SAN FRANCISCO Marco Scutaro is, without exaggeration, the greatest Italian-Venezuelan player in the history of major league baseball.
OK, so Scutaro may be the only Italian-Venezeulan in baseball history, but no matter. Scutaro did it again. He was Señor Clutch again, knocking in two critical runs in a momentous seventh inning here Friday night the key moment in a massive 5-2 Giants win over their bitter rivals, the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Scutaro's right-field single with the bases loaded broke a 2-2 tie, driving in pinch runner Gregor Blanco and shortstop Brandon Crawford to the delirium of a raucous home crowd at AT&T Park.
The triumph in the first of a crucial three-game series between these two teams moved the Giants to a season-high 5 1/2 game lead over the Dodgers with the 2012 season calendar beginning to run short on dates.
It wasn't the final nail in the Dodgers' overpriced, over-hyped casket of fading hopes. But it was a well-placed nail that had to be felt in the marrow of every last person wearing blue.
All night long, the Dodgers had Giants starter Tim Lincecum in trouble, but they couldn't take the commanding lead that should have been theirs. Lincecum walked a career-high seven hitters one for each inning he started.
Yet the Dodgers were a miserable 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position. They left 11 runners on base. And then there was the Dodgers' decision-making when the game was in the balance.
In that critical seventh when Scutaro atoned for booting a grounder in the third inning that led to the Dodgers' first run, the Giants second baseman victimized Dodger manager Don Mattingly as much as anyone.
Dodger starter Josh Beckett was clearly tiring. The bases were loaded with Giants, and Brandon League, the Dodgers' flame-throwing reliever, was ready to go.
Yet Mattingly stuck with Beckett to the advantage of Scutaro, who tomahawked Beckett's second pitch to him a fat, four-seam fastball into right field for the Giants' key runs.
Considering that League entered after the damage was done and easily dispatched Buster Posey and Hunter Pence Mattingly's move seemed all the more ill-considered.
Today's game now brings a moment of truth for the Dodgers do they have the guts to match their millions and to stay in the National League West chase by beating back the Giants here?
For the Dodgers, this weekend is it. It's all about survival and justification for taking on a quarter of a million dollars in payroll with the August acquisitions of a raft of high-priced former Boston Red Sox players. These included Beckett, first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, Nick Punto and Carl Crawford.
You wonder if Friday was the beginning of the end.
When the Dodgers took a lead in the third, the Giants came back with their own run.
When Lincecum gave up a crushing home run to Adam Kennedy in the sixth, the Giants scratched right back with their own run and then won it with Scutaro's blow and an insurance run in the eighth.
Friday wasn't a classic Giants win, but it didn't have to be.
Lincecum struggled mightily with his fastball command again, but he refused to give in or back down all night keeping the Giants in the game.
Leadoff hitter Angel Pagan struck three hits, had an RBI and laid down an inspired bunt to start the sixth inning.
It was right after all the air went out of this place when Lincecum allowed an inexcusable home run to Kennedy on an 0-2 count.
Pagan reaching base fired up the faithful and his teammates. He came around to score on a Pence single drawing the Giants even.
It was one of many moments where the Giants made the plays the Dodgers didn't or couldn't.
For one night, showing more guts than their rivals was more than enough for a Giants team aiming for glory in October.