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10/02/10 1:57 PM ET

Giants, Padres poised for captivating finish

For the third straight day for the San Diego Padres, it will feel like there is no tomorrow. But if they again win at AT&T Park, the fate of another tomorrow will depend on what happened 2,150 miles away, in Turner Field.

Welcome to Showdown Sunday.

Saturday's victory tied the Padres with the Braves, who lost at home to Philadelphia, for the National League Wild Card lead, both teams taking 90-71 records into the final day of the regular season. The Giants (91-70) are still a step ahead of them, but not separated from the intrigue.

Going into Sunday, the fate of the NL's last two playoff representatives is very clouded. Coming out of the day, however, the picture will be crystal clear:

• If the Giants and Braves win: The simplest outcome, as San Francisco claims the NL West title and Atlanta is the Wild Card.

• If the Giants win and the Braves lose: San Francisco is the NL West champion, and the Braves and Padres play a Wild Card tiebreaker Monday in Atlanta.

• If the Padres win and the Braves lose: Atlanta is eliminated, San Diego is declared NL West champion by virtue of the first tiebreaker (head-to-head record against the Giants) and San Francisco is the Wild Card.

• If the Padres and Braves both win: This sets up a play-in doubleheader. The Giants and Padres would meet Monday in PETCO Park to determine the division champ, and in the "nightcap," the loser would play Tuesday in Atlanta to decide the Wild Card.

For the players involved, it's quite simple. Play the game without leaving anything on the field and, after 27 outs, see where it leads.

"I think it's really validation for us," outfielder Will Venable said after the Padres had once again thrown open the lid of their postseason coffin. "Even when we were struggling, when we were losing, we never lost our identity as a team. We've been the same team the whole time."

"We're going to put it all on the line, not leave anything for Monday," Padres closer Heath Bell vowed. "[We'll] give everything we have. We're going to need everybody tomorrow."

Curtain on the next Left Coast act of the NL West Suspense Theatre goes up at 4:05 p.m. ET -- by when the 1:35 p.m. ET Braves-Phils game should be in the seventh-inning stretch.

Left-hander Jonathan Sanchez will deliver the first pitch for the Giants. Three outs later, it will be the turn of Mat Latos, the 22-year-old right-hander whose breakthrough season has perfectly mirrored the Padres' roller-coaster ride.

Anyone feel a 1-0 potboiler coming up? Latos and Sanchez have hooked up twice previously this season, and both games (on April 20 and May 13) turned into 1-0 victories for the Padres.

Sanchez got a measure of revenge on Sept. 10 -- when he started a 1-0 win over San Diego.

Now one game separates the Padres from forging a tie atop the NL West -- or the Giants from their first division title since 2003.

"This club is very resilient and we knew coming here that our destiny was in our hands ... it still is," said San Diego second baseman David Eckstein.

"We've gone through our ups and downs," said Giants catcher Buster Posey. "We've been battling all year and we've just got to to come out and get the job done [Sunday]."

As Miguel Tejada, one of the Padres' Saturday heroes, said immediately after the 4-2 survival, "We're not done."

Neither are his Giants, manager Bruce Bochy said with perspective.

"If you go back ... six weeks ... we were six games out. Now we're a game up with a game to go," Bochy said. "Definitely a good situation. Sure, we had a hiccup here, but if Johnny goes out there and just gives us a chance."

No one has better reflected the Padres' surprising rise, followed by their frustrating wobble, than Latos. Since standing at the top of San Diego's hill with an 11-4 record on July 24, he has won three times in 12 starts and brings four consecutive losses into this biggest game.

Latos has a chance to make up for that slide. Sanchez has a chance to make up for his faulty guarantee of a sweep prior to an August series with the Padres.

Padres: Bell ties MLB saves lead
Bell's 47th save tied the Giants' Brian Wilson for the Major League lead and also gave him the second-best total in Padres history. Bell had been tied for No. 2 with Trevor Hoffman (2006), who also holds the single-season record of 53, in 1998.

Giants: Ross' 10-game streak snapped
Cody Ross (0-for-2) had his 10-game hitting streak come to an end, but is still 14-for-37 (.378) with six extra base hits since Sept. 17. ... Saturday's ejection was the fourth of the season for Bochy.

Worth noting
Padres middle reliever Luke Gregerson appeared in his 79th game Saturday -- and logged his MLB-record 40th hold -- and is one of a dozen big league relievers who have worked in more than 76 games this season. How the game has changed: When Dodgers reliever Mike Marshall set a record with 104 appearances in 1974, no one else that season pitched in more than 76 games.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.