The standards for Clayton Kershaw are so high and his performance so dominant that a quality start against the Cardinals last weekend was his worst outing in more than two months.
The Dodgers southpaw came into the game with eight wins and just five runs alowed in his previous 61 innings. On Sunday, he allowed three runs in a seven-inning no-decision, surrendering a game-tying, two-run home run to Peter Bourjos in the sixth inning.
By most measurements, Kershaw still pitched well enough to earn a win. But Kershaw isn't most pitchers, and he'll look to return to his otherworldly pace against the Giants on Saturday night, when first place in the National League West will be at stake. The Dodgers pulled within a half-game with an 8-1 win in Friday night's series opener.
"It was a struggle," Kershaw said of his last start. "I didn't really have a great idea where the ball was going for most of the night and then my offspeed stuff was pretty inconsistent, too. They made me pay for my mistakes, but I was able to battle and get through seven, which was good."
The All-Star Kershaw, who is 11-2 with a 1.92 ERA on the season, was dealt his first loss of the season by the Giants back in May in a similar seven-inning, three-run performance. Overall, though, he's 11-5 with a 1.48 ERA in 23 games (22 starts) against his San Francisco rivals in his career.
He'll face a Giants starter in Ryan Vogelsong who was also less than pleased with his previous outing. Vogelsong allowed four runs (three earned) on a career-high 11 hits in just three innings against the Phillies.
"I had no energy going into the game," he said. "I knew it was going to be a night where I had to battle."
Vogelsong is 5-7 with a 3.99 ERA, and the Giants are 11-9 in his starts this season.
In three starts against the Dodgers this year, Vogelsong is 0-0 with a 3.12 ERA.
Giants: Uggla thrown into the fire
Matchups against Dodgers co-aces Zack Greinke and Kershaw aren't exactly ideal housewarming gifts, but that's the conundrum Giants second baseman Dan Uggla was faced with after being promoted from Triple-A Fresno on Friday.
Manager Bruce Bochy had hoped to get Uggla more than the seven at-bats he got at Fresno, but with Ehire Adrianza and Marco Scutaro placed on the 15-day disabled list and Joe Panik nursing an ankle injury, the Giants couldn't afford to not call up Uggla and fellow infielder Tony Abreu. In a span of a week, the 34-year-old former Braves All-Star has gone from free agent to every-day-starter for a first-place team.
"It is what it is; you've got to face those guys some time or another," Uggla said Friday when asked about his tough first opponents as a Giant. "This is one of those battles you look forward to.
"You can try and draw out the perfect picture of how to join a team, but what does it really matter? They wanted me here now, and I'm more than happy to be here. It doesn't matter who it's against. I'm looking forward to helping this team win."
Dodgers: Puig at center of new-look outfield
The Dodgers' season-long outfield shuffle continued Friday, with Yasiel Puig -- primarily a right fielder -- starting in center field for the first time this season.
Manager Don Mattingly would not commit to the switch long-term.
"It could be a day. It could be a week. It could be forever," said Mattingly. "We don't know."
With Puig in center, Matt Kemp was back in right field, Carl Crawford back in left field and Andre Ethier back on the bench with Scott Van Slyke. Mattingly said it was Kemp's natural play in right during Puig's absence that sparked the switch.
Mattingly said he spoke to Puig about the need for communication among the outfielders. Earlier in the week, Mattingly said Puig's unbridled aggressiveness going into the gaps and charging shallow balls presents potential dangers to teammates.
"With this combination of players," said Mattingly, "this has a chance of being our best outfield."
• The Giants are 41-15 when they hit at least one home run this season.
• The Dodgers announced Friday that they would skip struggling starter Dan Haren's next turn in the rotation.
Michael Lananna is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.