LOS ANGELES -- Though Madison Bumgarner received the decision and Brian Wilson recorded the save Thursday night, right fielder Nate Schierholtz truly sealed the Giants' latest victory.With the bases loaded and two outs in the ninth inning, Schierholtz dove to snare Jamey Carroll's sinking line drive and preserve San Francisco's 3-1 triumph over the Los Angeles Dodgers. Sweeping the two-game series from their archrivals enabled the Giants to finish 3-3 on their three-city trip. But they could consider it a successful journey despite the .500 record. The Giants occupied first place in the National League West when they left San Francisco and still lead Colorado by a half-game. They improved to 16-9 against division opponents. They subdued two of their most challenging nemeses in this series, Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley. Kershaw entered Wednesday's start with a 3-1 record and a 1.07 ERA in eight career outings against the Giants, but lasted only five innings and allowed four runs in the Giants' 8-5 conquest. Billingsley was almost as dominant, owning a 7-3 mark with a 2.93 ERA against San Francisco -- including 5-1, 2.56 at Dodger Stadium. But Thursday he was merely adequate, yielding all of the Giants' runs in six innings. Freddy Sanchez's third-inning sacrifice fly and sixth-inning RBI single led the Giants' offense. The Giants also helped Bumgarner (1-6) finally reach the victory column.
"It was like a playoff win," said the 21-year-old, who experienced that glory in both the Division Series and World Series last October.Bumgarner nearly silenced the Dodgers with a flourish, as he needed just one out to fashion a three-hitter for his first Major League shutout and complete game. Then Rod Barajas blooped a single to left field and scored on Jerry Sands' double, inducing manager Bruce Bochy to summon Wilson. The Giants closer, who blew a 5-2 eighth-inning lead and his second save opportunity in 14 chances Wednesday, tempted disaster again by walking pinch-hitters Jay Gibbons and James Loney to fill the bases. Up came Carroll, who lined a 2-2 pitch to right field. Schierholtz rushed in, lunged forward, extended his left arm and grabbed the ball with his glove about a foot above the grass. "It's hard to have a better catch with what was on the line," Bochy said. "If the ball gets by him, we lose the game." That never entered Schierholtz's mind. "I just reacted off the bat and went for it," he said. "... I didn't really hesitate at all. It was risky. But I was confident I was going to make the play." Subtlety was involved in fashioning Schierholtz's gem. With a two-strike count on Carroll, who's known for punching shallow but effective line drives to right, Schierholtz moved in a couple of steps. Without that shift, he might not have made the play. "We're gambling a little bit there, playing in like that," Bochy said. "I was pretty far in for the situation," Schierholtz acknowledged. Dodgers manager Don Mattingly noticed that and remarked, "They play [Carroll] pretty cheap in the outfield." One might say that the Giants bought this victory cheaply -- specifically, for the cost of a taxi ride from the team hotel in Pasadena to Dodger Stadium. On Wednesday, Bumgarner shared a cab to the ballpark with Bochy, prompting a chat about the former's sudden lapses. Already this season, Bumgarner has allowed at least three runs in an inning five times. "He felt like he got in a pattern," Bochy said. "He got away from using both sides of the plate." Moving the ball around tends to help a pitcher coax harmlessly batted balls. Bumgarner struck out only three but never faced more than four hitters in any of his eight complete innings. He enabled Giants fielders to make a succession of relatively easy plays. Until Schierholtz made his presence felt.
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.