for this game

Gonzalez leads the Padres to NL West crown

Oct 2, 2006 - 12:02 AM PHOENIX (Ticker) -- The San Diego Padres celebrated a postseason berth in their penultimate game of the season. They completed business in the season finale.

Adrian Gonzalez and Mike Piazza combined to batter Cy Young candidate Brandon Webb in the early frames and the Padres survived a scary ninth inning to wrap up the National League West Division with a 7-6 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks.

San Diego (88-74) won its way into the playoffs for a second straight season with Saturday's 3-1 triumph but needed a win in the season finale to assure a division title and home-field advantage in the first round.

The Padres entered Sunday tied with the Los Angeles Dodgers for the top spot in the NL West but held the tiebreaker by virtue of winning the season series.

"There is a lot of pride, a lot of pride," Padres manager Bruce Bochy said. "To have back-to-back years of winning the division means a lot. The Phillies and Dodgers were relentless and fortunately we were too. We responded well and got it done.

With the victory, San Diego will host NL Central champion St. Louis on Tuesday in a rematch of last year's Division Series. Los Angeles will travel to New York for a matchup with the Mets.

"We like the fact that we are opening up at home as opposed to the last few postseasons we have had against them," Trevor Hoffman said. "We have been playing great recently and we had to. Everybody has been nipping at out heels for the last month or so and it went down to the wire."

Gonzalez reached on a two-out single in the first off Webb (16-8) and scored on a double by Piazza for a 1-0 lead. Gonzalez opened a six-run fourth with a single and advanced to third on another two-bagger by Piazza.

"We knew we would have to have great at-bats against Webb and be patient," Gonzalez said. "Once we got the first one, that was huge, but then to get the six runs in the fourth gave us some comfort zone for Woody to do his thing."

After Webb struck out the next two hitters, Geoff Blum singled in two runs, Josh Barfield singled and pitcher Woody Williams plated a third run with a base hit.

Webb walked two batters, including Brian Giles with the bases loaded, before Gonzalez capped the frame with a two-run double for a 7-0 lead.

That made a winner of Williams (12-5), who yielded four runs and six hits in 6 2/3 innings to improve to 5-0 in six September starts.

"I didn't make good pitches late in the game like I did early in the game, Williams said. "It is great getting the opportunity to win a game like this. Now with the playoffs, we are confident but not over confident. We know we can play with anyone in the league. It is just a matter of going out there and being consistent."

After Alan Embree and Scott Linebrink got four outs, record-setting closer Trevor Hoffman survived back-to-back homers by Chad Tracy - his second of the game - and Conor Jackson in the ninth before notching his 482nd career save and 46th this season. In Webb's worst outing of the campaign, the righthander was tagged for seven runs and eight hits in four frames.

"It might be the first bad game he has pitched all year," Diamondback manager Bob Melvin said. "If that game happens early in the year we forget all about. It is unfortunate that a guy I felt has pitched better then anybody I have seen is unbelievable. For me he is the best pitcher in the National League."

Craig Counsell homered for Arizona (76-86), which was in first place at 34-22 on June 3 before losing 20 of its next 23 games.

"It was a very strange year," Melvin said. "We were real good out of the gate then struggled mightily in June then dug back. "We had a lot of tough games that we had to put away and come back and play the next day. I am glad it is over today."






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