By Larry Fine
The second-place Padres topped the Giants in San Francisco in the first two games of their three-game series to stay alive but the home team prevailed on Sunday and secured their first divisional crown and playoff berth since 2003.
An RBI single by Freddy Sanchez scored pitcher Jonathan Sanchez, who had tripled to right-center, for the game's first run in the third inning and Aubrey Huff doubled home Sanchez. Buster Posey added a solo homer in the eighth.
Closer Brian Wilson recorded the last three outs for his 48th save to clinch the crown as San Francisco moved to 92-70 and dropped San Diego to 90-72.
Sanchez made good on a pre-game prediction.
"We aren't going to go to San Diego," Sanchez told his team mates before the game, according to the San Jose Mercury News. "We're going to play here and we're going to win."
Amid the jubilant post-game celebration in the clubhouse, Sanchez said: "I hit the triple, and I said, 'they're done.'"
The Atlanta Braves had guaranteed themselves at least one more game in the 2010 season by beating the Philadelphia Phillies 8-7 earlier on Sunday.
The win boosted Atlanta to 91-71. A victory by the Padres would have created a three-way tie among the teams at 91-71 that would have required a pair of one-game playoffs, but San Diego's loss gave Atlanta the wildcard outright.
The NL Central champion Cincinnati Reds (91-71) will travel to Philadelphia to play the NL East winning Phillies on Wednesday in the opener of their best-of-five Division Series.
The Giants will host the Braves in their series opener on Thursday.
Philadelphia will enjoy home-field advantage throughout the NL playoffs by virtue of their major league best 97-65 record.
Tampa Bay, who later beat the Kansas City Royals 3-2 in 12 innings to improve to 96-66 for the American League's best mark, will host the AL West champion Texas Rangers (90-72) in the opener of their best-of-five Division Series Wednesday.
The Yankees travel to Minnesota (94-84) to begin their series against the AL Central winning Twins Wednesday.
(Editing by Frank Pingue)