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LOS ANGELES (AP) — A must-win game turned into a job the Los Angeles Dodgers couldn’t get done.
They were eliminated from playoff contention, their wild-card hopes dashed Tuesday night with a 4-3 loss to Barry Zito and the San Francisco Giants.
“Everything kind of comes to a screeching halt,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. “To not have that opportunity to move forward is painful.”
The defeat left the Dodgers two games behind St. Louis with only one game left in the regular season. Los Angeles had won six in a row to stay in the race for the second NL wild-card spot, but Mark Ellis lined out to center field with a runner on second base to end it.
“It doesn’t feel that good right now,” Ellis said in a silent clubhouse.
The Dodgers fell short despite adding first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, pitcher Josh Beckett, infielder Hanley Ramirez and outfielder Shane Victorino in July trades.
“There’s a lot of intangibles that go into a team firing on all cylinders,” losing pitcher Chris Capuano said.
The defending World Series champion Cardinals claimed the final berth in this year’s major league playoffs. St. Louis will be at Atlanta on Friday in a one-game matchup to see which team advances to the division round.
Zito won his seventh straight decision, Buster Posey and Joaquin Arias homered and the NL West champion Giants finished off their longtime rivals.
The Dodgers knew early in their game that Cincinnati had beaten St. Louis 3-1, opening the door for them to remain in the chase. But they couldn’t capitalize, and will miss the playoffs for the third straight season and first under the club’s new ownership, including Magic Johnson and Mark Walter, who watched from their box.
“We’re not so much into knocking people out,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “There’s a lot of history between these two clubs. Both clubs have knocked each other out.”
Zito (15-8) continued his best stretch since joining the Giants in 2007. They’ve won his last 11 outings as the left-hander has gone 7-0 for the first time since he won eight in a row with Oakland from June 28-Aug. 4, 2005.
“Personally, I don’t like to read into numbers too much,” Zito said. “Sometimes you go out there and feel kind of crappy and you win, and other times you feel great and you lose. (The streak) is just evidence that the team has been scoring a lot of runs and playing good ‘D’ when I’m on the mound.”
The former AL Cy Young winner allowed two runs and six hits in six-plus innings, struck out six and walked one to put himself in contention for a start in the NL division series.
Sergio Romo got three outs in the ninth to earn his 14th save in 15 chances after Jeremy Affeldt gave up a leadoff single to Andre Ethier that had Dodgers fans on their feet to end the game. Pinch runner Dee Gordon stole second with two outs on a close play, but Ellis hit a liner that center fielder Angel Pagan charged in to catch.
“To see Pagan catch that ball, it’s kind of like the season is pretty much over,” Matt Kemp said.
Capuano (12-12) gave up two runs and five hits in three-plus innings, his shortest outing of the season. He allowed both home runs and didn’t record any strikeouts or walks. The left-hander has lost five straight decisions against the Giants and fell to 1-7 in 13 career games against them.
“Kind of a bitter pill for us to swallow,” Capuano said. “We really battled to the last out and had a chance. The last week has been fun. It’s disappointing we couldn’t finish it.”
(©2012 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)