Cardinals' NL Central Lead Shrinks


Friday, September 29th 2006, 8:58 am
By: News On 6


St. Louis has wasted nearly all of its NL Central lead heading into the final weekend of the season.

Jason Marquis got just six outs and the Cardinals fell behind by eight runs in the third inning, losing 9-4 to the Milwaukee Brewers on Thursday night.

St. Louis (81-77) had a seven-game division lead with 13 to play but has lost eight of nine, enabling the Astros (81-78) to close within a half-game.

``It's hard to put a finger on it,'' Scott Rolen said. ``If we could put a finger on it, I think we'd turn it around.''

Houston, which had trailed by 8 1/2 games on Sept. 20, stretched its winning streak to nine by beating Pittsburgh 3-0.

``We've showed a little bit of grit and determination here to jump back in this race,'' Astros manager Phil Garner said.

Philadelphia lost 3-1 at Washington in a rain-delayed game that ended at 2:07 a.m. EDT and dropped two games behind Los Angeles (85-74), the wild card leader, with three to play. The Phillies (83-76) haven't made it to the postseason since losing the 1993 World Series to Toronto.

``Anything can happen. We've just got to keep going out and playing,'' Philadelphia's Pat Burrell said.

In other NL games, it was: San Diego 12, Arizona 4; Los Angeles 19, Colorado 11; New York 7, Atlanta 4; and Cincinnati 5, Florida 1.

At St. Louis, the Brewers built an 8-0 lead by the third inning. Bill Hall was 3-for-4 with a two-run homer in the first off Marquis (14-16), who allowed six runs, five hits and two walks in two-plus innings. Marquis is 0-4 with an 8.46 ERA in five September starts and was booed by the sellout crowd of 40,313 as he left.

Doug Davis (11-11) won for the first time in four starts despite walking eight in six innings. He allowed one run and two hits, striking out seven.

``It's still in our grasp,'' Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said.

Nationals 3, Phillies 1

Brian Schneider broke a 1-1 tie with a two-run single off Aaron Fultz in the sixth at Washington in a game that started 4 hours, 27 minutes late because of rain.

Billy Traber (4-3) threw one scoreless inning, and Jon Rauch pitched a perfect ninth for his second career save. Jon Lieber (9-11) gave up three runs and seven hits in 5 1-3 innings for the Phillies.

Astros 3, Pirates 0

Roy Oswalt (15-8) won his sixth straight decision, allowing four hits in seven innings, and Brad Lidge pitched a perfect ninth for his 32nd save.

Adam Everett's single drove in the first run in a three-run fifth off Tom Gorzelanny (2-5), who walked Oswalt and Morgan Ensberg with the bases loaded. The start of the game in Pittsburgh was delayed 3:26 by rain.

Padres 12, Diamondbacks 4

Jake Peavy (11-14) won his third straight decision and Brian Giles homered to help visiting San Diego (83-76) maintain a one-game lead over second-place Los Angeles in the NL West. One more Padres win or Phillies loss would clinch no worse than the wild-card berth for San Diego.

Arizona's Miguel Batista (11-8) gave up seven runs and eight hits in 3 2-3 innings _ his shortest outing of the season.

Dodgers 19, Rockies 11

Rookie James Loney had nine RBIs, including a grand slam and a two-run homer at Coors Field, to tie the Dodgers record set by Gil Hodges for Brooklyn against the Boston Braves on Aug. 31, 1950. It was the first nine-RBI game in the NL since Chicago's Sammy Sosa at Colorado on Aug. 10, 2002.

Kenny Lofton and Marlon Anderson hit back-to-back homers off Ray King (1-4), and Wilson Betemit added a two-run double off Jose Mesa, who also served up Loney's two-run shot.

Mark Hendrickson (2-7) was the winner.

Mets 7, Braves 4

Orlando Hernandez (11-11) matched his season high with nine strikeouts and allowed an unearned run in five innings in his tuneup for New York's playoffs opener next week. The Mets, who stopped a four-game losing streak, announced during the game that Pedro Martinez will miss the postseason because of a torn tendon in his left calf muscle.

Carlos Delgado drove in four runs and Carlos Beltran hit his 41st homer, tying the Mets record set by Todd Hundley in 1996.

Kyle Davies (3-7) gave up four earned runs and five hits in 3 1-3 innings at Turner Field as Atlanta (77-82) ensured a sub-.500 finish for the first time since 1990.

Reds 5, Marlins 1

Kyle Lohse (3-5) doubled in two runs and gave up three hits over six innings as visiting Cincinnati (79-80) closed within 2 1/2 games of the Cardinals.

Ricky Nolasco (11-11) allowed five runs and seven hits in six innings for Florida.