SAN FRANCISCO -- If Clayton Kershaw doesn't win the Cy Young Award this year, voters weren't watching Friday night.
In the latest renewal of their budding personal duel, Kershaw barely got the better of Tim Lincecum as the Dodgers barely got the better of the Giants, 2-1.
"He makes a pretty good case for himself every time out," said manager Don Mattingly, whose club has won 14 of the last 17 and has pulled to within 3 1/2 games of the second-place Giants.
Kershaw now is 18-5, took a narrow lead in league ERA at 2.36, extended his league lead in strikeouts and innings pitched and is one shy of the league lead in wins. He allowed only an unearned run and three hits (two didn't leave the infield) in eight innings, struck out nine and walked one. He'll have three more starts to get two more wins and become the club's first 20-game winner since Ramon Martinez in 1990.
He was up against a two-time Cy Young winner in Lincecum, who was in position to win with seven scoreless innings until he allowed a tying run in the eighth when Juan Rivera's RBI single scored Matt Kemp. The Dodgers scratched out the go-ahead run in the ninth off reliever Santiago Casilla on Jamey Carroll's RBI grounder.
"He just throws all his pitches for strikes," Lincecum said of Kershaw. "He doesn't really give in to anybody. You can see his confidence out there when he's pitching. He knows he's good. That's the most important thing as a pitcher, knowing you're going to get the job done. You see that dedication in him, too. He's done it all year. Obviously they're in a similar situation as us where it's not really for anything, but he still comes out and tries to do his job and go deep into games."
Kershaw was his typical understated self afterward, brushing off suggestions that he gets fired up facing the ace of the franchise rival, although the pair has been linked from the day Kershaw was taken three picks ahead of Lincecum in the first round of the 2006 Draft.
"I just try to match him," said Kershaw, who hasn't allowed an earned run in his last 32 2/3 innings at AT&T Park. "He's an awesome pitcher. You know it's going to be a low-scoring game and giving up one early never helps. Facing a guy like that, it doesn't matter what he's doing, I've got to put up zeros."
Catcher Rod Barajas, whose line single leading off the ninth inning led to the winning run, said he doesn't see Kershaw turning his game up a notch when he faces Lincecum.
"He's been this good the whole year, regardless who he's facing," said Barajas. "If this was a rare occurrence, but it's not -- he throws eight dominating innings against everybody. I've never seen him let down or not be at his best because of the team he's playing."
Of course, if not for Barajas and the run the Dodgers scored in the ninth, Kershaw doesn't get the win and who knows what effect that has on the Cy Young voting. Eugenio Velez, a former Giant, pinch-ran for Barajas, was bunted to second by Justin Sellers and took third on reliever Santiago Casilla's ill-timed wild pitch. Pinch-hitter Jamey Carroll grounded to a drawn-in second baseman Jeff Keppinger, who backhanded the ball and from his knees threw to the plate. But Velez got his foot around catcher Eli Whiteside's attempt to block it and got the safe call from umpire John Hirschbeck.
The Dodgers had tied the game with a two-out rally in the eighth off Lincecum. Kemp, flailing at a 1-2 slider about to bounce off the plate, swung and dribbled the ball down the third-base line and he had an infield single.
"I really have no clue how he hit it to begin with, then be able to keep it fair somehow right on the line," said Giants catcher Chris Stewart.
Kemp then stole second base and scored when Rivera singled up the middle on a 3-1 pitch. He has 33 RBIs in 46 games with the Dodgers.
"[Lincecum] gave me a high leg kick and I took advantage of it," said Kemp, whose 38th stolen base demonstrated another of the many weapons that have put him in the thick of league MVP talk. "Then Rivera did what he's been doing the last two weeks, driving in runs. I was pretty sure if I stole a base, he'd get something done."
The only run the Giants scored off Kershaw was caused by rookie shortstop Dee Gordon's first-inning throwing error, which was cashed in by Pablo Sandoval's RBI single, after which Kershaw retired the next 11 batters.
Kershaw raised his league-leading strikeout total to 231, the highest for a Dodger since Hideo Nomo's 233 in 1997. He is the first 18-game winner for the Dodgers since Chan Ho Park in 2000. Kershaw has won all three starts against Lincecum this year, not allowing an earned run in 23 innings.
Javy Guerra pitched the ninth for his 17th save.
"Two dominating pitchers," Kemp said of the starting matchup. "Both had great stuff. Lincecum's won two Cy Youngs. Kershaw, I feel like he should be this year's Cy Young."
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.