Bumgarner, Scutaro Deliver As Giants Win NL West
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) ? Madison Bumgarner pitched San Francisco to its second NL West title in three years and newcomer Marco Scutaro had three hits and three RBIs in the Giants' 8-4 win over the San Diego Padres on Saturday night.
The Giants captured their eighth divisional crown ? wrapping it up once again with a victory over the Padres in front of their home fans, just as they did on the season's final day in 2010 on the way to an improbable World Series championship.
"I'll take this one," manager Bruce Bochy said. "I like a margin of error."
Brandon Belt homered leading off the eighth to give the sellout crowd of 42,418 one more thing to stand and cheer about in a season full of such moments.
The real party began after Sergio Romo retired Mark Kotsay on a fly ball to center to end it. Fireworks shot off behind the main center-field scoreboard as the players rushed to the mound and began bouncing up and down.
"It's the first step," Pablo Sandoval said. "We're excited to get it done early."
The Giants pulled on gray NL West champion T-shirts and white caps, then took a victory lap around the ballpark slapping high-fives with the fans ? even jumping to reach those supporters hanging over the outfield fences. As music blared and fans roared, Romo held his gray shirt high and waved it for everyone to see.
"It never gets old," general manager Brian Sabean said in the champagne-soaked clubhouse.
Buster Posey and Hunter Pence each hit a sacrifice fly in the first and Bumgarner tacked on an RBI single in the second. Pence singled twice as the Giants won their season-high sixth straight game and moved 26 games above .500 (89-63), the club's best record since finishing the 2003 season 39 games over.
Scutaro singled in the first to match his career-best hitting streak of 12 games, also accomplished from April 9-21, 2004, while with Oakland. He is tied with Milwaukee's Norichika Aoki for longest active streak in the National League.
Scutaro's two-run single in the fourth chased rookie Andrew Werner (2-2). He singled in another run in the sixth.
Now, Bochy can rest his regulars and prepare his playoff rotation ? but don't count on it. San Francisco is still eying the best record in the National League if it can catch Washington and newly crowned NL Central champion Cincinnati.
The Reds helped make it possible for the Giants to clinch, beating the Los Angeles Dodgers 6-0 at home earlier in the day again without hospitalized manager Dusty Baker.
"It's one of those things you don't want to prolong it ? you want to do it as soon as possible," Belt said.
These Giants are hardly the castoffs and misfits of the 2010 title team. Sabean again added some key pieces for the second half, getting Scutaro in a trade from Colorado on July 27 and acquiring Pence from the Phillies three days later.
San Francisco also played on, seemingly unfazed, after All-Star game MVP and top hitter Melky Cabrera received a 50-game suspension Aug. 15 for a positive testosterone test. Just as it did in the season's first month when All-Star closer and 2010 major league saves leader Brian Wilson was lost to season-ending elbow surgery.
These Giants are still defined by their pitching.
The 23-year-old Bumgarner (16-10) struck out six and walked one in 5 2-3 innings to win his second straight following a four-start winless stretch in which he was 0-3. He took over the team lead for wins and also has the most victories by a Giants left-hander since Kirk Rueter won 16 games in 1998.
"That's pretty cool," Bumgarner said.
Bumgarner knows plenty about coming through in big games. He won Game 4 of the World Series at Texas two years ago as a rookie.
But Bumgarner was done after surrendering a two-run homer to Yonder Alonso with two outs in the sixth to cut San Francisco's lead to 5-3.
A mix-and-match bullpen that has been so reliable since Wilson went down took over from there. Romo, the fifth reliever of the night after Javier Lopez recorded the first out of the ninth, closed it out to set off a ballpark frenzy.
Sandoval received a standing ovation when he made an amazing catch in foul territory in the fourth on a popup by Alonso. The burly third baseman fell over the railing of a party suite close to the field, backhanding the ball while grabbing onto the rail with his right hand.
Once back in the dugout, Sandoval received a hug and pat on the back from Bumgarner.
Chemistry and depth have been big parts of this team's success. From Wilson going down, to Sandoval's two stints on the disabled list, Tim Lincecum's struggles and Cabrera's suspension, this group has pushed through each challenge.
The Padres know this feeling all too well. They were still in contention on the last day in 2010, then eliminated in the division and wild-card races by the Giants.
Padres catcher Yasmani Grandal was a late scratch as a precaution, a day after he left the game in the seventh inning after taking a foul ball off his mask. Manager Bud Black wanted to see how Grandal did in pregame baseball activities before starting him.
NOTES: Bumgarner is 31-3 when the Giants score at least three runs for him. He improved to 3-0 with a 3.04 ERA in four starts this season vs. the Padres. ... San Diego named Eric Stults (6-3) its starter for Sunday's series finale. Lincecum (10-14) goes for the Giants. ... Bumgarner is batting .162 (11 for 68). ... San Francisco leads the season series 10-4 with four meetings remaining.
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