SAN FRANCISCO -- People assuming that the Giants would run away with the National League West title don't understand how the team operates. And they certainly don't comprehend the nature of the Giants-Dodgers rivalry.Saturday, the Giants needed six outs to seal a victory that would widen their division lead to 6 1/2 games over second-place Los Angeles. They had an effective Matt Cain on the mound and another sellout AT&T Park throng behind them. But the afternoon's conclusion didn't follow the Giants' ideal script. The Dodgers scored in each of the final two innings to secure a 3-2 triumph that left them 4 1/2 games behind the Giants entering Sunday's series finale. This game reinforced the basic baseball truth that one should never assume anything. But with ace left-hander Clayton Kershaw starting for Los Angeles in Sunday's series finale, it's tempting to envision the Dodgers leaving town having trimmed their deficit to 3 1/2 games. Without conceding anything, Giants manager Bruce Bochy indicated that he would have been surprised if the Giants had cruised, adversity-free, to the postseason. "There's a lot of baseball left," Bochy said. "It's going to be a fight. We know it. And that's our nature. We don't do anything easy." "Easy" meant that Cain and the bullpen would have maintained the 2-1 edge San Francisco owned through seven innings. But Cain wild-pitched the tying run home in the eighth before Jeremy Affeldt yielded Adrian Gonzalez's triple and Hanley Ramirez's RBI double in the ninth, enabling the Dodgers to snap their four-game losing streak against San Francisco. "I don't know about winning the division. I just know we're getting in the playoffs one way or another," Gonzalez insisted. Cain acknowledged that he expected such stubbornness from the Dodgers, whose goal is to keep the division race close until the Giants open a three-game, season-ending series at Los Angeles on Oct. 1. "I think they're going to be that way," Cain said. "I think any professional team with their kind of talent, any talent, is going to want to win. They're not going to just roll over and let another team walk on them. It's not going to happen. You wouldn't have a big league team if that's what your manager had to work with." Cain gave the Dodgers only four hits to work with through seven innings. One of those hits was a sixth-inning single by opposing pitcher Chris Capuano, who was batting .085 at the time. Capuano went to third base on Mark Ellis' single and scored the tying run on Shane Victorino's sacrifice fly. The Giants responded one inning later as Buster Posey, who opened the scoring with a first-inning RBI single, doubled and scored the go-ahead run. That lead didn't last long. Juan Rivera christened the Dodgers' eighth with an opposite-field double that Hunter Pence barely missed catching with a sliding attempt at the right-field foul line. Following A.J. Ellis' sacrifice bunt, Cain flung a wild pitch on a full-count delivery to pinch-hitter Bobby Abreu, enabling pinch-runner Alex Castellanos to slide home safely. Cain explained that he was trying to throw the ill-fated pitch to Abreu toward the outside third of the strike zone. But, Cain said, "I cut it. It's really aggravating right now. I was throwing a lot of things I wanted to for strikes. And then I didn't execute the pitch I wanted to at the end. I didn't give the bullpen a chance to come in and bail me out. ... That's my fault. That's on my shoulders." Gonzalez christened the ninth inning by drilling Affeldt's first pitch into the right-center-field gap for his first triple of the year. Ramirez connected squarely with a 3-2 fastball. Affeldt (1-2) said that he didn't expect Gonzalez to swing at a first-pitch curveball.
"I threw the pitch I wanted to throw," he said. "Sometimes you have to remember those guys get paid a lot of money to hit. I threw the pitch where I wanted it. He just hit it in the part of the ballpark where you don't want anybody to hit a ball to, especially in a day game. I tip my hat."Ramirez, said Affeldt, hit a mistake: "I didn't quite get it inside far enough and he hit it up the middle." As they so often do, the Giants rallied. Gregor Blanco's two-out fly to deep left became a double when Castellanos staggered under the ball, had it in his glove but couldn't hold on. Then pinch-hitter Hector Sanchez lined out to third base. Of the 11 innings in which these teams have scored, only one run has been tallied in 10 of them. The grudging manner in which the Giants and Dodgers are continuing their rivalry has reflected the intensity of their competition. "That's why September baseball is so fun," Affeldt said. "It's going to come down to one key hit each game, usually. We had the key hit yesterday and they had the key hit today."
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.