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Yeah, you can say “they’re just beating San Francisco,” and “the Pirates are as bad as they come,” but these games count. There are no gimmes. The Padres are winning huge games, surging, at exactly the right time.

The team is in statement mode. Beginning the second the Pads left Los Angeles last Thursday, something inside the clubhouse clicked. I don’t know what exactly, but whatever it was, San Diego fans will gladly take it.

Friday’s ninth inning comeback and eventual 10th inning victory over the Giants was a season-turning event. I know, there have been several this season, but that one takes the cake. What was oh-so-close to being the team’s third loss in four days turned into the start of a four-game winning streak, which put the club on the precipice of the division lead.

Forget the Wild Card, by the way. It’s a poor consolation prize. The Friars are going to take the West, and be in control of it by the weekend.

Like most people, I’ve been waiting for the Diamondbacks to tumble to earth for a month, and I still think it’s going to happen. In fact, look for them to slip out of the Wild Card race too, which just might end up going to the Mets.

Philly’s got a surge of its own going now. It’s all hitting, all the time, with a complete lack of reliable pitching, but they’re finding ways to win big games, just like the Padres, and for all we know, the two teams might meet in the postseason.

But other than the Pads taking the division, I’m standing clear of prognostications. I might hurl a cliche your way, like “anything can happen in a short series,” but I’m making no predictions beyond the division. Feel free to chime in with your own.

— HOWARD COLE

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