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Dodgers Outduel Giants

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After two games which featured offensive theatrics, the rubber game between the Dodgers and San Francisco Giants featured a classic NL West pitching duel between the Giants’ Barry Zito and Clayton Kershaw marred by only two home runs including Manny Ramirez’s pinch hit two-run homer in the eighth inning to give the Dodgers the 2-1 victory.

History said Giants’ starter Barry Zito would give way first given his 4.46 ERA against the Dodgers, but as the game wore on he was the one who seemed to have the control of his curveball giving up only three singles in the first six innings while not giving up a free pass.

“Zito does a great job of making you hit the ball and making you hit the ball on the part of the bat that you don’t want to hit it on,” Torre said. “From the second half of last year to this year, just the way his game has evolved he has a lot of confidence right now.”

Dodgers’ starter Clayton Kershaw seemed to be atoning for his first two starts of the season by striking out the first two batters of the game - left fielder Eugenio Velez and shortstop Edgar Renteria.

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Kershaw gave up the first extra-base hit in the top of the fourth inning to Giants’ first baseman Aubrey Huff who grounded a double to right field, however he got out of the jam on a line out by catcher Bengie Molina and strikeouts to second baseman Juan Uribe and center fielder Andres Torres. Kershaw thereafter steadied himself retiring the side in order in the fifth and sixth innings.

“I was getting ahead of hitters,” Kershaw said. “My fastball command was better today than it had been. Overall a better day.”

Kershaw seemed to have his momentum going in the seventh inning when he struck out catcher Bengie Molina looking on four pitches. But the next batter second baseman Juan Uribe kept fouling off Kershaw’s fastball until he finally got a changeup he liked which he took out to left center field for his first homer of the season.

“I threw a strike with a changeup, and it just went over the fence,” Kershaw said. “If I had it to do over again I would throw a fastball.”

Kershaw limited the damage to Uribe’s homer.

“You have to keep your team in the game somehow,” Kershaw said. “The only way to do that is to put some zeroes up there, try to match him.”

“You’ve got to give Kershaw all the credit in the world keeping that game where it was,” Torre said.

Torre pulled Kershaw in the eighth inning after he gave up a leadoff walk to Velez, and the combination of Jeff Weaver, George Sherrill and Ramon Troncoso got the Dodgers out of the inning.

Which set the stage up for Manny Ramirez in the bottom of the eighth.

When pinch hitter Garret Anderson stepped into the batter’s box, the 50,433 in Dodger Stadium saw Manny getting up on the on-deck circle and started cheering as a result. When Anderson worked the walk against Zito, the crowd could foretell what would happen.

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“The familiarity does help a lot,” Anderson said having faced Zito many times when he was with the Angels and Zito with the Athletics. “I was just looking for a pitch to hit.”

Sergio Romo came on in relief of Zito and dished Manny a 1-2 slider. Manny thanked him by driving it out to left field.

“Manny being Manny,” Ronnie Belliard said of his teammate.

“He’s certainly in the elite class,” Dodgers manager Joe Torre said.

And that class is getting more elite as that bomb gave him 548 homers to tie with the Phillies’ Mike Schmidt for 14th on baseball’s all time homer list.

The biggest applause came from the crowd of 50,433 during the pitching change when the Dodgers played a video tribute to announcer Vin Scully who made his first broadcast with the Dodgers 60 years ago today with Red Barber and Connie Desmond.

Dodgers’ closer Jonathan Broxton with his perfect ninth inning including a strikeout notched his first save of the season. Matt Kemp is on an eight-game hitting streak batting .353 with a double, five homers and ten RBI in that span. The game lasted 2:36, the Dodgers’ shortest game this season.