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SF@LAD: Vogelsong fans seven over five strong frames

LOS ANGELES -- The 5-1 defeat that the Los Angeles Dodgers handed the Giants on Wednesday was thoroughly meaningless. But that didn't mean it was irrelevant.

Game 162 of the regular season was essential for Ryan Vogelsong, who may or may not join San Francisco's contingent of starting pitchers for the Division Series against Cincinnati.

One of San Francisco's five starters will move to the bullpen. The likeliest choices are Barry Zito (15-8) and Vogelsong (14-9). Tim Lincecum (10-15) likely will leapfrog Zito and Vogelsong to receive a Division Series start, due partly to his considerable postseason success in 2010.

Whatever role Vogelsong occupies against the Reds, he's ready for it.

Vogelsong surrendered an unearned run and just two hits in five innings. Giants manager Bruce Bochy limited the right-hander's workload to keep him fresh in case he's needed in relief in Games 1 or 2 against Cincinnati.

"We didn't want to overextend him," Bochy said.

Vogelsong conceivably could throw an inning or two out of the bullpen this weekend, if he's needed, and start later in the series should he receive that assignment.

"We've got him where we wanted him," Bochy said. "He's all set to go. Now it's just a matter of how we set them up."

For Vogelsong, who allowed one earned run in 17 innings spanning his final three outings, a postseason start would be another milestone in his remarkable ascent from Triple-A reject in 2010 to National League All-Star the following year.

"Personally, I would love to have the opportunity to start a playoff game," Vogelsong said. "But at this point, it's not about me. It's about us. If the decision is that I'm going to the bullpen for the playoffs and that's best for us, that's what I'm going to do."

Vogelsong tried to condition himself for whatever's in store for him against the Reds.

"I tried to treat today like a playoff game, mentally," he said, acknowledging that he never has participated in a Major League postseason.

Vogelsong's mind games worked. He walked one, struck out seven and probably would have been unscored upon if second baseman Marco Scutaro had held onto Luis Cruz's pop fly in short right field. Tim Federowicz and opposing pitcher Clayton Kershaw followed with singles to generate Los Angeles' first run in the fifth inning.

"That's probably the best I've thrown the ball all season, location-wise," Vogelsong said.

Otherwise, this was one of those games that's played mainly to fulfill the obligations of the schedule.

"It's a tough day to play because you're not really playing for anything," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "You play the whole season and you've got to come out here one more time."

Scutaro, Angel Pagan, Pablo Sandoval, Buster Posey and Hunter Pence were removed from the game after getting two or three at-bats apiece. This reflected Bochy's intention to keep his top regulars sharp while giving them some opportunity to rest before Saturday's Division Series opener.

After Kershaw retired the first 10 Giants he faced, Scutaro singled to right field to lengthen his hitting streak to 20 games -- the longest active streak in the Major Leagues as well as a personal best.

Scutaro advanced to third base on Sandoval's double and scored on a groundout by Posey, who finished with 103 RBIs. Posey went 0-for-2 but secured the NL batting title with a .336 average.

Los Angeles broke a 1-1 tie in the sixth inning against Clay Hensley (4-5) as Andre Ethier doubled and scored on Adrian Gonzalez's two-out single. Alex Castellanos and Juan Rivera homered off Jean Machi in the eighth to extend the Dodgers' lead.

Los Angeles captured two of three games from the Giants, who absorbed their first defeat in a road series since July 6-8 at Pittsburgh. Since then, they had won 10 series and split one.

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