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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.

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
on.

"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
protested.

"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
at-bats.