Padres fall to Giants as SF clinches division

September 22, 2012

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Bud Black had witnessed this very scene two years ago, only on the season's final day with his team still playing for something.

For the second time in three years, San Diego watched from the visiting dugout as the San Francisco Giants celebrated an NL West title. As difficult as it might have been, Black was glad to see several of the Padres' younger players lingering behind to take it all in as the rivals reveled following an 8-4 victory on Saturday night.

"All of our young players who witnessed this game tonight will be better off for it," Black said. "We have some guys who have been in that position but a lot of guys haven't. It'll be good for them. They'll learn from it."

Losing pitcher Andrew Werner was among the players to stay put in the dugout, arms draped over the railing as the Giants danced and celebrated near the mound before taking a victory lap around AT&T Park.

The rookie left-hander allowed five runs in 3 2-3 innings, the shortest outing of his young career.

"That's what you want to do, you want to be that team that's storming the field," Werner said. "You see that and it hurts, it hurts bad. I'm a little sick to my stomach watching it."

Madison Bumgarner pitched San Francisco to its second NL West title in three years and newcomer Marco Scutaro had three hits and three RBIs to help the Giants capture their eighth divisional crown.

Rookie first baseman Yonder Alonso provided one of the few highlights for San Diego with a two-run homer in the sixth inning. He was another player who remained outside afterward.

"Just to see what it was like, knowing that one day we're going to be there," Alonso said. "We're going to be in that situation. You have to be positive, you have to know that we have a good team and we're going to be there. We're definitely going to be there."

The Giants clinched once again with a victory over the Padres in front of their home fans, a similar story to the season's final day in 2010 on the way to an improbable World Series championship.

Brandon Belt homered leading off the eighth to give the sellout crowd of 42,418 one more thing to stand and cheer about in a season full of such moments.

The real party began after Sergio Romo retired Mark Kotsay on a fly ball to center to end it. Fireworks shot off behind the main center-field scoreboard as the players rushed to the mound and began bouncing up and down.

The Giants pulled on gray NL West champion shirts and white caps, then took their lap, slapping high-fives with any fans they could reach.

This time, San Francisco didn't leave it to the last day -- there are 10 games to go.

"I'll take this one," said manager Bruce Bochy, who left the Padres to manage in Northern California. "I like a margin of error."

Buster Posey and Hunter Pence each hit a sacrifice fly in the first and Bumgarner tacked on an RBI single in the second. Pence singled twice as the Giants won their season-high sixth straight game and moved 26 games above .500 (89-63), the club's best record since finishing the 2003 season 39 games over.

Scutaro's two-run single in the fourth chased Werner (2-2).

Now, Bochy can rest his regulars and prepare his playoff rotation -- but don't count on it. San Francisco is still eying the best record in the National League if it can catch Washington and newly crowned NL Central champion Cincinnati.

The Reds helped make it possible for the Giants to clinch, beating the Los Angeles Dodgers 6-0 at home earlier in the day.

"It's one of those things you don't want to prolong it -- you want to get it done as soon as possible, celebrate and have a good time," Belt said.

These Giants are hardly the castoffs and misfits of the 2010 title team. General manager Brian Sabean again added some key pieces for the second half, getting Scutaro in a trade from Colorado on July 27 and acquiring Pence from the Phillies three days later.

San Francisco also played on, seemingly unfazed, after All-Star game MVP and top hitter Melky Cabrera's suspension Aug. 15 for a positive testosterone test. Just as it did in the season's first month when All-Star closer Brian Wilson was lost to season-ending elbow surgery.

These Giants are still defined by their pitching.

The 23-year-old Bumgarner (16-10) struck out six and walked one in 5 2-3 innings to win his second straight following a four-start winless stretch in which he was 0-3. He took over the team lead for wins and also has the most victories by a Giants left-hander since Kirk Rueter won 16 games in 1998.

"That's pretty cool," Bumgarner said.

Bumgarner was done after yielding Alonso's homer that cut San Francisco's lead to 5-3.

A mix-and-match bullpen that has been so reliable since Wilson went down took over from there. Romo, the fifth reliever of the night after Javier Lopez recorded the first out of the ninth, closed it out to set off a ballpark frenzy.

Pablo Sandoval received a standing ovation when he made an amazing catch in foul territory in the fourth on a popup by Alonso. The burly third baseman fell over the railing of a party suite close to the field, backhanding the ball while grabbing onto the rail with his right hand.

Once back in the dugout, Sandoval received a hug and pat on the back from Bumgarner.

"A deserving champion of winning our division," Black said in congratulating the Giants. "They played well, especially the second half of the season. They've had a great second half."

Padres catcher Yasmani Grandal was a late scratch as a precaution, a day after he left the game in the seventh inning after taking a foul ball off his mask. Black wanted to see how Grandal did in pregame baseball activities before starting him.

NOTES: San Diego named Eric Stults (6-3) its starter for Sunday's series finale. The Giants changed their starter after the clincher to RHP Yusmeiro Petit. ... San Francisco leads the season series 10-4 with four meetings remaining.