The Giants moved only two runners into scoring position after Kemp's big hit and didn't bring the tying run to the plate until the ninth inning, when Bengie Molina's ninth-inning homer and Randy Winn's subsequent single roused San Francisco.
The outcome dampened the Giants' hopes of intensifying the National League West skirmish. They fell 6 1/2 games behind first-place Los Angeles in the division standings and must win the next two games against the Dodgers to leave the series in better shape than when they began it. San Francisco also dropped a game behind Colorado in the NL Wild Card race.
Still, as special assistant Will Clark, once a chief protagonist in Giants-Dodgers lore, said to Eugenio Velez as he left the clubhouse, "Manana
, baby." Indeed, it's worth remembering that the Giants have 50 games remaining.
"That's not the way we want to start this series, but it's not desperation time," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "We have to relax and play our game."
Supposedly reeling from three consecutive losses, that's what the Dodgers did in the fourth.
Giants starter Jonathan Sanchez (5-10) began the game with electric stuff, striking out four consecutive batters in the first two innings. But Sanchez, who's prone to lapses of control, proved vulnerable at a critical time.
Manny Ramirez's one-out single launched the Dodgers' uprising in the fourth, which continued as Sanchez walked Casey Blake and Orlando Hudson. The second free pass was particularly egregious, since Sanchez had forged ahead on the count, 0-2.
"He looked like he started to try to make the perfect pitch there," Bochy said.
Up came Kemp, who cleared the bases by drilling an 0-1 pitch into the left-field corner. Mark Loretta's single to right-center field scored Kemp.
Travis Ishikawa's second-inning homer opened the scoring, but Dodgers starter Hiroki Kuroda (5-5) retired the next eight hitters and did not allow a Giant to reach second base until he departed following Winn's one-out single in the seventh.
"He really mixed his pitches [well], especially the slider," Giants shortstop Edgar Renteria said. "When we got used to him, they changed pitchers, and we knew they had a good bullpen. When he had to throw a [good] pitch, he did."
Bochy was less charitable on the subject of first-base umpire Bill Hohn, who ejected him for arguing at the end of the fifth inning.
Bochy became agitated after Hohn called out pinch-hitter Rich Aurilia to complete a double play, though Loretta, the Dodgers first baseman, fumbled shortstop Rafael Furcal's short-hop relay and appeared to have his foot off the bag as he scooped up the ball.
Hohn had provoked the Giants two innings earlier by ruling that Freddy Sanchez, who hit a grounder to third base that Blake briefly bobbled, was out at first base. Television replays indicated that Sanchez beat Blake's throw, seeding San Francisco's discontent.
"He blew both calls. That's all," Bochy said. "I didn't agree with them and I saw them pretty good. That's frustrating."