SAN FRANCISCO Things started going the Giants way even before the first pitch of their rubber match against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Sunday evening at AT&T Park.
Hours before he was scheduled to take the mound, Los Angeles ace Clayton Kershaw was scratched due to a sore hip in favor of the much less intimidating Joe Blanton. The Giants got to Blanton early, while Barry Zito didnt allow a run more than six innings of work, as San Francisco captured a 4-0 victory.
The Giants got all the offense they needed after Hunter Pences two-out, two-run double in the first inning staked them to an early lead. Buster Poseys first home run in almost a month gave them some insurance in the sixth inning, while the bullpen was nearly perfect in relief of Zito.
The Giants (79-61) increased their lead over the Dodgers (74-67) to 5.5 games in the NL West, taking two of three against their rival to the south.
Starting pitching report
Zito gave the Giants a second straight quality outing by scattering four hits over 6.1 shutout innings, striking out four and walking three. The Giants have won Zitos last seven starts, the first time they have done so since he signed with the club.
Blanton surrendered four runs (all earned) in 5.1 innings, walking two and striking out four. He left after Poseys solo homer to lead off the bottom of the fifth and Pences hard liner that was snagged by a diving Victorino in centerfield.
Santiago Casilla got two key outs in the top of the seventh in relief of Zito. With runners on first and second Casilla struck out pinch hitter Bobby Abreu, walked Mark Ellis, but got Victorino to fly out to left with the bases loaded to keep the 4-0 lead intact.
Jose Mijares and Guillermo Mota combined to pitch a scoreless eighth, while Sergio Romo secured the final two outs of the game after Javier Lopez struck out Andre Ethier to start the ninth.
At the plate
Pence gave the home crowd a quick jolt in the bottom of the first, against his former teammate in Philadelphia. With two on and two out, Pence smoked Blantons 1-0 fastball into left-center field, plating Angel Pagan and Pablo Sandoval.
It remained a 2-0 Giants lead until the bottom of the fifth. Pagan laced a triple to right field with one out, and scampered home on a sacrifice fly to right by Marco Scutaro. Pagan had two hits in three at bats against Blanton, and now has a .583 career average against the rotund righty (14-for-24).
Posey smashed a solo homer just over the centerfield wall in the bottom of the sixth his 20th of the year and first since August 11 against Colorado (83 at-bats).
The Dodgers left nine men on base and were a combined 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position. A.J. Ellis was 2-for-3 with a walk and was the only Dodgers player with more than one hit.
In the field
Victorinos diving grab of Pences liner in the sixth was the defensive highlight of the game.
Pagan stole second after his single to lead off the game, eventually scoring on Pences double. Sandoval was easily thrown out at second base while attempting to steal in what was likely a miscommunication in the bottom of the third.
The Giants announced an attendance of 41,517 to keep the sellout streak intact.
The Giants travel to Colorado to open a three-game set with the Rockies beginning Monday, with Ryan Vogelsong (12-7, 3.29 ERA) scheduled to start against Alex White (2-8, 5.31 ERA). Vogelsong has struggled lately, going 2-2 with a 10.31 ERA in his last five starts, allowing 24 runs in just 21.1 innings.
San Francisco, which continues on to Arizona for three games next weekend, is 5-1 at Coors Field this season.