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Dodgers sweep Giants with 4-0 win, and it feels like turning point

Clayton Kershaw's shutout caps reversal of Giants' three-game sweep in July. With lineup fortified by newcomer Hanley Ramirez, Dodgers' season has changed course.

July 30, 2012|By Dylan Hernandez

SAN FRANCISCO — It was only three games, and more than two months remain in the regular season.

But the Dodgers' three-game sweep of the San Francisco Giants, which concluded Sunday with Clayton Kershaw's five-hit shutout in a 4-0 victory at AT&T Park, felt significant.

These wins felt like statements. They felt as if they might have changed the course of the season.

The Dodgers won seven games on a 10-game trip that included visits to New York and St. Louis, but gained something far more significant than three games in the National League West standings, which now show them in a virtual first-place tie with the Giants.

They added Hanley Ramirez.

Ramirez has altered the Dodgers' previously non-threatening offense, providing it with a third dangerous bat in the middle of the order to complement Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier.

The 3-4-5 spots in the lineup — or 2-3-4, depending on how Manager Don Mattingly decides to align his three All-Star-caliber hitters — has become an understandable source of concern for opposing pitchers. Mattingly believes the stress of facing Kemp, Ethier and Ramirez in succession results in a wavering of concentration when pitching to the players behind them.

"When you have to really, really work to get through those guys, you have to concentrate more," Mattingly said. "It's just natural you let down a little bit. You can only make so many good pitches. So the guys that are down benefit."

Players such as Luis Cruz and James Loney.

Batting seventh Sunday, Cruz was two for four with a double, a run and two runs batted in, and extended his hitting streak to 12 games, the longest by a Dodger this season.

James Loney, the No. 6 hitter, was two for five with a double and a run.

And the Dodgers still could add players before the nonwaiver trade deadline Tuesday.

They could add another bat, perhaps Shane Victorino of the Philadelphia Phillies or Justin Morneau of the Minnesota Twins. They remain in the market for a starting pitcher, with Ryan Dempster of the Chicago Cubs and James Shields of the Tampa Bay Rays said to be among their targets.

"We understand this is our year," Kershaw said. "There's no excuses. Everybody's doing what they can to put us in the right place to win. We just have to go out there and play now."

The Dodgers will face the third-place Arizona Diamondbacks on Monday to open a nine-game homestand.

Meanwhile, the Giants are in a period of mild crisis, similar to the one the Dodgers were in when they were swept in three games at San Francisco last month.

All-Star third baseman Pablo Sandoval is on the disabled list because of a strained hamstring. Journeymen Angel Pagan and Gregor Blanco, who made surprising offensive contributions early in the season, are no longer hitting. Promising 24-year-old first baseman Brandon Belt is batting .237.

They were shut out by the Dodgers in the last two games of the series. The last time the Giants were blanked by the Dodgers on consecutive days at home was in 1957; at that time, the teams' home was in New York.

dylan.hernandez@latimes.com

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