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Giants miss chance to end postseason push

LOS ANGELES -- The Giants have an opportunity to clinch a postseason spot at home. As rewarding as that sounds, it isn't what they had in mind.

San Francisco could have sealed a National League Wild Card berth with merely a mediocre performance on its three-city, nine-game trip. Instead the Giants finished 3-6 and concluded their sojourn with Wednesday's 9-1 loss to Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers. Thus, rather than rejoicing in returning to the postseason, the Giants were forced to watch the Dodgers frolic on the field as they clinched their second NL West title in a row.

Los Angeles manager Don Mattingly proved that he possesses a knack for irony by summoning former Giants closer Brian Wilson to pitch the ninth inning. But once the Dodgers began their postgame festivities, they did nothing to insult or provoke the Giants. In fact, just before the Giants retreated to the clubhouse, a trio of coaches caught the attention of their Dodgers counterparts, and they doffed their caps to one another in a silent sign of mutual respect.

Still, the rivalry didn't die.

"To watch the Dodgers celebrate in front of us motivates us," center fielder Gregor Blanco said.

So for the second day in a row, all the Giants need to qualify for the postseason is one victory or a Brewers defeat. They'll try again on Thursday, when they begin a four-game series at AT&T Park against the Padres -- the same Padres who dealt them a three-game sweep last weekend.

Pittsburgh, San Francisco's rival for the right to host next Wednesday's NL Wild Card game, dropped a 6-2 decision to Atlanta but remained a game ahead.

Officially forced to reach October by drawing a Wild Card instead of winning the West, the Giants tried to remain upbeat, casting aside their disappointment after spending 96 days in first place.

"We know we're going to get in there, even though it's going to be the play-in game," right-hander Tim Hudson said. "In one game, anybody can beat anybody."

Referring to left-hander Madison Bumgarner, San Francisco's likely starter against Pittsburgh, Hudson added, "The guy we'll be putting out there, I'd put him up against anybody in baseball."

At least the Giants won't have to face Kershaw again, barring a potential collision in the NL Championship Series. The left-hander inspired the partisan Dodger Stadium crowd to deliver several renditions of an "M-V-P" chant for their hero, who concluded his bid to become the first starting pitcher to win the NL's Most Valuable Player Award since St. Louis' Bob Gibson in 1968. Kershaw struck out 11 in eight innings, opened Los Angeles' scoring in the fifth inning with his first career triple and made a deft behind-the-back grab of Hudson's third-inning comebacker.

Kershaw wasn't perfect, allowing eight hits, but "him at 80 percent is better than most people," Hudson said.

Neglectful baserunning spoiled the Giants' best chance to break Kershaw's rhythm. With one out in the third inning, Joaquin Arias, breaking toward home on contact, scored the game's first run on Hunter Pence's grounder to third base. But Blanco, the runner on second, inexplicably held. This proved critical when he couldn't score on Joe Panik's single to left.

"I was just trying to keep it safe," Blanco said, noting that Buster Posey was due up after Panik. But with the bases loaded, Posey grounded into an inning-ending double play instead of fattening his team-high total of 86 RBIs.

Blanco endured another trying moment on the basepaths in the seventh inning, when he tried to advance to third base on Matt Duffy's pinch-hit single and was thrown out by Yasiel Puig.

"I think we've been thrown out by Puig enough. Shame on us," manager Bruce Bochy said, referring to the peg that prevented Brandon Belt from scoring on Monday.

The Dodgers broke a 1-1 tie with four runs in the sixth inning. Puig launched the surge with a home run off Hudson (9-13). One out later, Matt Kemp doubled, prompting Bochy to summon left-hander Javier Lopez. After an intentional walk to Hanley Ramirez, Carl Crawford doubled home two runs. The Dodgers made the score lopsided with a four-run eighth.

Nevertheless, this was an encouraging outing for Hudson, who surrendered five hits and was charged with three runs in 5 1/3 innings. Nagged by a sore hip, he was 0-3 with a 9.92 ERA in his previous four starts.

"The way things were going, I wouldn't have had a lot of confidence in me," he said.

Chris Haft is a reporter for Read his blog, Haft-Baked Ideas, and follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat.
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