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ARI@SF: Cain shuts out the D-backs over seven innings

The Dodgers are hoping the groove they have found at the end of the season is one they can ride to a National League Wild Card playoff slot.

If said groove is to continue, the Dodgers will have to go through the Giants, as the two teams meet in a season-ending three-game series that begins Monday at Dodger Stadium

Pitching for the Giants will be right-hander Matt Cain, who goes to the mound in Game 1, seeking to put the cap on a terrific regular season and at the same time prepping for a probable start in Game 1 of the National League Division Series Saturday in San Francisco.

The Dodgers are two games behind the Cardinals for the second Wild Card spot in the National League playoffs and have won their last five games.

It's gratifying to see his team playing well at the end of the season, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said Sunday.

"Obviously we are putting some wins on the board," Mattingly said. "We are able to score some runs and the pitching kind of continues to do what it has been doing.

"It's good. It's kind of fun playing like this. It makes you think, 'Why can't you do this over the course of a season or a month.'"

While the Dodgers will be playing three games against the Giants, who have already clinched the NL West Division championship, the Cardinals will face the NL Central champion Reds in a three-game series in St. Louis.

Right-hander Aaron Harang, who threw 5 1/3 scoreless innings his last time out in beating the Padres 8-2 Wednesday, will be the Dodgers starter Monday.

Harang is 10-10 with a 3.68 ERA in 30 starts this season, but will be making his first start of the season against the Giants.

Cain, whose season highlight came when he pitched a perfect game against the Astros, is 16-5 with a 2.77 ERA. In his last start, Wednesday against the D-backs, he pitched seven scoreless innings, allowing four hits and striking out six.

"It seemed like he was really effortless tonight," catcher Buster Posey said after that game. "The ball was coming out good, and he was moving the ball around to both sides of the plate. He did a nice job."

Cain improved to 15-0 on the year when receiving three or more runs of support and the Giants now are 18-2 in such games started by Cain.

After combining for nine walks in his last two starts, Cain limited Arizona to one free pass.

"The past couple starts, I was just finding ways to walk guys, and I kind of made that a point between the last start and this start just to throw a lot of strikes and get ahead [of] a lot of guys and not even think about walking guys and take that out of my mind," Cain said.

Cain pitched past three Giants errors.

"That's what you want to do as a pitcher when funky plays happen behind you," Cain said. "Guys make errors. It's going to happen, and it's the same thing as when we make bad pitches -- we're looking for those guys to pick us up. I think we just have to put our head down and worry about getting guys out and not let an error affect anything."

Giants: Pence heating up
• Outfielder Hunter Pence is a key to the Giants' offense because he hits behind Posey and is counted on to command enough respect from opposing pitchers to keep them from pitching around their best hitter.

Pence is finishing the regular season playing well, going 2-for-5 in Sunday's 7-5 victory over the Padres, hitting his 24th home run of the season and driving in two runs.

Pence also homered Saturday and Thursday and is hitting .257 with 104 RBIs combined for the Giants and Phillies.

Dodgers: Kemp hot again
• Matt Kemp's once-promising season has been sabotaged by injuries, but he seems to have found his comfort zone recently.

Kemp hit two homers Saturday, then hit his 23rd of the season in Sunday's 7-1 victory over the Rockies.

Kemp was 2-for-3 Sunday to raise his batting average to .310. He also had two RBIs to raise his season total to 69.

Worth noting
• Dodgers first baseman Adrian Gonzalez was 2-for-3 Sunday, extended his hitting streak to 12 games.

• Cain has faced the Dodgers three times this season and is 1-0 with a 2.54 ERA in 21 1/3 innings. Comments