SAN FRANCISCO -- If there's any solace for the Giants after Sunday's 4-1 loss to the Dodgers, it's that four matchups with Clayton Kershaw are behind them and at most two remain.
Kershaw, the renowned Giants killer, once again dominated San Francisco in an eight-inning effort. Only three Giants managed a hit against the All-Star, who improved to 11-4 in 20 career starts against San Francisco with a 1.32 ERA. On Sunday, his effort kept the Dodgers ahead of the Giants in the standings and prevented San Francisco from claiming back-to-back wins and a series victory for the first time since June 19.
"Once again we ran into a well-pitched game against Kershaw, one of the best," manager Bruce Bochy said. "He shut us down again.
"You're not expecting to score a lot of runs, but you're hoping to score enough to win."
But Kershaw made sure that didn't happen, and the dormant Dodgers offense lifted their ace by scoring three in the top of the ninth inning against Giants closer Sergio Romo.
After Yasiel Puig's leadoff single, the situation quickly unraveled for Romo. Adrian Gonzalez followed suit with an infield single off first baseman Buster Posey's glove; Posey picked up the ball and made an ill-advised throw toward second that rolled into left field, allowing Puig to reach third.
"I should've held onto it, but didn't," Posey said.
Hanley Ramirez tapped a possible double-play ball to Romo, but the pitcher's only play was to first because no Giant covered second. After Romo intentionally walked Andre Ethier and struck out Juan Uribe, Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis launched a high slider to left-center field that scored three runs and all but sealed the Dodgers victory.
"Sergio had a really good slider [in the inning], and that's the only one he threw up in the strike zone," said catcher Guillermo Quiroz. Romo declined to comment after the game.
The Giants spoiled an excellent start from Chad Gaudin in his return to the rotation following a stint on the disabled list with a bruised upper forearm. His 92 pitches were the most he has thrown in an outing this season after Bochy indicated before the game that he was fully stretched out during his bullpen session last week.
"Guys that compete like that you always want on your team," Quiroz said. "He located everything. He went right at people with his fastball and mixed in his changeup and curve."
In the seven-inning performance, Gaudin struck out nine for the first time since June 2009 and allowed just a second-inning run. Only five batters reached base, one courtesy of an intentional walk.
"I was keeping the hitters off balance for the most part," Gaudin said.
He lowered his ERA as a starter to 2.86 in five outings. A stellar performance by Kershaw was the only factor preventing Gaudin from becoming the first San Francisco starter to win since June 13 besides Madison Bumgarner, who has earned four consecutive victories for the rotation.
"He was good. He was really good and gave us what we needed," Bochy said. "[It was an] impressive outing, especially with the layoff he had, but he was really locating well, threw strikes, looked sharp, showed no effects on the arm and really did a nice job to give us a chance to win."
Ramirez extended his hitting streak to a career-best 18 games in the second inning with a leadoff triple -- his second of the season -- and scored a play later on an Ethier single.
Ramirez also threatened to put the Dodgers on the board in later at-bats. In the fourth, his moonshot flew just foul in deep left field. In the seventh, he doubled with two outs, but was stranded by a limp Los Angeles offense.
Quiroz injected the Giants' offense with its only life in the bottom of the third with a leadoff double. After Gaudin failed to drop a bunt to advance Quiroz -- Gaudin is in a Major League-worst 0-for-34 streak -- Kershaw unleashed a costly wild pitch that allowed the Giants catcher to advance to third base. A play later, Andres Torres lifted a fly ball deep enough to center field to score Quiroz to tie the game.
But the Giants didn't score after that and found themselves 6 1/2 games behind Arizona after the loss. The Giants remain in a funk in which they have scored two runs or fewer in 12 of 16 games and are 2-for-their-last-36 with runners in scoring position. When failing to reach three hits with runners in scoring position, the club is 16-39 this season.
"It's a tough group," Bochy said. "No question it's a tough loss -- ninth inning, two outs in a close game and you're close to getting out of it."