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Diamondbacks prevent Padres from clinching playoff berth

Sep 30, 2006 - 4:24 AM PHOENIX (Ticker) -- Eric Byrnes and Livan Hernandez helped keep the San Diego Padres from popping some champagne corks.

Byrnes belted a two-run homer and Hernandez pitched seven effective innings to lead the Arizona Diamondbacks to a 3-1 victory over the Padres.

Arizona's triumph denied San Diego (86-74) a chance to clinch a postseason spot for the second straight year and fifth time in franchise history.

"It is more of a pride issue for us," Diamondbacks manager Bob Melvin said. "You don't derive your motivation from beating another team and knocking them out of the playoffs or beating them in a pennant race. ... It is all about pride and playing our division games tough."

With the loss, San Diego now is tied with the Los Angeles Dodgers atop the National League West Division. The Padres hold the tiebreaker over the Dodgers, who rallied for a 4-3 victory over the San Francisco Giants on Friday.

Both the Padres and the Dodgers hold a two-game edge over the Philadelphia Phillies in the wild card race.

"We know we have to just win ballgames, but we just got beat tonight," Padres manager Bruce Bochy said. "We have heard for over a month how important every series is, every game is. We are not going to change anything. We have to come out and play our game.

"As far as pressure, it has been there all month. Every series has been a make-or-break series, and the guys have responded very well."

Byrnes opened the scoring in the third inning when be smacked a two-run shot, his 26th homer of the season and third in five games, over the left field wall off starter Clay Hensley.

"Craig Counsell was the guy who worked the walk, and that was huge because it gave me the opportunity to get up there and get lucky," Byrnes said. "The most important thing is that we are facing them at their best and we are being competitive. That is real important for the group of young guys we have here."

Pinch hitter Ryan Klesko recorded one of San Diego's four hits in the seventh, when he plated Russell Branyan with a single to right field, cutting the deficit to 2-1.

However, Carlos Quentin gave Arizona a little more breathing room in the bottom of the seventh by lining a double off the center field wall to score Stephen Drew.

Hernandez (13-13) raised his record to 4-5 in 10 starts with Arizona this year after yielding one run, four hits and three walks. He also struck out four.

"I tried to do something I used to before, and that was to get my arm down and throw three-quarters," Hernandez said. "With my knee getting better, I can do that now and I was trying it a lot tonight for next year. It allowed my sinker to stay down and work better."

Two relievers bridged the gap to closer Jose Valverde, who retired the side in order in the ninth for his 18th save.

Hensley (11-12) had a personal three-game winning streak snapped by surrendering two runs and four hits in six frames. He walked one and struck out four.

"I made some stupid pitches in big situations," Hensley said. "The home run by Byrnes wasn't a bad pitch, but the 3-2 changeup to Counsell was. I should have thrown him a fastball. It wasn't a smart decision."

The Padres lost for just the second time in nine games and fell to 18-9 in September.

"It is not like we have to wish for those guys to lose," Padres second baseman Todd Walker said. "We still control our own destiny. ... We have a really loose clubhouse. Nobody is worried, nobody is panicking."

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