MLB playoff picture: Giants become first team to clinch playoff spot

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The surprising San Francisco Giants became the first team to clinch a playoff spot this season, hitting four home runs to beat the San Diego Padres 9-1 on Monday night for their season-high eighth consecutive victory.

After finishing 29-31 during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, the Giants have turned things around in manager Gabe Kapler’s second year. They have the best record in baseball (94-50) with 18 games remaining—guaranteeing them at least a wild card as they try to hold off the rival Dodgers for the NL West title.

San Francisco extended its latest hot streak by getting early power at the plate and steady pitching from the bullpen after opener Dominic Leone threw two strong innings.

Tommy La Stella homered on the fourth pitch from Padres starter Yu Darvish and Evan Longoria hit a three-run drive five batters later. Mike Yastrzemski added a solo shot in the fourth, when Brandon Belt also went deep as San Francisco secured a postseason berth for the first time since 2016.

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All four homers came off Darvish (8-10), struggling in his first season with the Padres after starting 6-1. The five-time All-Star lasted four innings, allowing eight runs and six hits.

San Diego fell a game behind idle Cincinnati for the second NL wild card.

After the final out, Giants players hugged on the field and coaches did the same in the dugout before heading inside the clubhouse for a bubbly celebration.

It’s the earliest date the franchise has ever clinched a trip to the postseason.

The Padres scored on back-to-back doubles by Trent Grisham and Fernando Tatis Jr. off Jarlin García in the third.

Zack Littell (3-0) retired five batters to get the win. José Álvarez, Camilo Doval and Kervin Castro followed and combined for four scoreless innings.

Eric Hosmer and Wil Myers had two hits apiece for San Diego.

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