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Giants need one win or Dodgers loss for wild card

9/28/2002

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- The way Benito Santiago figured it, that protective plastic sheeting on top of the San Francisco Giants' lockers should be doing its job in less than 24 hours.

Jason Schmidt pitched 7 1/3 innings of four-hit ball as the Giants moved to the brink of their second playoff berth in three seasons with a 2-1 victory over the Houston Astros on Friday night.

San Francisco (93-66) needs one more victory or one loss by the
Dodgers to clinch the wild card -- and the NL West title still isn't
mathematically out of reach in the baseball's only remaining
unclinched division.

Manager Dusty Baker and many of his players watched the
scoreboard for results from Arizona and Los Angeles while hanging
on against the Astros -- but the Giants, who won their sixth
straight, already are playing with the confidence and execution of
a playoff team.

Schmidt won a tight duel with Wade Miller, whose 12-game winning streak was snapped -- but moments after Robb Nen struck out the side to win it for the Giants, Los Angeles beat San Diego 1-0 in 10
innings, postponing the San Francisco celebration.

No matter. The Giants would prefer to charge into the playoffs
with one more victory, anyway.

"There's no disappointment with what the Dodgers did,'' said Santiago, who drove in the Giants' first run. "We don't focus on the Dodgers at all. We've just got to come back and win on Saturday, and if they win, hey, who cares?''

David Bell had three hits, and Santiago and Kenny Lofton each
drove in a run as the Giants narrowly ended Miller's streak, which
matched Anaheim's Jarrod Washburn for the longest in the majors
this season.

Schmidt (13-8) finished his season with his second straight
outstanding start. He retired 11 straight at one point, and he
struck out eight while allowing just two hits until the eighth.

"I don't know if it was my best stuff, but I made the pitches
when I had to,'' Schmidt said. "For some reason, I treated it like
any other game, even though I knew it was a pressure situation.''

Miller (15-4) hadn't lost in 16 starts since June 26, but he
allowed a baserunner in each of his seven innings. He allowed nine
hits, walked four and struck out five while never settling into the
groove he occupied for most of the previous three months.

"It's a little disappointing, because I know I did well, but there's nothing I could do about it,'' Miller said. "There were a couple of situations where I should have located the ball better, and that was the only difference.''

Rich Aurilia walked in the first and later scored on Santiago's
single. In the sixth, Bell tripled and scored on Lofton's hit.

Schmidt lost his shutout bid on Geoff Blum's one-out homer into the short right-field corner in the eighth, and pinch-hitter Gregg Zaun followed with a double. Tim Worrell escaped the jam with two quick outs, and Nen got his 42nd save in 50 chances.

"That's about as good of a game that's been pitched against us
this year,'' Houston's Lance Berkman said. "With pitchers like
that, they'll go far in the playoffs. It's just a shame we couldn't
score more for Wade.''

Barry Bonds was intentionally walked in the third inning to establish yet another record for free passes. Bonds, who has already set the single-season records for walks and intentional walks, was walked in his 17th straight game, breaking the NL record of 16 set by Jack Clark with St. Louis in 1987.

With the Pacific Bell Park sound system playing the "Chicken
Dance,'' Miller also intentionally walked Bonds in the fifth. With four walks in the Giants' two remaining games -- three if a rainout with Atlanta must be made up -- Bonds will accent his first batting title by becoming the first player with 200 walks.

The Giants had the best record in baseball in 2000, but they
lost the division series to the New York Mets. Last season, they
finished two games behind eventual World Series champion Arizona in
the NL West, and three games behind St. Louis in the wild-card
race.

Game notes
The Giants honored retiring broadcaster Lon Simmons with a pregame ceremony, video tributes from other announcers during the game and more than one standing ovation. Simmons, 79, spent two stints totaling 26 seasons with the Giants after they moved from
New York in 1958. ... Octavio Dotel pitched the eighth for Houston
to tie the franchise record with his 82nd appearance of the season.
Dotel matched Juan Agosto, who appeared 82 times in 1990. ...
Schmidt is 8-3 in his last 14 starts at Pac Bell. ... Bell's triple was just his second of the season. Orlando Merced took a bad angle on Bell's drive to the gap in right-center. Bell had his sixth three-hit game of the season. ... Schmidt won for the sixth time in
eight starts.