LOS ANGELES The Giants cannot defend a World Series title when it doesnt belong to them. That was last years challenge, and they failed to meet it.As for these current Giants, they are weaker than those madcap misfits in some areas, clearly stronger in others. But there is one similarity: Two years ago, Bruce Bochys team clinched all three postseason series away from AT&T Park.
They are just as proficient in road grays now.Sure, they finished the regular season with a 5-1 loss on Wednesday and dropped two of three at Dodger Stadium. But heres the remarkable part: It was their first road series loss since July 6-8 at Pittsburgh. While streaking to the NL West title, the Giants posted a series record of 10-0-1 in the 11 previous times they dropped their luggage.RELATED: Game 1 Game 2
If the previous two nights at Chavez Ravine throbbed with a playoff pulse, the regular-season finale felt more like a split-squad at Camelback Ranch. Most of Bochys starters including Buster Posey, who officially won the NL batting crown with a .336 average -- were relieved of duties by the sixth inning, when right-hander Clay Hensley gave up a tiebreaking single to Adrian Gonzalez. The Dodgers broke it open in the eighth against Jean Machi.It was only truly tense in the first five innings, when Ryan Vogelsong competed with flared nostrils while holding the Dodgers to just an unearned run.The Giants finished the regular season with a 94-68 record their highest victory total since they won 100 in 2003.RELATED: MLB Standings
Starting pitching reportYou can make a reasonable argument that Vogelsong should go to the postseason bullpen. Hes the one starting pitcher who has substantial relief experience.But like Barry Zito a night earlier, Vogelsong is giving the coaching staff something to think about. Despite a very rough seven-start stretch in late August and September, Vogelsong finished strong and allowed just one earned run over his final three outings.BAGGARLY: Bochy offers Zito plaudits, but no playoff slot yet
His stuff was hard and sharp while he took a no-hitter into the fifth inning, and wouldve recorded the third out if second baseman Marco Scutaro hadnt dropped Luis Cruzs blooper in shallow right field for an error. Cruz scored when Tim Federowicz and pitcher Clayton Kershaw followed with singles; Federowicz was thrown out trying to go from first to third.And that was deemed enough for Vogelsong, who did not receive a decision after throwing 71 pitches over five innings. He finished with a 14-9 record and 3.37 ERA, coming up just short in a bid to join Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner and Barry Zito in the 15-win club.It wouldve been the first time a major league team had four 15-game winners since the 2004 St. Louis Cardinals (Chris Carpenter, Jason Marquis, Matt Morris, Jeff Suppan). No Giants team has boasted four 15-game winners since the 1962 pennant winners (Juan Marichal, Billy O'Dell, Billy Pierce, Jack Sanford).Bullpen reportGeorge Kontos struck out one and allowed a hit in a scoreless inning, further improving his chances of making the NLDS roster. Hensley and Machi, already longshots, were much less impressive.At the plateSeveral Giants found it curious that Clayton Kershaw, who has been battling a sore hip that might require surgery, insisted upon taking the mound in the regular-season finale a day after his club was eliminated.Perhaps Kershaw wanted a third shot at outpitching Vogelsong, who shaded him in 2-1 and 2-0 Giants victories earlier this season. Or maybe the reigning NL Cy Young Award winner wanted to catch the Mets R.A. Dickey, who had him by nine strikeouts for the NL lead.Kershaw sure didnt hold anything back while extending himself to 111 pitches over eight innings.Like Vogelsong, he retired the first 10 hitters in order before Marco Scutaro singled in the fourth. Pablo Sandoval followed with a double and Buster Posey brought home Scutaro with a ground out the catchers 103rd RBI of the season.Thats the most RBIs by a Giant in a season since 2002, when Barry Bonds drove in 110 and Jeff Kent finished with 108 to lead the club to the World Series.Scutaros single accomplished something meaningful, too. It extended his hit streak to 20 games, matching Angel Pagan and Pablo Sandoval for the longest by a Giant this season. It also gave the Giants three players with 20-game streaks in a season for the first time in franchise history or, at least, in the 94 years for which data is available to check such things.The Giants became the first major league team in nine years to have three players with hitting streaks of at least 20 games. In 2003, the Pirates had Kenny Lofton (26), Jason Kendall (23) and Aramis Ramirez (22). Also that year, the Blue Jays had Mike Bordick, Reed Johnson and Vernon Wells (20 apiece).But they could not complete a comeback after the Dodgers took the lead in the sixth. They wasted Hector Sanchezs leadoff double in the seventh, by which time most of the starters had been relieved of duties.Kershaw held the Giants to three hits struck out eight, finishing one behind Dickeys total of 230. Kershaw did wrap up his second consecutive NL ERA title (2.53), though.In fieldScutaros defense is becoming a concern. In addition to his dropped blooper, he also let two throws glance off his glove on caught stealing attempts during this road trip.AttendanceThe Dodgers announced 34,014 paid. The pregame music included There's No Stopping Us Right Now. Well, actuallyUp nextThe Giants open their NL Division Series with the Cincinnati Reds on Saturday at AT&T Park. Matt Cain (16-5, 2.79 ERA) takes the mound against right-hander Johnny Cueto (19-9, 2.78). First pitch is scheduled for 6:37 p.m. PDT.