- Associated Press - Sunday, October 3, 2010

SAN FRANCISCO | Jonathan Sanchez pulled on a pair of ski goggles to assure himself a clear view of the celebration. No champagne eyes.

The San Francisco Giants held their celebratory clubhouse party, at last, following a tough two-day wait.

Sanchez pitched the Giants back into the playoffs after a six-year absence and also provided a clutch hit, beating the San Diego Padres 3-0 Sunday to wrap up the NL West title.

“I told myself, ‘This is my last start and I’m going to win this game,’” Sanchez said.

Buster Posey homered and the Giants got it done — on their third try against the Padres this weekend — to capture their first division crown and playoff berth since 2003.

“It’s been seven years since we’ve seen something like this,” closer Brian Wilson said. “It’s been a rollercoaster the entire season.”

San Francisco will host the wild-card Atlanta Braves starting Thursday at AT&T Park, with ace Tim Lincecum well rested to go in Game 1. The Braves beat the Phillies 8-7 earlier in the day, extending manager Bobby Cox’s farewell season.

Two NL playoff races came down to Game 162.

San Diego missed a chance to force a Monday playoff with the Giants at Petco Park to decide the NL West winner. The loser of that would have flown to Atlanta to determine the wild card had there been a three-way tie.

Manager Bruce Bochy instructed his players not to pack any bags. He told them the regular season would end Sunday.

When it did, the Giants let loose.

Pablo Sandoval and other Giants waved orange towels atop the dugout steps after Wilson’s first two pitches were strikes to Will Venable with two outs in the ninth.

When Venable struck out swinging one pitch later, Posey ran out to Wilson and they jumped together at the mound. The rest of the Giants joined them and gray NL West champion shirts were quickly handed out.

The Giants then took a victory lap along the outfield warning track, slapping hands with fans leaning over the fence. Bochy brought up the rear of the lap, tipping his cap and waving it over and over again.

“It’s a group that coalesced into a team that wants to get there,” said Bochy, who eliminated his former team.

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