There's a lot of baseball left, yet Bell and Co. are determined to ride this run right into October.
Ryan Ludwick narrowly beat Juan Uribe's throw home to score the go-ahead run in the sixth inning, and the NL West-leading San Diego Padres held off the San Francisco Giants 3-2 on Friday night for their fifth straight victory.
"The Giants are one of the hottest teams in baseball," Bell said. "If we can win a series with them maybe we can brush them off our heels a little bit."
Clayton Richard (10-5) earned his third straight win over the Giants this season, helping San Diego extend its division lead to 3½ games over San Francisco in a game the Padres played under protest. It became a moot point when they won.
The Padres quieted Jonathan Sanchez (8-8), who no-hit them here July 10, 2009, after he guaranteed a sweep of San Diego following his outing at Atlanta last Sunday.
Sanchez's comments only added fuel to this highly anticipated weekend series between the two contenders. He didn't back down afterward.
"I believe in my team, you know? I have confidence," he said. "Nothing against them but I know if we keep fighting like this I think we're going to make it."
In the fourth, with the score tied at 2, San Francisco second baseman Freddy Sanchez hustled to field Chris Denorfia's grounder that hit off Jonathan Sanchez, but Scott Hairston ran in front of Freddy Sanchez and caused the infielder to stop his motion. First base umpire Marvin Hudson first ruled Hairston out for interference, then the crew met about the play.
Padres manager Bud Black came out to argue. After a discussion that lasted several minutes, San Diego decided to play the game under protest.
The Padres took the lead in the sixth when a sliding Ludwick beat the close play at the plate on Chase Headley's grounder. That came moments after hefty San Francisco third baseman Pablo Sandoval ran down the line and made a forward-diving tag on Adrian Gonzalez to save a run. Sandoval's head whipped back upon impact with the ground and knocked the wind out of him. He was briefly down and examined by trainers before returning to third.
"We play a lot of these type of games," Black said. "I think the Giants do, too. We're used to these games and they're good games."
The teams, each having changed significantly, hadn't met since May 18 at Petco Park but still face off seven times after this series -- four games in San Diego in early September and a season-ending three-game series from Oct. 1-3 in San Francisco.
"This is a showdown," Black joked of the significance of this series considering it's still only mid-August. "When you get into September, that's really the line for me."
The game sure had a playoff feel with a boisterous sellout crowd of 42,722.
The Padres have won eight of the first nine with the Giants, including the initial seven matchups.
"It was intense out there. That's the way our games have been going against them," San Francisco skipper Bruce Bochy said. "They're shutting us down and winning these tight games."
San Francisco jumped to a quick 2-0 lead against Richard, who walked leadoff man Andres Torres and allowed him to advance on a wild pitch. Aubrey Huff then hit an RBI double and later scored on Pat Burrell's groundout.
The Padres tied it in the top of the second.
Sanchez plunked Yorvit Torrealba on the left shoulder to start the inning, then Headley tripled him home and Hairston followed with a sacrifice fly.
Richard allowed six hits in six innings. He owns a 2.05 ERA in four starts against the Giants in 2010. Bell pitched the ninth for his majors-leading 35th save in 38 chances. He needed nine pitches to get Burrell on a popup for the first out.
San Francisco's starters are winless over their last 10 outings, going 0-6.
The Giants acquired Jose Guillen from the Kansas City Royals earlier in the day to be their new right fielder. Guillen wasn't due to arrive in the Bay Area until late Friday and Bochy wasn't sure he would start Saturday.
The Giants lost for the first time in 10 tries while wearing their Friday night orange home jerseys.