SAN DIEGO (AP) – The San Diego Padres won’t be making the wrong kind of history.

The NL West champions guaranteed themselves at least a .500 record by beating the Los Angeles Dodgers 3-1 on Friday night behind seven strong innings from Woody Williams.

There’s never been a division champion in a non-strike year that’s finished with a losing record. The Padres appeared capable of becoming the first the way they struggled earlier in September, but they’ve won three straight games and are 81-79 with two to play.

Since 1969, and excluding strike-shortened years, the 1973 New York Mets own the lowest winning percentage of a division champion by going 82-79 (.509) to win the NL East.

The Padres need to win their final two games to go 83-79 (.512). If they split their last two games, they’ll finish 82-80 (.506).

Most Padres players say they don’t care about their record, but manager Bruce Bochy wants his team to finish strong in order to avoid the criticism that would come if they don’t finish above .500.

Williams (9-12) did his part, holding the Dodgers to three hits and one run in seven innings. Jose Cruz Jr. doubled leading off the seventh and advanced on Dioner Navarro’s groundout, but Williams struck out Jayson Werth on a checked-swing third strike and then got Jason Repko swinging.

Williams had been hit hard in his previous two starts. The worst was Sept. 20 at Colorado, when he allowed nine runs and nine hits before being chased in the second inning without getting an out. With Williams making the shortest start of his career, the Padres lost 20-1. Last Sunday at Arizona, he allowed nine hits and two runs in 5 1-3 innings, getting a no-decision in a 4-3 loss.

Williams and two relievers combined on a four-hitter. Rudy Seanez pitched a perfect eighth, and Scott Linebrink pitched the ninth for his first save in six chances, and the first of his career.

The Padres clinched the division Wednesday night, then rested all their regulars on Thursday night.

Six regulars were back in the lineup Friday night, including Brian Giles, who had an RBI single during the three-run third. San Diego had only five hits.

That was the Padres’ only hit off Derek Lowe (12-15) that inning. San Diego also had two walks, a hit batsman and a sacrifice fly, and Cruz, the Dodgers’ right fielder, committed two errors on one play.

Lowe hit rookie Paul McAnulty leading off the inning, then issued one-out walks to Mark Loretta and Robert Fick to load the bases before Khalil Greene hit a sacrifice fly. Giles singled to right to bring in Loretta. Cruz bobbled the ball to allow Fick to take third, and his throw to third hit Fick and caromed away, allowing the runner to score and make it 3-0.

Oscar Robles homered to right leading off the fourth, his fifth.

Lowe allowed three runs, two earned, and five hits in 6 1-3 innings.

Notes: Bochy said he’ll announce his playoff rotation on Sunday. Ace Jake Peavy is expected to start the opener on Tuesday on seven days’ rest. With Adam Eaton scheduled to pitch Sunday, Pedro Astacio and Williams are candidates to start Game 2. … The Padres are debating whether to carry 10 or 11 pitchers for the divisional series. … Padres CF Dave Roberts, sidelined since last Saturday night with a strained quad, said he’ll try to play on Sunday and get two or three at-bats.

AP-ES-10-01-05 0023EDT


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