From James Loney’s fallaway fling in the first inning to Matt Kemp’s somersaulting catch in the ninth, the Dodger defense gave its all. And every bit of it was needed.

Without that defense, another sterling effort from Hiroki Kuroda would have gone for naught. Instead, Kuroda’s seven shutout innings stood up, and the pitcher who lowered his ERA to 2.96 (ninth in the National League) finally won his second game since May 17, 1-0 over San Diego.

Kemp had the only RBI of the game, driving in Dee Gordon with a fourth-inning single. He went 2 for 4, raising his batting average to .321 and cutting his deficit to the Mets’ Jose Reyes down to .018.

Subsequently, Kemp did see his streak of 20 consecutive stolen bases end when he was picked off second base and thrown out trying to make it to third. It was one of three times that Dodger runners were trapped off second base – Gordon was caught going leaning wrong way from second base on a first-inning comebacker to Padres pitcher Mat Latos, and Kemp was doubled off in the seventh on a Loney liner.

Plays like those made it paramount for the pitching and defense to do their job. Kuroda struck out eight against six baserunners, putting down a first-and-second, none-out threat in the fifth and a similar scenario with two out in the seventh. Mike MacDougal survived runners on first and second with one out in the eighth, and then Javy Guerra, with the help of Kemp’s collision-defying snag of Aaron Cunningham’s blooper between Kemp and Gwynn, retired the side perfectly in the ninth for his ninth save. Since July 8, Guerra has pitched eight innings with a 0.00 ERA, allowing six baserunners while striking out nine, and stranding all four inherited runners.

After the game, I took special pleasure in the smiles and happy body-thuds between the winning Dodgers. A feel-good moment was earned.