The mild, mild NL West has a champion -- the .500 San Diego Padres.

The Padres clinched the fourth division title in their 37-year history last night, beating the visiting Giants, 9-1, to return to the postseason for the first time since being swept by the Yankees in the 1998 World Series.

Midseason acquisition Pedro Astacio took a shutout into the seventh. Rookie Ben Johnson had three hits, scored twice and had an RBI, and Mark Loretta had three hits and two RBI.

Trevor Hoffman, the only player who's been with the Padres continuously since 1998, pitched the ninth in a non-save situation. Hoffman earned saves when the Padres clinched in 1996 and '98.

San Diego's postseason drought included five straight losing seasons from 1999-2003 and an 87-75 finish last year, when the Padres were five games behind the wild-card winning Astros.

Now the Padres (79-79) need to win three of their last four games to finish above .500 for just the 11th time in their history. Since 1969, and excluding strike years, the 1973 Mets own the lowest winning percentage of a division champion by going 82-79 (.509) to win the NL East.

Astacio (4-2) left to a standing ovation after allowing Ray Durham s double and Edgardo Alfonzo's single to open the seventh. Pinch hitter Lance Niekro hit a sacrifice fly off Rudy Seanez. Astacio struck out three and walked one in winning his fourth straight decision.

The right-hander was released by Texas on June 21 and signed by San Diego as a minor league free agent on June 30.

* ROLLINS STILL ROLLING: Jimmy Rollins extended his Phillies' record hitting streak to 33 games with a leadoff infield single against the Mets last night.

Rollins scored on Bobby Abreu's sacrifice fly, his 100th RBI of the season.

Rollins singled in the seventh inning Tuesday night to set the team record, breaking a mark he held with Ed Delahanty, who hit in 31 in a row in 1899. His streak is the longest in the majors since Florida's Luis Castillo hit in 35 straight in 2002.

-- From News Services