LOS ANGELES -- Clayton Kershaw became the first Dodgers 20-game winner in 21 years Tuesday night.
As for his Cy Young worthiness, any further questions?
"I was thinking about that in the outfield in like the eighth inning," said MVP candidate Matt Kemp. "I was like, 'If this boy doesn't win the Cy Young, something's definitely wrong.' I think there's no question about it."
With a 2-1 win over the Giants that pulled the Dodgers above .500 for the first time since April 29, Kershaw bested two-time Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum for the fourth time this year while becoming the first Dodgers pitcher to go 5-0 against the Giants in a season since Vic Lombardi in 1946. In the matchups against Lincecum, Kershaw has allowed one earned run in 30 1/3 innings.
Lincecum and opposing manager Bruce Bochy cast their ballots for the lefty.
"Definitely," Lincecum said. "With the numbers that he has, he's leading in a lot of categories, and coming up with a 20-win season was huge. Especially with the team they've got, I think he's done a magnificent job with his year this year."
"I'd say yeah, sure he is," said Bochy. "I know [Ian] Kennedy has won 20; [Roy] Halladay and [Cliff] Lee, those four -- it's a tough call. But if you look at what Kershaw's done, he's got to be a favorite."
Kershaw hit the wall at 7 1/3 innings, allowing six hits -- including an eighth-inning homer to Chris Stewart -- while striking out six. He was removed after walking the last two batters he faced, but rookie strikeout machine Kenley Jansen bailed him out big time with a pair of strikeouts and Javy Guerra pitched the ninth for his 19th save.
"I'm in awe of him, honestly," and that was not somebody talking about Kershaw, but Kershaw talking about Jansen. "[Carlos] Beltran couldn't get the bat off his shoulders. It's 96 [mph] and cuts halfway across the plate. It's nice to know the guy coming in is striking everybody out."
Rookie Jerry Sands homered for the second straight game and James Loney singled home the other Dodgers run. Loney had two hits, raising his average to .285 (it was .251 on Aug. 9).
Now 20-5, Kershaw is the Dodgers' first 20-game winner since Ramon Martinez in 1990 and at 23 the second-youngest (Martinez was 22). He's again tied with Arizona's Kennedy for the league lead in wins, while best in the league in ERA (2.27), strikeouts (242) and opponents' batting average. The strikeouts are the most for a Dodger since Fernando Valenzuela had 242 in 1986.
"This kid is remarkable," said catcher Rod Barajas. "For me, he's the best pitcher in the National League. He continues to adjust. We've used the curveball the last two starts and it's a nasty pitch."
Kershaw shied away from talk about the Cy Young Award and needed a few moments to absorb that he ended a 21-year franchise drought of 20-game winners, becoming the 16th in Los Angeles Dodgers history.
"They've had awesome pitchers come through here," said Kershaw, whose final start of the season is Sunday in San Diego. "I'm not taking it lightly, not discrediting the accomplishment, but I haven't really thought about it."
His 11 straight home wins are tied for third on the Los Angeles Dodgers all-time list. He's won his last seven decisions and he's 11-1 in the second half, nearly as impressive as the overpowering late run Orel Hershiser parlayed into the last Cy Young Award won by a Dodgers starting pitcher in 1988.
And this win snapped the Giants' eight-game win streak and might have snuffed out their diminishing chances at a postseason berth.
"It's a shame," a sarcastic Kershaw cracked, having become a true Giant-killer with a 6-1 career mark and 1.27 ERA.
He was given runs early, one in the first inning on consecutive two-out singles by Kemp, Juan Rivera and Loney, then what proved to be the game-winning home run by Sands.
Kershaw was two innings away from a shutout, but with one out in the eighth, Stewart homered, pinch-hitter Pat Burrell walked and pinch-runner Darren Ford took second on Kershaw's wild pitch to Andres Torres, who worked the count back from 0-2 to walk.
Mattingly brought in Jansen to face Jeff Keppinger and the Giants countered with pinch-hitter Pablo Sandoval, who swung at a third strike, then down went Beltran, who took a called third strike. Jansen has 87 strikeouts in 49 1/3 innings for a 15.87 strikeout rate per nine innings, closing in on Marmol's 15.99 record set last year.
Guerra came on in the ninth, made a throwing error to put the tying run on base, but got pinch-hitter Aubrey Huff to bounce into a game-ending double play to secure Kershaw's 20th.
"I'm sure there are people in Arizona going to debate it and people in Philadelphia and places like that, but for me, the numbers speak for themselves. I don't need to politic for him," said Dodgers manager Don Mattingly, whose club has won four straight. "I see him every five days. I'm really prejudiced how good this guy is."
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.