LOS ANGELES -- It's hard to pitch better than Clayton Kershaw did Monday night at Dodger Stadium. Unfortunately for him and the Dodgers, San Francisco starter Madison Bumgarner did just that.
With their ace on the mound and a chance to create some separation in the National League West, the Dodgers lost, 2-1, to the Giants to drop a half-game back in the division.
Kershaw, who was riding a four-game winning streak that began with a shutout against the Giants on July 29, struck out 10 and walked none in eight innings of two-run ball.
Bumgarner had a nearly identical line. Like Kershaw, the lefty struck out 10 and walked none in eight innings. The only difference, albeit a big one and the deciding factor, were the runs allowed by Kershaw, who gave up six hits to Bumgarner's four.
"They had two runs and we didn't," Kershaw said. "That's really all it comes down to."
The first of those runs came in the opening frame, when Angel Pagan hit a leadoff double and scored on a Pablo Sandoval sacrifice fly.
An insurance run came in the sixth, when the Giants hit three straight, two-out singles, capped by Sandoval's bloop knock into shallow left that scored Pagan on a close play at the plate. The throw from Shane Victorino got to catcher A.J. Ellis in time, but home-plate umpire Ron Kulpa called Pagan safe to give the Giants a two-run lead.
"Shane came and threw a perfect throw in and I kind of slid to my left a little bit to square up myself to the throw, which was my biggest mistake," Ellis said. "I should've stayed in front of the plate and reached with my glove to secure the catch. I slid over and came back and Pagan was able to slide in and beat the tag."
The Dodgers wouldn't answer until the bottom of the ninth, when Hanley Ramirez hit a homer off Sergio Romo with two outs.
But it was too little, too late as Javier Lopez came in and got Andre Ethier to ground out to finish off the game and knock the Dodgers out of first place.
"We look at every game as important and we want to win every day," manager Don Mattingly said. "I'm not going to downplay it from the standpoint that it's not a big series. We feel like it's a big series. It was a big game tonight and at this point it's over and we have a big game tomorrow night."
Like he has all season against the Giants, Kershaw pitched a gem. However, the offense wasn't there yet again and the lefty is now 1-3 against San Francisco this season, despite giving up just six earned runs in 31 innings.
"Anytime you play the Giants, it's a big game, especially right now in the middle of a playoff race," Kershaw said. "Every game is big at this point, but losing [stinks] no matter what. Tonight didn't feel any better."
For the Dodgers, Monday's loss was yet another squandered opportunity to capitalize on a strong Kershaw start.
"When he pitches like that, you've got to win games," Ellis said. "He was outstanding once again and he's getting stronger as the year goes on. He's one of the top pitchers in all of baseball for a reason and he showed it again tonight."
On the flip side, this was Bumgarner's first time facing the Dodgers this season despite it being the fourth series between the two clubs.
He gave up four hits, two of which came off the bat of Kershaw, who is hitting .700 (7-for-10) in his last four starts.
Luis Cruz had two hits, and the infielder is hitting 8-for-14 in his last four games and 15-for-32 in his last 11.
As for the rest of the offense, it was a struggle against Bumgarner, who earned his 14th win of the season.
"This guy really came up huge," San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy said. "Both guys. I enjoyed watching that game. Both guys were impressive tonight."
One day after going a combined 0-for-13 against the Braves, the middle of the order -- Matt Kemp, Ramirez and Ethier -- went 1-for-12.
Kemp is 0-for-16 since being ejected on Aug. 16 against the Pirates, and Mattingly said the center fielder has been impatient and swinging the bat out of the strike zone lately.
After Monday's pitching duel, the season series is tied at five games apiece with eight remaining on the schedule, including the last three of the season, as both teams are jockeying for position in a see-saw battle.
"I have a feeling those three games might mean something at the end of the season for sure," Kershaw said. "We've got eight more games with these guys and hopefully it's not 2-1 every night and we blow them out a couple times."
Alex Angert is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.