Scott Rolen swung feebly at a ball that bounced in the dirt, missing for the final out. A few more losses and the St. Louis Cardinals might miss the playoffs, too.
Despite a dramatic home run from Jim Edmonds, the Cardinals kept collapsing Monday night. The NL Central leaders dropped their 6th in a row as Mike Piazza's go ahead single gave the San Diego Padres a 6-5 victory.
Trailing by 8 1/2 games a week ago, Houston cut St. Louis' lead to 2 1/2 games. The Astros beat Philadelphia 5-4 for their 6th straight victory.
Edmonds launched a 3 run, pinch hit homer in his first at bat since August 26. The All-Star center fielder had been out while recovering from the effects of a concussion, and his home run made it 5-all in the 4th inning.
``What a way to get us back into the game,'' Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. ``If this was a movie, we would have won the game, but we didn't.''
Piazza put the NL West leading Padres ahead in the 7th. San Diego leads Los Angeles by 2 games in the division, and is 2 games ahead of Philadelphia for the extra playoff spot.
``We don't care about them,'' said Brian Giles, who hit a 3 run double for the Padres. ``We're trying to take care of business ourselves and not depend on other teams helping us out.''
The Phillies' loss left them tied with Los Angeles for the wild card. Both teams are on the road for the rest of the regular season.
``We got 6 games to play and it's a tie,'' Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. ``We have to keep winning. We didn't let anything slip away yet.''
In other NL games, Cincinnati rallied past Chicago 5-4, Arizona beat San Francisco 7-1 and Washington defeated New York 7-3.
The Padres won for the 10th time in 13 games. Scott Linebrink closed it out, striking out Rolen with runners on 1st and 2nd for his second save.
Linebrink pitched in place of Trevor Hoffman, who posted his major league record 479th save Sunday while working for the 6th time in 8 games.
Before the game, San Diego manager Bruce Bochy told Hoffman that he'd have the night off, no matter what. Even when the Cardinals threatened in the 9th, Hoffman stayed in his seat.
``I kept peeking into the bullpen half thinking he was maybe going to warm up to get the last out or something,'' Linebrink said. ``There was no safety net.''
``I don't know how Hoffy does that almost 500 times, I think I'd have a few more gray hairs if I'd keep doing that,'' he said.
Scott Cassidy (6-4) struck out the side in the 6th and got the win. Brad Thompson (1-2) gave up Piazza's single.
The Cardinals will try again to stop their skid Tuesday night when ace Chris Carpenter starts against the Padres.
Astros 5, Phillies 4
At Philadelphia, Houston pinch hitter Mike Lamb singled off Chase Utley's glove for the go ahead run in the 7th inning.
A sellout crowd watched the makeup from a rainout September 5. The Astros flew in from Houston shortly before 4 a.m., and play in Pittsburgh on Tuesday night.
Jimmy Rollins hit a 2 run homer that put the Phillies ahead 4-2 lead in the 6th. The Astros rallied against 3 relievers, with pinch hitter Orlando Palmeiro delivering a tying, 2 run single and Lamb following with his hit.
Houston used 9 pitchers. Joe Borkowski (3-2) got the victory and Dan Wheeler earned his 8th save, retiring Utley on a popup that left Ryan Howard on deck.
Matt Smith (0-1) took the loss.
Reds 5, Cubs 4
At Cincinnati, Ken Griffey Jr. hit his 563rd career home run and tied Reggie Jackson for 10th place on the all time list.
Griffey, who had missed the past 17 games because of an injured toe, connected for a pinch hit, 3 run shot that let the Reds overcome a 4-2 deficit. It was the fifth pinch hit homer of his career, and came off Chicago reliever (1-3).
Scott Schoeneweis (2-0) got 2 outs in the 5th for the win and David Weathers pitched the 9th for his team leading 12th save.
Nationals 7, Mets 3
At New York, Tom Glavine was inconsistent over 6 innings and the NL East champions lost their final home game of the regular season.
The Mets finished 50-31 at Shea Stadium, losing 5 of their last 6. They'll return next week for Game 1 of the playoffs.
Glavine (14-7) gave up 8 hits and walked 3. Carlos Beltran walked 3 times after missing the previous 6 games because of a strained quadriceps.
Ryan Zimmerman hit a 3 run double and Brian Schneider matched his career high with 4 hits for Washington. Beltran Perez (2-0) pitched into the 7th inning in his second major league start.
Diamondbacks 7, Giants 1
At San Francisco, Barry Bonds and the Giants were eliminated from playoff contention with their 5th straight loss.
Conor Jackson hit a 3 run homer and Eric Byrnes also homered as Arizona found a way to beat Jason Schmidt. The Giants ace (11-9) had not lost in his previous 16 starts against the Diamondbacks.
September callup Edgar Gonzalez (3-3) pitched 7 effective innings.