LOS ANGELES -- Last year, Tim Lincecum and Clayton Kershaw appeared on the cover of a national sports magazine's Major League preview, which showed the Giants right-hander trapping his rival in a headlock and giving him a noogie.
Sometimes art doesn't imitate life.
In reality, it's Kershaw who has kept Lincecum and the Giants in his clutches. The Dodgers left-hander maintained his dominance Wednesday night, allowing four hits in eight-plus innings in Los Angeles' 4-2 victory that completed a three-game sweep of the Giants. In six Lincecum-Kershaw starting matchups, the latter has posted a 5-0 record with a 1.02 ERA.
San Francisco continued to tumble, losing its fourth game in a row and ninth in its last 12. But don't stop there. Since May 14, the Giants have dropped 25 of 40 games. That's a .375 winning percentage, lowest in the Majors during that span.
"You have to believe it's going to turn around, which we do," manager Bruce Bochy said.
But life gets no easier for the Giants, who still must visit Colorado and Cincinnati on this three-city, 10-game trip after Thursday's scheduled off-day -- their last until the All-Star break. They must play 17 consecutive games before that four-day hiatus.
The rest, catcher Buster Posey said, "will be a good chance to catch our breath, then look forward to getting back to work."
The Giants actually led through five innings, 2-1, as Posey's fourth-inning homer accounted for their scoring. Lincecum, 3-0 with a 1.13 ERA in his four previous starts against the Dodgers, appeared to be on the verge of sweetening those statistics. He partially attributed his effectiveness to opposing Kershaw.
"You kind of look forward to it, because it makes you rise to the occasion and pitch better," Lincecum said.
"Hopefully we keep pitching against each other for a long time," said Kershaw, who was 0-3 in his six previous starts overall. "I know he would say the same thing: It's not facing him, it's facing the eight other guys. I don't really take too much stock into it."
San Francisco's slim advantage vanished in the Dodgers' three-run sixth, which has become an ill-fated inning for the Giants. Tuesday, Los Angeles stormed past them with four runs; last Friday, Lincecum took a 3-1 lead into the sixth against Miami and emerged with a 3-3 deadlock.
This time, Hanley Ramirez singled with one out, stole second base and scored on Andre Ethier's single. Ethier sustained the pattern by stealing second -- his first theft of the year -- and scoring on A.J. Ellis' double. Juan Uribe grounded an infield single that second baseman Marco Scutaro smothered, briefly preventing Ellis from scoring. He came home anyway as Lincecum flung a wild pitch.
Lincecum, whose erratic control manifested itself in 40 walks entering the game, issued only one free pass to the Dodgers. But accuracy might not have been the best policy as he surrendered 10 hits, matching a season high, in 5 1/3 innings.
"I think that kind of worked against me," said Lincecum, who also faded in the sixth inning while allowing two runs to Miami last Friday. "I didn't expand the zone when I needed to, I left too many pitches on the plate and they put some good swings on some pitches, [to add to] the fact that I threw some [lousy] ones."
The pair of stolen bases didn't help. Both times, catcher Hector Sanchez couldn't unleash a throw, dropping a pitch before groping in the dirt for the other one. Bochy believed that a decent peg from Sanchez in either case might have produced an out.
Aside from Posey's homer, which followed a leadoff walk to Scutaro, Kershaw didn't allow a runner to reach second base. He improved to 10-4 with a 1.33 ERA in 19 career appearances (18 starts) against the Giants.
For the second straight night, the Giants staged a truncated rally in the ninth. Scutaro's leadoff single finished Kershaw before Posey singled off Kenley Jansen. But Jansen struck out Hunter Pence and Pablo Sandoval before shortstop Ramirez cradled pinch-hitter Brandon Belt's bloop in shallow left field.
That sealed the Dodgers' season-high fifth consecutive victory, as well as their first three-game sweep of the Giants at Dodger Stadium since April 13, 15 and 16, 2009.
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.