Published October 03, 2012
LOS ANGELES – Buster Posey has gone from missing most of last season after a violent collision at home plate to winning the NL batting title.
And the San Francisco Giants are headed to the playoffs as NL West champions.
The 25-year-old catcher went 0 for 2 in a 5-1 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Wednesday, finishing with a .336 average to claim the title. He's the first Giants player to win it since Barry Bonds in 2004 and the first Giants catcher to do so. The previous catcher to win the NL title was Boston's Ernie Lombardi, who hit .330 in 1942.
"I don't think it's something that you ever think about doing," Posey said. "It's such a long season, and from day one, you try to grind out at-bats no matter what the situation is. And if you can go up there and are able to make some adjustments, good things will happen."
In May 2011, Posey broke a bone in his left leg and tore three ankle ligaments on a horrific collision at the plate with the Florida Marlins' Scott Cousins.
"I give a lot of credit to our entire training staff for all the work they did in the offseason to get me back on the field," he said. "Even though this is an individual accomplishment, there's other people who deserve credit."
Posey credited the 29 starts he made at first base for helping him endure the 162-game season.
"That reprieve you get over there at first base does make a difference because it is a grind," he said. "You're going to take foul balls and just sitting back in the crouch for three hours every night wears on you."
The Giants finished with a 94-68 record, including 46-35 on the road.
"We really didn't know how much we could play him, and he exceeded our expectations," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said about Posey. "To do what he did this year and win a batting title after coming off that devastating injury, it's truly amazing. It shows you what a talent he is and how hard he worked to get back into playing condition."
Clay Hensley (4-5) gave up one run and two hits in one inning to take the loss for the Giants, who open the NL division series on Saturday against Cincinnati.
Giants starter Ryan Vogelsong allowed one run on two hits in five innings, struck out seven and walked one. He retired his first 10 batters.
"It was a little bit of a roller-coaster — really good, to really bad, back to pretty good again," the right-hander said of his season. "Today was probably the best I've thrown the ball all season, location-wise. I didn't miss many pitches. Mentally, I decided to take today like it was a playoff game. Obviously, I've never been in a playoff game before, so I tried to prep myself a little bit."
Vogelsong would rather be in the rotation for the playoffs than work out of the bullpen.
"But at this point, it's not about me. It's about us," he said. "If the decision is that I'm going to the bullpen for the playoffs is best for us, then that's what I'm going to do."
Clayton Kershaw finished with a major league-leading 2.53 ERA and Adrian Gonzalez singled in the go-ahead run in the sixth inning for the Dodgers a day after they were eliminated from playoff contention for the third straight year.
Kershaw (14-9) allowed one run and three hits in eight innings, struck out eight and walked three in his 33rd start, tying a career high.
The reigning NL Cy Young Award winner recorded 229 strikeouts, one behind NL leader R.A. Dickey of the New York Mets. The left-hander became the first pitcher to lead the league in ERA in consecutive seasons since Arizona's Randy Johnson in 2001-02.
Kershaw became the first Dodgers pitcher to do so since Sandy Koufax from 1962-66.
Dodgers slugger Matt Kemp struck out twice to end the season 0 for 10 with seven strikeouts in the three-game series, which the Dodgers won, 2-1, giving them four straight series victories for the first time this season.
Afterward, Kemp announced he will have left shoulder surgery Friday. He has a torn labrum.
"They're going to see what's going on inside of there and hopefully just clean it up," the right-handed hitter said. "If they need to do more, they'll do more, but I won't know anything until I wake up."
Gonzalez finished on a 15-game hitting streak, longest on the team he joined from Boston on Aug. 25. He drove in Andre Ethier, who doubled, with two outs to give the Dodgers a 2-1 lead. They tied the game 1-1 on Kershaw's RBI single in the fifth — the Dodgers' first hit off Vogelsong.
Kenley Jansen pitched the ninth for his 26th save in 32 chances.
The Dodgers made it 5-1 in the eighth on homers by Alex Castellanos and Juan Rivera, who had a two-run shot.
San Francisco led 1-0 in the fourth on Posey's RBI groundout to shortstop, scoring Marco Scutaro, who singled to extend his hitting streak to 20 games.
NOTES: The Giants will start RHP Matt Cain in the opener of the NL division series against Cincinnati on Saturday, and LHP Madison Bumgarner in Game 2 on Sunday. ... Scutaro joined 3B Pablo Sandoval and CF Angel Pagan as the first trio of Giants with 20-plus-game hitting streaks in a season since 1918. ... Dodgers manager Don Mattingly used his everyday lineup with one exception. C A.J. Ellis got the day off and was replaced by rookie Tim Federowicz. ... Ellis finished his first full season in the major leagues with a .270 average, 13 home runs and 52 RBIs. ... The Dodgers' season attendance of 3,324,246 was third-best in the NL. ... Dodgers organist Nancy Bea Hefley signed a three-year contract extension. ... Wednesday marked the 61st anniversary of Bobby Thomson's pennant-clinching home run off Dodgers pitcher Ralph Branca, known as the "Shot heard 'round the world."