SAN FRANCISCO -- The swing that Pablo Sandoval hopes snaps him out of his early season slump is not the kind the San Francisco Giants have grown accustomed to seeing from the 2012 World Series MVP.
At this point, he'll take anything he can get.
Sandoval broke his bat, bruised his knuckles and grounded a single into center field to score the go-ahead run in the seventh inning, lifting the Giants to a 2-1 victory against the rival Los Angeles Dodgers on Wednesday night and into first place in the NL West.
"He's one of those guys that you can't really throw it bad enough [to]," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said.
The struggling Sandoval came through after reliever J.P. Howell (1-1) intentionally walked Hunter Pence with two outs. Sandoval, who entered the game batting only .164, missed badly on a sinker before taking a changeup from Howell up the middle to score Joaquin Arias from second.
"After the walk, I just tried to tell myself that I've got to try to do better in that situation and try to do the best that I can out there," Sandoval said. "After the first swing, I just told myself, 'Calm down. Get a pitch and try to play pepper to the middle of the field.' "
The big hit from the slugging third baseman came after Jean Machi (3-0) pitched out of a bases-loaded jam earlier in the seventh to keep the score tied.
Los Angeles at least dodged worse news.
Shortstop Hanley Ramirez left in the seventh after getting hit by a pitch from Ryan Vogelsong on the top of his left hand, slamming his helmet to the ground and hopping around in pain. The team said X-rays on Ramirez's hand were negative.
"It got me good," Ramirez said. "It's sore a little bit. I iced it twice already and I'll go back to the hotel and try to ice it twice before I go to bed so I can be in there [Thursday]."
Vogelsong, who broke two bones in his right pinkie after getting hit by a pitch last year, said it was "unfortunate to see it happen, but at the same time, I've got to be able to throw the ball inside."
Vogelsong allowed the one run and four hits in six-plus innings to help the Giants win their third consecutive game. He struck out two and walked two to match Paul Maholm most of the way.
Maholm gave up one run and five hits in six innings. He struck out two and walked three to rebound from a loss in his only other start this season on April 5, when he allowed five runs in 4 1/3 innings to the Giants.
San Francisco improved to 4-1 against the Dodgers this season in a race that could remain tight through the summer. The Giants also are 4-2 in their past six games, which all have been decided by one run.
"It gives you a lot of gray hairs," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "That's our style."
The pitchers kept the game moving at a far brisker pace than the nearly 5-hour contest Tuesday night that ended when Hector Sanchez singled home the winning run with two outs in the 12th inning to give the Giants the victory.
The biggest hold up came from baseball's new replay system after Vogelsong picked off Kemp at first base in the second inning. Mattingly challenged the play, which umpires upheld after a 4:25 video review that drew light boos from some fans during the wait.
Dodgers ace and reigning NL Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw, who is on the disabled list with a strained muscle in his back, threw breaking balls off flat ground. He is scheduled to throw off a mound Thursday. ... Giants SS Brandon Crawford sat out with tightness in his right hamstring but said he expects to play Thursday. ... Giants LHP Madison Bumgarner (2-0, 3.31 ERA) will take the mound Thursday opposite Dodgers LHP Hyun-Jin Ryu (2-1, 2.57 ERA) in the series finale.