Sweep Away Your Worries. Dodgers 4, Giants 2

The last time the Dodgers pulled a series sweep of any team this season was opening weekend against the Pirates.

The Dodgers record after that series stood at 4-2.  Clayton Kershaw started the season out with 16 scoreless innings.  Zack Greinke looked sharp and had not yet suffered the collar bone injury that set him back from getting into a good rhythm until the middle of June.  Hyun-Jin Ryu displayed his mettle and enthusiasm with a strong second start.

And the last thing on Dodger fans’ minds was the idea that they wouldn’t see another three game winning streak until toward the end of June.

Yet when the wins started to come, the embattled Dodgers found themselves back on the outskirts of the division race.

First came the team’s first three game winning streak since the Pirates sweep, achieved when they took the first game of the three game set against the San Francisco Giants.  Then the next night the streak extended to four and the team found itself only seven back.  The sweep, combined with the suddenly-slumping Arizona Diamondbacks loss, means that the Dodgers find themselves going into a four game set against the Philadelphia Phillies a mere six games off the division lead.

Suddenly, the possibility of a strong second half and a run at a division title, after feeling like an absolute impossibility a week ago, is very real.

Wednesday night’s game pitted a rematch of the 2011 Cy Young Award race, with Clayton Kershaw facing down Tim Lincecum.  Kershaw has been spectacular this season, coming in with a deceptive 5-5 record and an ERA just a tick above 2.  Lincecum’s ERA has been around 4.5-5 most of the season, but the two time Cy Young Award winner came into the game with a string of recent success and a June ERA around 3 1/2.  “The Freak” isn’t back to his former ace form, but has been servicable as the season has gone on, despite a record that stood at 4-7.

The Dodgers managed to strike first in this game, a sharp third inning single plating Mark Ellis.  Adrian Gonzalez was caught trying to take an extra base on the play and was tagged out in a run down between second and third for the second out of the inning after Tim Lincecum cut off the throw to the plate.

Buster Posey hit his second homer in as many nights in the top of the fourth, another line drive into the Left Field Pavilion with Marco Scutaro aboard, giving the Giants a 2-1 lead.

Kershaw and Lincecum remained locked in until the bottom of the 6th when the Dodgers finally broke out and chased Lincecum with timely hitting and a surprise running attack that appeared to unnerve the Giants pitcher.  After getting Adrian Gonzalez to line out, Lincecum gave up a single to Hanley Ramirez, who then stole second base.  Andre Ethier singled to right, scoring Ramirez and tying the score at 2.  Ethier then stole second.  A.J. Ellis’s double down the left field line plated Ethier, giving the Dodgers a 3-2 lead, then Juan Uribe singled on a ground ball to second baseman Marco Scutaro, moving Ellis to third.  With Skip Schumaker batting, a wild pitch brought home A.J. Ellis and ended Tim Lincecum’s night.  Lincecum left the game after 5 1/3 innings trailing 4-2.

Kershaw would fare better than his counterpart, pitching smoothly through eight, his only mistake of the night resulting in Posey’s two run homer.  Kershaw came out for the ninth, but was on a short leash after giving up a single to Marco Scutaro leading off.  Kenley Jansen gave up a single to Posey, but then struck out Hunter Pence and Pablo Sandoval before inducing a high popup back of shortstop that Hanley Ramirez caught for the final out.

Kershaw’s your winner (6-5) and Lincecum your loser (4-8) with Kenley Jansen picking up his sixth save.

The Dodgers begin a four game series against the Philadelphia Phillies tonight at Dodger Stadium.  Zack Greinke (4-2) faces off against Jonathan Pettibone (3-3) at 7:10 p.m. at Dodger Stadium.  The Blog will be in attendance for Sandy Koufax Bobblehead Night.

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