Continued from page 1

Padres players stayed put at the railing of their dugout watching the celebration in disappointment.

The Giants were in fourth place and 7½ games out of the lead on July 4.

“We were in fourth place but we said, ‘We’re a team that can win it,’” Sandoval said. “We can get to the World Series.”

The pitching-rich Padres head home for a longer winter than they wanted knowing they blew quite an opportunity. San Diego led the division by 6½ games before a 10-game losing streak from Aug. 26 to Sept. 5.

But manager Bud Black’s team had trouble scoring all season, and that was its undoing at the end. The Padres managed only four hits Sunday and were shut out for the 12th time.

“Anyone who goes through this has a good sense of what’s going on,” Black said. “Reality sets in and you know we didn’t make it. But we still had a great season.”

Sanchez (13-9) pitched into the sixth inning and gave up three hits while walking five. He contributed with his bat, too, hitting a triple off rookie Mat Latos (14-10) and scoring the game’s first run in the third inning.

The Giants head back into the postseason a decidedly different team than when they last made it. Led by Barry Bonds, they lost in four games to Florida in the 2003 NL division series, a year after falling six outs shy of a World Series title and losing to the wild-card Angels in seven games.

In fact, San Francisco is back in the playoffs with a roster that looks nothing like the group that took the field on opening day. Posey was called up in late May and hit 18 homers to make a strong case for NL Rookie of the Year honors, and Pat Burrell revived his career after signing a minor league deal May 29 following his release by Tampa Bay. The bullpen features new faces, too. Jose Guillen, Mike Fontenot and Cody Ross also are newcomers.

“Versus the past when we lived and died with one superstar player, there aren’t any superstars on this team. There might be a couple rising stars,” said general manager Brian Sabean, who was pinned in a corner and doused with champagne by the players. “Our organization is built on pitching. It’s old-school baseball. We’ve been marching toward this for a while, including holding onto (Jonathan) Sanchez.”

Sanchez tripled and scored on a single by Freddy Sanchez, then Aubrey Huff followed with an RBI double.

Posey homered in the eighth for insurance.

Nearly two months after he guaranteed a three-game sweep of the Padres only to see San Francisco drop two of three, the left-handed Sanchez was the Giants’ most reliable pitcher down the stretch. He went 4-1 with a 1.03 ERA over his last seven outings — in July 2009, he threw a no-hitter against the visiting Padres.

Sanchez gave way to Santiago Casilla with none out in the sixth after allowing Adrian Gonzalez’s leadoff single and a walk to Ryan Ludwick. Casilla induced a double play and got an inning-ending groundout.

After a pair of strikeouts to start the seventh, Casilla allowed a single to Chris Denorfia and David Eckstein reached on the pitcher’s error. Ramon Ramirez relieved and, in a fierce, nine-pitch at-bat, struck out a swinging Miguel Tejada on a full count.

Story Continues →