SAN FRANCISCO -- Marco Scutaro heaped delayed gratification upon Giants fans Friday night, increasing the possibility that he and his teammates will attempt to provide similar joy in October.Scutaro delivered a tiebreaking, two-run single with the bases loaded, lifting the Giants to a 5-2 triumph over the Los Angeles Dodgers in the opener of a National League West showdown. The Giants' fourth consecutive victory against Los Angeles lengthened their division lead over the second-place Dodgers to a season-high 5 1/2 games.
"We just need to keep going, that's all I can say," Giants right-hander Tim Lincecum said. "I don't think anybody in this room is saying that's enough room right now with the time we've got left. We need to keep pushing and not give in."Scutaro measured the long-range perspective by citing the Giants' season-ending series Oct. 1-3 at Dodger Stadium.
"We don't want to go back to their house for the last three games kind of close," he said. "Hopefully we'll clinch before that."Chances for the Giants to establish such control in the division race seemed dim in late July. Skeptics heaped doubts upon them when they obtained Scutaro, a capable performer but basically a journeyman, from Colorado on July 27 -- two days after Los Angeles plucked multitalented shortstop Hanley Ramirez from Miami. According to the consensus, the Dodgers' deal bore much more impact. Much has happened since then, including the Giants' acquisition of right fielder Hunter Pence and the Dodgers' addition of slugging first baseman Adrian Gonzalez. Among these notable performers, Scutaro has made the most significant contributions. Since joining the Giants, the 11-year veteran infielder is batting .348 (16-for-48) with runners in scoring position, .375 (21-for-56) against the Dodgers and .331 (53-for-160) overall. He also has 26 RBIs in 39 games. "You can't take that for granted," Pence said of Scutaro's productivity. "He kind of makes it look easy, but it's not." Scutaro's latest feats occurred in the seventh inning with the score tied, 2-2. Hector Sanchez grounded a leadoff single for only the sixth hit against Dodgers starter Josh Beckett (1-2). Pinch-runner Gregor Blanco stole second base before Brandon Crawford walked. Pinch-hitter Emmanuel Burriss' sacrifice bunt advanced the runners and set up an intentional walk to Angel Pagan. Up came Scutaro, who broke his bat swinging at a 1-0 fastball but made enough contact to deposit it into shallow right field. Blanco and Crawford raced home as the partisan Giants crowd shrieked gleefully. "I really didn't make good contact, but sometimes I guess it's better to be lucky than good," Scutaro said. Scutaro's big hit brought back memories for Lincecum.
"I know I don't like facing him," the two-time NL Cy Young Award winner said.Lincecum appeared as if he felt that way about several Dodgers hitters, issuing a career-high seven walks. But nobody who received a free pass came around to score. He threw effectively enough, surrendering both Dodgers runs and four hits while striking out seven in 6 1/3 innings. San Francisco's bullpen backed Lincecum superbly. Santiago Casilla (7-5) stranded runners on second and third in the seventh. Jeremy Affeldt retired two hitters in the eighth before yielding a single. Then Sergio Romo worked 1 1/3 perfect innings for his 10th save. Ultimately, Dodgers hitters went 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position while the second through sixth hitters in their order -- Shane Victorino, Gonzalez, Matt Kemp, Ramirez and Andre Ethier -- combined to go hitless in 20 at-bats. "They wouldn't be human if they didn't feel the pressure, but we've gotten chances and haven't been able to get the big hit in a major way," said Dodgers manager Don Mattingly. "We've got a chance to win tomorrow and win the series Sunday. That's what we came here to do. The middle game will be a big game for us."
The delicious tension was almost palpable from the outset. The early scoring reflected the teams' mutually unyielding effort, as each club notched single runs in the third and sixth innings. Pagan, who went 3-for-4, sustained the Giants by singling to drive in their first run before bunting for a hit, stealing second base and scoring their next run."We did a lot of good things to win that ballgame," manager Bruce Bochy said.
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.