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Rapid Reaction: Dodgers 4, Giants 2

SAN FRANCISCO -- After trading blowouts in the most anticipated series of the year, the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants returned to what they most frequently do when they meet. They fought each other hand to hand for nine innings.

But the Dodgers had Clayton Kershaw, which means they normally win those fights. Their ace went eight strong innings again to become the majors’ first 19-game winner in a 4-2 Dodgers win that padded their NL West lead to three games with 13 left.

How it happened: The Giants battled Kershaw in their at-bats and drove his pitch count up, so he was in jeopardy of having his streak of going at least eight innings snapped at six. Then he talked his way into staying on the mound in the eighth and cruised, striking out Buster Posey and quickly dispatching Joe Panik and Hunter Pence. The Dodgers used a couple of singles and a couple of Giants errors to score two runs in the second inning, but the game was tense until Matt Kemp launched a high, two-run homer to left-center field in the sixth inning.

Hits: Given the standard he set in 2011, Kemp’s season has been widely viewed as a bit of a disappointment. And yet his home run was his 20th and the RBIs were his 73rd and 74th. That means he has tied Posey in home runs and is just 10 behind him in RBIs, and Posey is viewed as a league MVP candidate. Since the All-Star break, Kemp has been the Dodgers’ most dangerous hitter, tallying 12 of his home runs.

Misses: It’s not often that a catcher will work a night game and then catch the following afternoon, but A.J. Ellis and Kershaw are a tandem. That meant the Dodgers’ No. 1 catcher went another tiring nine innings. He has started seven of the Dodgers’ past eight games, a reflection of the time of the season. Ellis might be wearing down. He drove in a run with a sacrifice fly, but had another oh-fer day at the plate. Late as it is, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly might want to mix in a day off here or there for Ellis to keep him fresh for the playoffs.

Stat of the game: Kershaw went into Sunday’s start with a 0.32 edge over Chris Sale for the major league ERA title. If he wins it, and it’s hard to imagine he won’t, he would be the first pitcher ever to win four straight major league ERA titles. Sandy Koufax led the National League five straight seasons but was edged out by the Angels’ Dean Chance in 1964.

Up next: The Dodgers head to Colorado for a three-game series with the Rockies. Roberto Hernandez (8-11, 4.04 ERA) goes for the Dodgers opposite Christian Bergman (2-3, 4.89) in a 5:40 p.m. PT game on Monday.