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Giants closing in on playoffs

By Janie McCauley

Associated Press


SAN FRANCISCO » The San Francisco Giants are looking a lot like a playoff team in the season's final week. They're darn close to getting there, too -- and San Diego is helping with that.

Juan Uribe matched a career best with his 23rd home run and the first-place Giants increased their NL West lead over the Padres to two games with a 4-2 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks last night.

"We're close," said Pablo Sandoval, who hit a key two-out double in the sixth. "Five more games. We have to play hard. Don't get comfortable."

The Padres lost 5-2 at home to the Chicago Cubs, leaving San Diego 1 1/2 games behind Atlanta in the wild card. San Francisco's win eliminated the Colorado Rockies from playoff contention and gave the Giants a magic number of four to clinch their first playoff berth since 2003.

San Francisco's players and coaches could hear the crowd cheering on the Cubs.

"This game puts us in first place two games up. If we win tomorrow we're even closer to winning the division," pitcher Jonathan Sanchez said.

Uribe hit a tying solo drive leading off the fourth. He also had 23 homers in 2004 with the White Sox.

Sanchez (12-9) struck out six in six innings to reach 200 Ks in a season for the first time in his career.

Sanchez retired Chris Young on a called third strike to start the sixth. Sanchez joined Tim Lincecum as the first Giants righty-lefty combo to have 200 or more strikeouts since Juan Marichal and Ray Sadecki in 1968.

Sanchez didn't know about his total until pitching coach Dave Righetti gave him the ball.

"That's a lot of strikeouts," Sanchez said with a grin. "I don't know my stats."

Pinch hitter Nate Schierholtz hit a go-ahead single in the sixth inning for San Francisco after the double by Sandoval, whose two hits were a good sign for the Giants considering his recent struggles.

Mike Fontenot added an RBI single in the third right after Andres Torres' leadoff triple. Pat Burrell singled in a run in the seventh for the Giants, who kicked off their final homestand of the year by winning for the sixth time in eight games and 17th in 25.

San Francisco ends the regular season with three games against the Padres this weekend that likely will decide the division champion -- if it doesn't happen earlier.

Sanchez has been San Francisco's most reliable starter of late, going 3-1 with a 1.16 ERA over his past six starts. He allowed three hits and two runs and walked four yesterday.

The lefty ran into trouble in the second but kept the damage to a minimum. After Adam LaRoche's leadoff single and a strikeout of Tony Abreu, Sanchez walked Miguel Montero and intentionally walked Cole Gillespie to load the bases. That brought up pitcher Rodrigo Lopez, who hit a sacrifice fly to put Arizona ahead 1-0.

Giants manager Bruce Bochy had a reliever warming up in the bullpen just in case. But Sanchez settled down and found his groove.

"That's the reason they're in first place. They get themselves out of tough situations," Young said.

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