Padres win second straight division title

PHOENIX (AP) -- It took San Diego until the final inning of the

final game to lock up the NL West title.

That's fitting, because these Padres have a penchant for doing

things the hard way. They watched as Trevor Hoffman, baseball's

career saves leader, gave up consecutive home runs Sunday before

closing out a 7-6 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks on one of

the season's strangest plays.

"It's kind of the way it's gone," San Diego manager Bruce

Bochy said. "Nothing is easy."

The Padres and Los Angeles Dodgers each finished 88-74, and both

teams had already clinched playoff spots. San Diego earned its

second straight division title and the Dodgers got the wild card

because of the tiebreaker -- the Padres went 13-5 against Los

Angeles this season.

Playoff appearances of 2006 teams
Team Team History
Times In
Yankees 1913-2005
Cardinals 1900-2005
L.A. Dodgers 1958-2005
Oakland A's 1968-2005
Tigers 1901-2005
Mets 1962-2005
Twins 1961-2005
Padres 1969-2005

On Tuesday, the Padres will open the playoffs at home against

St. Louis in a rematch from last year -- the Cardinals swept that

series in three games. The Dodgers will start the postseason

Wednesday at the New York Mets.

The Padres trailed the Dodgers as late as Sept. 16 before

winning 12 of their final 16 games.

The last one will be hard to forget.

Knowing that a victory would clinch the division title, the

Padres jumped on Arizona starter Brandon Webb (16-8). They took a

1-0 first-inning lead on Mike Piazza's RBI double, then scored six

runs in the fourth to make it 7-0.

Geoff Blum and pitcher Woody Williams singled home runs, Brian Giles drew a bases-loaded walk and Adrian Gonzalez hit a two-run

double. Another run scored on a wild pitch.

Williams (12-5) allowed four runs and six hits in 6 2/3 innings,

with no walks or strikeouts.

"He pitched great, and then he hit great, too," Webb said.

Williams said the 7-0 lead gave him confidence as the game wore


"Nothing to take away from the Diamondbacks, I believe we were

just meant to win the division," Williams said. "But they gave us

all that we could handle and never quit from the word 'go.' "

Webb, a leading Cy Young Award candidate, turned in his worst

outing of the season. He allowed seven runs in four innings, his

shortest start of the season. He gave up eight hits, walked two and

struck out five.

Webb entered the game with a league-best 2.88 ERA. He left with

a 3.10 ERA, which ranks third behind Houston's Roy Oswalt (2.98)

and St. Louis' Chris Carpenter (3.09).

Trailing 7-0 in the fourth, the Diamondbacks rallied on two

homers by Chad Tracy and another by Craig Counsell, probably

playing his last game with the team.

Tracy's second homer, a solo shot, came off Hoffman and made it

7-5. The next batter, Conor Jackson, followed with a home run to

cut San Diego's lead to 7-6.

Hoffman walked Carlos Quentin and then retired Chris Snyder on a

fielder's choice grounder. That set up a bizarre ending.

Pinch-runner Chris Young was on first base when Alberto Callaspo

hit a two-out grounder to second baseman Josh Barfield, whose throw

pulled Gonzalez off first base.

But Gonzalez alertly threw to second in time to get Young, who

slipped as he let the grounder get past him. Second base umpire

Larry Poncino originally signaled safe when shortstop Khalil Greene

failed to tag Young, then changed the call on a forceout when Bochy


"It was strange," said Gonzalez, who tied a career high with

four hits. "When Callaspo hit it, I saw Young jump and try and get

away from the ball. I saw him fall, didn't think anything of it at

the time, but when Barfield's throw was a little off line I knew I

still had a shot at second."

Hoffman, the major league saves leader with 482, wound up with

his 46th save in 51 chances.

It was an emotional day for the Diamondbacks, who said goodbye

to fan favorite Luis Gonzalez after eight seasons. The club

announced last month it would not exercise its $10 million option

on the 39-year-old outfielder, the Diamondbacks' leader in most

career batting categories.

A sellout crowd of 48,946, the largest regular-season crowd in

team history, turned out to honor Gonzalez, whose bloop single

drove home the winning run in the 2001 World Series.

The team painted a purple "20" in left field and showed

tributes from fans on the center-field video board between innings.

There was also a "4" painted on the dirt behind second base to

honor shortstop Craig Counsell, who is also not expected to return

in 2007.

Gonzalez, Counsell and pitcher Miguel Batista, who is also

unlikely to re-sign with Arizona, are the last remaining roster

links to the 2001 World Series champions.

Manager Bob Melvin recognized the three players by having them

deliver the lineup card to the umpires.

Counsell left on a high note, hitting a 3-2 pitch from Williams

into the right-field seats for his fourth home run, prompting a

curtain call from the fans.

Game notes
The Diamondbacks finished the season with a losing record

for the third straight year. Their only other losing season was

1998, their inaugural season. Arizona posted winning records from

1999-2003. ... Williams, a .176 hitter, singled twice in three