Seven National League Teams Chasing 4 Playoff Spots

Friday, September 28th 2007, 7:48 am
By: News On 6

How's this for a wild final weekend? With three games to go, seven teams were fighting for the National League's four playoff spots.

Philadelphia tied the New York Mets for the NL East lead for the first time since the season began, the Chicago Cubs held a two-game lead over Milwaukee in the NL Central and Arizona was one game in front of San Diego and two ahead of Colorado in the NL West.

The East and West teams also were in play for the wild card, which the Padres led by one game over the Mets, Phillies and Rockies.

``It's exciting, but we still have work to do,'' Kyle Kendrick said after pitching the Phillies over Atlanta 6-4 Thursday night for Philadelphia's 11th win in 14 games.

The plummeting Mets lost 3-0 at home to the St. Louis Cardinals, the 10th defeat in New York's last 14 games. New York was ahead by seven games with 17 remaining _ a lead no major league team has failed to hold.

``There's two choices: Roll over and start making vacation plans for the offseason, or battle like hell and win this thing,'' Mets third baseman David Wright said. ``We still feel like this is our division.''

Chicago lost its third straight, 6-4 at the Florida Marlins, but maintained its margin because Milwaukee made five errors and dropped its second in a row, 9-5 to the Padres. As always, thoughts of imminent disaster are in the minds of many Cubs' fans.

``You can look in their dugout, and it's just like panic mode,'' Florida's Cody Ross said. ``They're pacing up and down. We would be in the same boat if the situation were reversed.''

Colorado extended its team-record winning streak to 11 games, winning 10-4 at the Los Angeles Dodgers.

``We didn't set out to win 11 in a row,'' said Garrett Atkins, who had four hits including a home run. ``We've had good pitching, good hitting, good defense and good luck.''

Given an ominous weather forecast, Arizona manager Bob Melvin decided less than an hour before game time to hold back ace Brandon Webb (17-10) at Pittsburgh. Micah Owings pitched 6 1-3 innings and went 4-for-4 with three doubles and three RBIs in an 8-0 victory. He became the first pitcher to have two four-hit games in a season since the Yankees' Whitey Ford in 1953.

``I was eating breakfast when they told me, and a lot started running through my mind,'' Owings said. ``It got back to the fact I've got to go out and do the best I can, try to help my team and not try to do too much.''

In the only NL game with no playoff implications, Houston beat Cincinnati 4-3.

At Philadelphia, Ryan Howard hit his 44th homer, Pat Burrell also connected and the Phillies roughed up John Smoltz (14-8).

Kendrick (10-4) allowed three runs and six hits in six innings, and Brett Myers allowed a leadoff homer to Jeff Francoeur in the ninth before getting three outs for his 21st save.

Philadelphia closes at home with three games against Washington.

``It's a good feeling,'' Howard said. ``But, really, we haven't done anything. We have three games left. This is what it's all about.''

Atlanta was eliminated from postseason contention for the second straight year after winning 14 straight division titles.

``Everybody here can improve on their year and I'm looking forward to it,'' Smoltz said.

Cardinals 3, Mets 0

Joel Pineiro (6-4) allowed three hits in eight innings and Jason Isringhausen got his 31st save.

Skip Schumaker's RBI single gave St. Louis a 1-0 lead in the first against Pedro Martinez (3-1), and the Cardinals pushed across two more runs in the third when Albert Pujols hit an RBI double and scored on Ryan Ludwick's single.

Mets manager Willie Randolph held a brief postgame team meeting. New York plays at home against Florida this weekend.

``I think we're due to have something special happen to us because in the time I've been here I don't think we've had a little stretch playing games like that,'' Martinez said.

Marlins 6, Cubs 4

Chicago stranded 10 runners and lost its 10th straight game to Florida over two seasons _ the longest active streak between major league teams.

Scott Olsen (10-15) gave up four runs, two earned, in 5 1-3 innings and won for the first time since Aug. 5.

Aramis Ramirez went 4-for-4 but Steve Trachsel (1-3), making his first start in two weeks, lasted only 4 1-3 innings and allowed five runs.

``We're still in the driver's seat,'' Cubs manager Lou Piniella said before his team headed to Cincinnati. ``We've just got to start winning some games.''

Padres 9, Brewers 5

At Milwaukee, third baseman Ryan Braun made three errors for the bumbling Brewers, who haven't been to the playoffs since 1982, and first baseman Prince Fielder and left fielder Geoff Jenkins made one each. Milwaukee, which allowed four unearned runs, hadn't made five errors in a game since Aug. 1, 1999, against Montreal.

``We sit and watch the Cubs lose two nights in a row; not being able to take advantage hurts a lot,'' said Brewers bench coach Dale Sveum, who filled in while manager Ned Yost served a one-game suspension. ``We're in a rough situation.''

Scott Hairston hit a tiebreaking three-run double in the opener of a four-game series as San Diego took a 4-0 lead in the third.

Padres starter Jack Cassel was chased after 4 2-3 innings as Milwaukee closed to 5-2. Joe Thatcher (2-1) relieved with the bases loaded and retired Fielder on a grounder, then pitched a perfect sixth.

Rickie Weeks homered twice for the Brewers, who led the NL Central by 8 1/2 games in late June.

Rockies 10, Dodgers 4

Brad Hawpe and Todd Helton homered for the Rockies, who host a season-ending, three-game series against Arizona starting Friday.

Rookie Franklin Morales (3-2), a 21-year-old left-hander making his eighth big league start, allowed three runs and four hits in five-plus innings to defeat Esteban Loaiza (1-4).

Diamondbacks 8, Pirates 0

Owings (8-8) allowed four hits, struck out four and walked none.

He hit an RBI double during a three-run second against John Van Benschoten (0-7), then added a two-run double in the seventh off Romulo Sanchez.

Astros 4, Reds 3

Carlos Lee hit a tiebreaking single in the ninth off Gary Majewski (0-4) as visiting Houston completed a three-game sweep. Cincinnati's Matt Belisle was perfect through six innings before Josh Anderson led off the seventh with a clean single to left. Dave Borkowski (5-3) got the win, and Brad Lidge his 18th save.