LOS ANGELES -- In a rivalry that's one of the most storied in sports, the Giants delivered one heck of a knockout Tuesday night.
Already the National League West champions, the Giants made sure the rival Los Angeles Dodgers wouldn't join them in the postseason, winning 4-3 in a thrilling game at Dodger Stadium that officially eliminated the home team from contention for the second wild-card spot. The St. Louis Cardinals claimed that berth despite losing Tuesday to the Cincinnati Reds.
Barry Zito was sharp in his final regular season start and made a strong case to be named the Giants' No. 3 starter when the postseason begins this weekend. Zito was charged with just two runs over six innings.
The Giants have won 11 straight Zito starts and finished 21-11 with Zito on the mound. Zito has allowed just eight runs over his past five starts and finished the season with a 15-8 record and 4.15 ERA.
Sergio Romo came on with the tying run on first and no outs in the bottom of the ninth and picked up his 14th save.
"It was like a playoff game," manager Bruce Bochy said. "That was a good game for us to play in. These guys have continued to play the brand of baseball you need to play. This is a great game for them as they get ready for the playoffs."
A solo homer by Buster Posey gave Zito an early 1-0 lead and all but clinched the National League batting title for Posey, who leads Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen by 10
Barring a historic collapse, Posey will become the seventh batting champion in Giants history and the first catcher to lead the National League in hitting since Ernie Lombardi did it in 1942.
After the Dodgers tied the game in the bottom of the second inning, Joaquin Arias put the Giants back on top in the third with a solo shot, his fifth of the season.
A curious bit of Dodgers decision-making helped the Giants extend their lead in the fifth inning. When the teams squared off Sept. 7 in San Francisco, the Dodgers intentionally walked Angel Pagan to load the bases in the seventh inning of what was then a tie game. Marco Scutaro followed with a two-run single that led the Giants to a 5-2 victory.
In the fifth inning Monday, the Dodgers intentionally walked Pagan with two outs and a runner on second, again setting the stage for Scutaro, who earlier had extended his hitting streak to 19 games. Scutaro again delivered, lining a double to right that scored two and gave the Giants a 4-1 lead.
The Dodgers put runners on second and third for Matt Kemp in the bottom of the inning, but Zito knocked down a liner up the middle and then made an acrobatic throw to first to end the inning.
Zito rarely shows emotion on the mound, but he cut loose after the big play, pumping his fist and screaming as he jogged back to the dugout.
"I was pretty fired up," Zito said. "There's just a lot of history with Kemp. It was awesome to be able to jam him and pick up that ball and throw him out."
The Dodgers got back in the game when A.J. Ellis hit a two-run homer off Guillermo Mota in the seventh inning, but a mental mistake cost them a chance to get even. Mark Ellis hit a shot into the left-center field gap two batters later but was thrown out trying to advance to third. Shane Victorino followed with a triple that led to nothing thanks to Ellis' blunder and Kemp's ensuing strikeout against George Kontos.
If Bochy opts to select only six members of the bullpen for the postseason roster, Mota and Kontos will be the options for the final spot. Kontos, the underdog, might have nabbed that spot Tuesday night. After Mota gave up a double, triple and homer, Kontos got Kemp swinging to quiet a deafening crowd at Dodger Stadium. Bochy said he wanted to see how Kontos would handle the situation, and he was pleased with the result.
"That was my biggest moment in professional baseball," Kontos said. "It was a taste of what the playoffs are like, if I'm fortunate enough to be on the roster.
Javier Lopez and Santiago Casilla are locks for the postseason roster, and they set down the Dodgers in order in the eighth. Romo entered with a runner on first in the ninth and retired all three batters he faced.