On June 16, 2010, the San Diego Padres got out of bed and looked up at the Los Angeles Dodgers, who were white-knuckling a half-game lead in the National League West. The next day, the Pads would move into a first-place tie with the Bums and wouldn’t relinquish the catbird’s seat for the rest of June.

Or July.

Or August.

Or the through the first 16 days of September.

But when the Friars wake up on Sept. 17, they will once again be greeted by a deficit in the West.

All it took was a 10-game losing jag, a bad weekend against their pursuer, and finally a 4-0 shutout at the hands of the St. Louis Cardinals to erase precisely three months of division domination and open the door for the San Francisco Giants.

Thanks to scintillating performances by Jonathan Sanchez and Aubrey Huff (with Buster Posey, Edgar Renteria, and Jose Guillen in sterling supporting roles), los Gigantes sashayed right through and will be front-running in the race for the pennant when Friday morning breaks.

The inconsistent southpaw may be on his way to shedding that adjective after confounding the Dodgers for seven innings on Thursday night, his fourth straight effective turn on the bump in the fire of a postseason drive.

The hated rivals spent a good deal of the evening in an offensive fog similar to the pea soup hanging over AT&T Park.

Sanchez put 12 Bums out of their considerable misery (thank you, Frank and Jamie McCourt, the Bay Area loves ya) via the strikeout in those seven frames.

More importantly, the lefty never lost his arm slot for more than a pitch or two and consequently issued a fat doughnut in the free-pass column.

Four hits, including rookie Russell Mitchell’s first major-league hit/round-tripper, and a Juan Uribe error did conspire to plate two runs (one earned) for Los Angeles, but the 27-year-old had his filthy stuff working and it showed.

For those of you who like to see the cold, hard proof—7 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 12 K, and only 90 pitches.

Of course, the last Giant to toss a no-hitter is no stranger to losing ball games in which he surrendered a solitary earned run.

On this night however, with first place on the line, the San Francisco lumber would allow no such cruelty to befall its starter.

Aubrey Huff launched a Ted Lilly offering into the right-field seats during a four-run bottom of the third that gave the Gents a lead they would only bolster as the night progressed.

Posey would obliterate a hit-me slider five pitches later for back-to-back taters and the rout was on.

The good guys tacked on another run in the bottom for the fourth, two more in the fifth, and another deuce in the eighth for a clean 10-spot on the evening against only the two runs for LA (what a crying shame).

When the mushroom cloud had cleared, Huff was 2-for-4 with the two runs scored, three runs batted in, and a triple to go with the aforementioned bomb.

Posey chipped in a 2-for-5 effort with a run scored, two runs batted in, and a double to go with his aforementioned long ball.

And then there was the much-maligned shortstop.

Like most observers of the Orange and Black, I’ve taken my fair share of swipes at Renteria, but he was sublime in the finale of the season series with the Dodgers.

Not only did he pull a 4-for-5 rabbit out of the hat as the leadoff man, but he also scored two runs, scorched a triple of his own, and dropped a beautiful bunt down the third-base line just to exhibit his blinding speed.

With all that carnage, a perfect 3-for-3 turn at the dish from Guillen—with two runs scored, two runs batted in, and a home run as well—barely registers. Not to mention Freddy Sanchez’ game (2-for-4, 1 R, 3 RBI, 2 2B, 1 BB, and another fine defensive gem).

With 15 games left on the Giants‘ slate, 16 left on the Padres‘, and only one win separating the clubs, this baby is far from settled. But San Francisco took another important psychological step by turning the hunted into the hunter, even if only for a day.

One veil of invincibility was pierced at Petco Park when the lads skipped town with three wins from a four-game series. Another was pierced on Thursday, when Saint Diego’s consecutive streak atop the division came to an end.

There will almost surely be more jostling for position—probably right down to the final weekend of the year in October when the Padres come to the City—and let’s not forget about the Colorado Rockies, who are still firmly on the scent.

So, again, nobody should giddily take to the streets quite yet.

Nevertheless, the San Francisco bats are doing their part and the pitching staff is the best in the Bigs thus far in the month of September.

Sweetening the deal, the hometown nine just took two of three—and 10 of 18 on the season—from the despised Dodgers and its 83-64 record is the same as the one boasted by the Wild Card-leading Atlanta Braves.

In other words, the stretch run is starting to have that special feel.

And the San Francisco Giants are enjoying every moment of it.

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