Dodgers continue their crawl to October

SAN FRANCISCO -- The offense has stalled. They have frittered away a chance at home-field advantage. Their momentum heading into the playoff is virtually exhausted.

All of which means what, exactly, when the bright lights come on somewhere other than at Dodger Stadium next Thursday, when the Dodgers begin the postseason on national TV? Depends on whom you ask. To manager Don Mattingly, it's all meaningless -- though he used a stronger word for it.

"You know, I'd like to see all kinds of things. I'd love to see us go out and get 10 runs a night and throw shutouts and everybody get their outs, but I'm going to be honest with you, I don't think any of it's going to matter one bit," Mattingly said. "What's going to matter is the game next Thursday."

If Mattingly's words don’t convince you, perhaps his lineups will. Yet Thursday was one of those evenings when Mattingly started nearly all of his frontline guys, with catcher A.J. Ellis the only healthy regular who wasn't in the starting lineup.

And still, they allowed Tim Lincecum to turn back the clock a couple of years in what may have been his final start as a Giant in a 3-2 Dodgers loss.

The Dodgers were eliminated from the race for best record in the National League. And, unless the St. Louis Cardinals implode this weekend at home against the last-place Chicago Cubs and the Dodgers sweep the Colorado Rockies, the Dodgers will begin the playoffs on the road.

The bigger worry is that the Dodgers can't generate any momentum going into October. Lately, they seem to be gazing ahead at the playoffs rather than focusing on these final regular-season games. They're 6-9 since Sept. 10.

Angel Pagan hit the go-ahead home run in the eighth inning off reliever Paco Rodriguez, who hadn't pitched in more than a week. One of the Dodgers' best relievers has been struggling for a solid month.

"Obviously you don't want to do that," Mattingly said. "Better now than a few days from now."

Edinson Volquez may have pitched his way into a postseason role as a long reliever. He dominated San Francisco for four innings before they began to get at him in the fifth. Volquez gave up two runs and four hits and struck out four. In his past four starts, he has a 3.24 ERA.

One could even suggest Volquez should be used over Ricky Nolasco -- who has a 12.75 ERA in his last three starts -- if the Dodgers' first-round playoff series lasts four games. But Mattingly essentially shot that down Wednesday, saying "your guys are your guys," which intimates Nolasco will remain in the rotation.

The Dodgers wasted opportunities against Lincecum. They scored one run after Carl Crawford's one-out triple in the first inning, but left two runners on. Tim Federowicz got thrown out at the plate in the second. Matt Kemp hit into a double play, erasing a rally in the third. And, after Mark Ellis doubled with nobody out, Federowicz, Volquez and Yasiel Puig all struck out in the fourth.

Does any of it matter? Ask again in a couple of weeks.