Braking the momentum the Dodgers had gathered with a successful run through Miami, Pittsburgh and Atlanta, the Giants moved back on top by a half-game. The expectation is that neither club will run away given how closely matched they are across the board.
Madison Bumgarner outdueled Clayton Kershaw -- good luck finding a pair of better young southpaws -- and the top third of the Giants' Melky-less order showed the ability to put runners aboard and move them around against Kershaw, the reigning NL Cy Young Award winner.
Angel Pagan, Marco Scutaro and Pablo Sandoval collaborated on runs in the first and sixth innings to produce a happy ending without any muscle from Buster Posey.
The planet's hottest hitter with 34 RBIs in 34 second-half games, Posey was content to guide Bumgarner through a gem reminiscent of the catcher's favorite memory from the 2010 World Series championship run. That was Game 4 of the World Series in Texas, when the 6-foot-5 lefty, 21 at the time, held the formidable Rangers scoreless through eight innings on three hits.
"This kid, we talk so much about him going back to 2010 and the great game he pitched in Texas," Bochy said. "Great stuff and makeup off the charts. Buster did a great job with him and quite a job throwing out a couple guys [trying to steal]."
Pagan made a loud opening statement for the Giants when he cracked a two-strike double off the wall in left-center leading off the game.
Scutaro, a resourceful veteran acquired from the Rockies three weeks ago for such occasions, took it upon himself to drop a sacrifice bunt.
"I don't care if it's the first inning," Scutaro said, "we've got to score a run for our guy there. It's hard to predict baseball. Some people don't like to bunt that early, but I want to get that guy home. Maybe it could be the difference in a game like that with pitchers that good."
Sandoval's fly ball to left was deep enough to deliver Pagan.
It was close at the plate, and even closer five innings later when the same trio conspired to give Bumgarner another run.
After Pagan and Scutaro legged out infield hits handled by shortstop Hanley Ramirez, Sandoval stroked a single to left. Shane Victorino charged and unleashed a strong throw to A.J. Ellis, whose tag was applied as Pagan was crossing the plate.
That slender margin was the difference when Ramirez homered with two down in the ninth, Javier Lopez coming on to retire Andre Ethier and preserve Bumgarner's 14th win in 21 decisions.
"Anytime you play the Giants, it's a big game, especially right now in the middle of a playoff race," Kershaw said. "Every game is big at this point, but losing [stinks] no matter what. Tonight didn't feel any better.
"They had two runs and we didn't. That's really all it comes down to."
Ramirez's blast against Sergio Romo, his 19th of the season, gave the true blue partisans in the crowd of 36,878 a temporary thrill before Bochy summoned Lopez. The veteran took care of Ethier on a roller to first baseman Brandon Belt.
"This guy really came up huge," Bochy said of Bumgarner, the 23-year-old North Carolinian. "Both guys did. I enjoyed watching the game. We scratched and clawed for a couple runs and Bum did a tremendous job for eight innings. That's impressive."
Kershaw and Bumgarner each struck out 10 and walked none. For the elderly in the crowd, it was something like withdrawing Sandy Koufax and Juan Marichal from the memory bank.
Giants pitching coach Dave Righetti searched his mind for a comparable confrontation and settled on Ron Guidry, his former Yankees teammate, and Vida Blue.
"I'd have to go back to Guidry and Vida Blue, back in the day," Righetti said. "It was that kind of matchup. You don't see that very often."
Kershaw faced one more batter than Bumgarner, who allowed four hits to Kershaw's six and hit one batter. Kershaw and Luis Cruz shared the Dodgers' four hits evenly.
Bumgarner was at his best against the Dodgers' best. Ramirez's homer was the only hit from the heart of manager Don Mattingly's new order.
Matt Kemp is hitless in his past 17 at-bats and Ethier is 0-for-10. They'll try to get healthy against Tim Lincecum on Tuesday night, when the mysterious two-time former Cy Young winner engages Joe Blanton.
Lincecum is familiar with following Bumgarner's act. He worked the Game 5 Fall Classic clincher in Texas.