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SF@LAD: Scutaro singles home game-tying run in eighth

LOS ANGELES -- Monday was one of those rare times in the Giants-Dodgers rivalry when one team had no reason to match the other's intensity.

In this case, the would-be laggards were the Giants, who could have contented themselves by counting the hours to Saturday's Division Series opener.

But competitiveness inevitably takes over between the lines, and the Giants' 3-2 loss reflected this. Realizing that approaching the postseason isn't a working vacation, they opposed the Dodgers with their usual zeal. San Francisco tied the score in the eighth inning before rookie Elian Herrera's ninth-inning single scored Hanley Ramirez, enabling Los Angeles to fend off elimination in its tussle with St. Louis for the National League's second Wild Card berth.

Giants center fielder Angel Pagan, who doubled and scored the tying run in the eighth, insisted that the Dodgers weren't the only hungry team at Chavez Ravine.

"They're trying to get a playoff spot and they have all the reason to play hard. We want to knock them out of the playoffs," Pagan said.

Baseball history, of course, is decorated with numerous instances of the Giants spoiling a Dodgers postseason bid, and vice-versa. Reminded that fans love this kind of stuff, Pagan grinned and said, "'Beat L.A.' That's what they say."

The Giants also have a practical reason to play intently. Facing the Dodgers means confronting above-average pitching, thus providing batting practice, in a sense, for the formidable staff or staffs they'll meet in the playoffs. San Francisco hasn't encountered much fearsome pitching while facing the likes of the Rockies and Padres in recent weeks.

"That's the same thing we're going to face in the playoffs," Pagan said. "We have to take these games and play them just like we're going to play in the playoffs. We have to go out there and compete as hard as we can."

The Giants always can count on a sincere, quality effort from Matt Cain, whom Bochy officially named as the starter for Game 1 of the Division Series. For that reason, Cain was limited to 75 pitches against the Dodgers. He ultimately threw 68 in five innings. Cain's lone mistake was a first-pitch changeup he dangled for Andre Ethier, who walloped a two-run, fourth-inning homer.

In nine appearances preceding Monday's truncated outing, Cain went 6-0 with a 2.18 ERA, by far the strongest finish among San Francisco's starters. That complemented Cain's 9-3 record with a 2.62 ERA in the first half, which earned him starting status (and ultimately the decision) for the victorious NL squad in the All-Star Game.

"He's so consistent," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said, explaining Cain's Game 1 assignment. "I think it's fair to say he's the No. 1 guy right now, the way he's thrown all year."

Cain said that he felt "excited" about receiving the Game 1 nod but didn't want to place undue emphasis on his task.

"I'm not going to add anything to it," he said. "I'm going to go through my routine as normal."

A mild concern emerged in the eighth inning, when catcher Buster Posey endured back spasms while running out a ground ball. He was replaced in the bottom of the inning by Eli Whiteside. Bochy said that Posey will be re-evaluated Tuesday.

"If there's nothing there, he'll probably play," Bochy said.

Posey went 1-for-4, drilling a first-inning RBI double for his lone hit. That dropped Posey's average to .336, but he retained his lead in the race for the NL batting title over Pittsburgh's Andrew McCutchen (.329).

Marco Scutaro, whose hitting streak makes him San Francisco's other high-profile performer, lengthened it to a Major League-best 18 games with the eighth-inning single that scored Pagan. That set up the Dodgers' winning finish.

Ramirez grounded a single up the middle leading off the ninth against Giants right-hander Santiago Casilla (7-6). Ramirez moved to second base on Shane Victorino's sacrifice bunt, advanced to third on Luis Cruz's single and waited out an intentional walk to A.J. Ellis. Herrera then drilled a line drive toward Scutaro, who leaped for the ball. The second baseman nearly caught it, but succeeded only in deflecting it into center field as Ramirez pranced home.

Bochy affirmed that grabbed Herrera's hit would have required a superlative play by Scutaro.

"That ball was smoked," Bochy said.

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