Braves loss tightens N.L. playoff race
The San Diego Padres showed up in San Francisco on the verge of elimination, their hitters in a serious funk and plenty of people counting them out.
Two dramatic wins and they’re right back in the mix to still win the N.L. West or land the wild card.
Heath Bell stopped a Giants rally in the ninth inning and the visiting Padres beat San Francisco 4-2 on Saturday, leaving a pair of N.L. playoff races in question heading into the final day of the season.
The Padres still must win today to have a shot at the division title. If Atlanta then loses again today to the Phillies, the Giants and Padres would both celebrate playoff berths simultaneously at AT&T Park – the winner as the West champion, loser as the wild card.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it would be only the second time two teams clinched postseason berths in the same ballpark. On Oct. 5, 2001, the Astros and Cardinals did it – but that was on the Friday before the season ended.
“It’s one that you want to win, both sides want to win,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “Have to? I don’t know. We’re in a situation where we do have a little margin of error but we’d certainly like to win it.”
Pablo Sandoval hit an RBI single with one out in the ninth, but Bell got pinch-hitter Jose Guillen to ground into a game-ending double play with runners at the corners.
Tim Stauffer (6-5) gave San Diego another clutch start, and the Padres pulled within one game of the Giants in the N.L. West. The Padres tied Atlanta for the wild-card spot when the Braves lost to Philadelphia 7-0.
Ace Mat Latos (14-9) goes today for San Diego against Jonathan Sanchez (12-9), who is 2-5 lifetime versus the Padres but also threw a no-hitter against them last year. In August, Sanchez guaranteed a three-game sweep of the Padres but San Francisco dropped two of three.
The Braves are running out of chances to send Bobby Cox into retirement with one more playoff appearance.
Vance Worley combined with four relievers on a three-hitter and the Philadelphia beat punchless Atlanta to drop the Braves into a tie for the N.L. wild-card spot.
Atlanta’s loss and San Diego’s win over San Francisco left the Braves and Padres tied for the wild card with one game left in the regular season.
The Braves’ hopes of advancing to the postseason in Cox’s final season as manager will be on the line against the Phillies today. Atlanta ace Tim Hudson is scheduled to face Cole Hamels.
Phillies manager Charlie Manuel, preparing his rotation for the playoffs, told the Associated Press on Saturday that Hamels will “probably” pitch only two innings. Manuel said Roy Oswalt “will pitch somewhere in the game” behind Hamels.
Worley, making his second major league start, gave up only a fourth-inning double to Derrek Lee in five innings.
He combined with Antonio Bastardo (2-0), Danys Baez, Ryan Madson and Jose Contreras on the shutout.
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