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Padres Clinch First

From Associated Press

The San Diego Padres clinched the fourth division title in their 37-year history on Wednesday night, beating the San Francisco Giants, 9-1, to return to the postseason for the first time since being swept by the New York Yankees in the 1998 World Series.

“There’s not a greater feeling,” Manager Bruce Bochy said. “This team’s been pushed. These guys responded. It’s been a bumpy road, but I couldn’t be prouder of these guys.”

Midseason acquisition Pedro Astacio took a shutout into the seventh. Rookie Ben Johnson had three hits, scored twice and had a run batted in, and Mark Loretta had three hits and two RBIs.

Trevor Hoffman, the only player who has been with the Padres continuously since 1998, pitched the ninth in a non-save situation. Hoffman earned saves when the Padres clinched in 1996 and ’98.

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“Regardless of what our record was, these guys played like it was playoff baseball. So hopefully we’re gaining momentum,” he said.

Barry Bonds was two for three for the Giants, both singles.

Now the Padres (79-79) need to win three of their last four games to finish above .500 for only the 11th time in their history. Since 1969, and excluding strike years, the 1973 New York Mets have the lowest winning percentage of a division champion by going 82-79 (.509) to win the NL East.

Winning the title in baseball’s worst division was a drawn-out process for the Padres. They went 22-6 in May to set a franchise record for wins in a month, and were 33-19 on May 31. They are 46-60 since June 1.

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Astacio (4-2) left to a standing ovation after giving up Ray Durham’s double and Edgardo Alfonzo’s single to open the seventh.

The Padres beat injured San Francisco ace Jason Schmidt, who pitched in a last-gasp effort for the Giants (74-84) despite being slowed most of the month by a strained groin.

The clincher drew 33,992 at 42,500-seat Petco Park.


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