11-10 in 29 starts this season, hasn't fared too well in his career against the Dodgers. He is just 1-8 in 16 starts and recorded his first win in the series back on August 1 when he blanked Los Angeles over 7 2/3 innings of a 2-0 victory.
The 2010 series between the Dodgers and Giants is tied at eight games apiece, while San Francisco is 5-2 over the past seven matchups.