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Giants head into playoffs with eight-game streak

9/29/2002

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Even though the game meant nothing in the
standings, Ryan Jensen and the rest of San Francisco's role players
didn't want to interfere with the Giants' considerable momentum as
they headed to the playoffs.

Jensen and five relievers combined on a five-hitter as the
Giants denied Roy Oswalt his 20th victory, beating the Houston
Astros 7-0 on Sunday to finish the season with an eight-game winning
streak and a swell of confidence going into October.

A day after the Giants (95-66) clinched the NL wild card and a
division series meeting with Atlanta, Barry Bonds and every regular
San Francisco starter watched the finale from the bench. They'll
open the playoffs Wednesday at Turner Field.

But Jensen (13-8), filling in for Russ Ortiz, capped his
outstanding rookie season by allowing five hits over five innings
to lead a strong effort by the younger Giants against the
halfhearted Astros.

"I was really surprised to get the start, but it leaves a good
taste in my mouth,'' said Jensen, who isn't in manager Dusty
Baker's postseason rotation. ''(The Astros) helped me out. They
were swinging at first pitches and letting me get ahead of them.
It's good to go into next week with that winning streak intact.''

Ramon Martinez drove in two runs, and Cody Ransom got his first
two major league hits and his first RBI. Trey Lunsford also got his
first major league RBI, while Tsuyoshi Shinjo scored twice.

The Giants roared toward their second postseason appearance in
three years. They outlasted the archrival Dodgers with their
longest winning streak of the season, including five victories at
home in the final week.

San Francisco is 25-8 since Aug. 25 -- the best record in
baseball over that stretch.

"We just feel kind of relieved and tired,'' Baker said. "We'll
be ready on Wednesday. You don't want to be playoff-ready on
Sunday. ... We're playing better right now than the last time we
went to the playoffs (in 2000).''

Oswalt failed in his fourth attempt to win his 20th as the
Astros (84-78) ended a disappointing season by getting swept in San
Francisco. Still, Houston finished with its ninth winning record in
10 seasons -- though you couldn't tell it from an indifferent
performance that included two errors.

Oswalt (19-9), who lost twice to lowly Milwaukee in the previous
10 days, allowed eight hits and four runs in just three innings
against the Giants' patchwork lineup. He hadn't lost consecutive
games at any point in his first two remarkable big-league seasons
before his season-ending three-game losing streak.

"I was hoping maybe to last five innings, but I really didn't
have a lot today,'' Oswalt said. "It just seemed like everyone was
going 50 percent, myself included. Overall, I thought it was poorly
played. There was no sense in staying in there.''

Lance Berkman went 0-for-2, but he still won the NL RBI title
when St. Louis' Albert Pujols failed to drive in a run. Berkman
finished with 128 RBI to Pujols' 127, even though Berkman didn't
drive in a run in the Astros' final seven games.

Octavio Dotel got one out in the seventh to set the Astros'
franchise record for appearances. Dotel, who leads all major league
relievers with 97 1-3 innings and 118 strikeouts, appeared in his
83rd game of the season, besting Juan Agosto's 82 appearances in
1990.

Bonds celebrated his first batting title on the bench. The
38-year-old slugger finished the season hitting a career-best .370,
giving him a comfortable cushion over Colorado's Larry Walker.

"It's so cool,'' Bonds said before the game. "I never even
thought I'd hit .350 in my career. I just want to try to stay
consistent, and that's actually what I strive for every year, to be
consistent.''

Ransom got his first major league hit in the second inning on an
infield single. Bonds, wearing his hat backward, got the ball and
held it aloft on the top of the dugout steps so Ransom could see it
over at first base -- and then Bonds playfully pretended to throw it
into the crowd.

Game notes
The Giants had their 56th sellout. They led the NL in
attendance with 3,253,203 fans. ... Jeff Bagwell went 0-for-3,
finishing two RBI shy of his seventh straight 100-RBI season. He
also had just 31 homers, his lowest total since 1996. ... Craig
Biggio didn't play for the Astros. ... With three strikeouts,
Oswalt finished fifth in the NL with 208 on the season. He was
trying to become the seventh 20-game winner in Astros history -- and
the second-youngest. ... Rookie right-hander Ricky Stone pitched
the seventh for Houston. It was his 78th appearance of the season,
tying the NL record for appearances by a rookie pitcher set by
Montreal's Tim Burke in 1985.