Padres move back into first place

Monday, September 18th 2006, 5:21 am
By: News On 6

With two weeks left in the regular season, San Diego manager Bruce Bochy figures the NL West race will remain tight down the stretch.

San Diego continued its domination of Los Angeles with Sunday's 2-1 victory that moved the Padres into 1st place in the division by a 1/2-game.

``We're right there. We know it,'' Bochy said. ``It's neck and neck. It's great to get this one. To come back after a tough loss and win 2 straight is big.''

San Diego has won 8 of the last 9 meetings and is 13-4 overall against Los Angeles this season, including a 7-1 mark at Dodger Stadium.

``There's no rhyme or reason to it,'' Bochy said.

The two teams meet for the final time in the regular season on Monday.

``We're in 1st place by a 1/2 a game, and tomorrow's game really separates the men from the boys, I believe,'' said Russell Branyan, who hit a solo homer Sunday. ``If we can go up a game and a half with 14 games left in the season, we'll be looking pretty good.''

Los Angeles manager Grady Little also believes it will go down to the wire.

``It was a tight game in a tight pennant race, and it's going to remain that way,'' he said.

While the Dodgers dropped out of the division lead, they are 1 game ahead of Philadelphia for the wild card.

In other NL games, it was: Pittsburgh 3, New York 0; Philadelphia 6, Houston 4; Atlanta 8, Florida 7 in 10 innings; Colorado 6, Arizona 1; Chicago 11, Cincinnati 3; and Washington 6, Milwaukee 1. San Francisco against St. Louis was rained out.

At Los Angeles, Chris Young pitched 1 hit ball for 6 innings, pinch-hitter Terrmel Sledge singled home the go ahead run in the 9th and Trevor Hoffman earned his 475th career save.

``They seem to get the big hits and pitch the big innings when they need them,'' said Derek Lowe, who held San Diego to Branyan's solo homer over 7 innings.

Jonathon Broxton (3-1) got the loss.

Pirates 3, Mets 0

The Mets failed for the third straight day to clinch the NL East title at PNC Park when the Pirates finished off an unlikely sweep.

New York was denied its first division title since 1988 later in the day when 2nd place Philadelphia beat Houston 6-4. The Mets can clinch at home Monday night with a win over Florida or a loss by the Phillies.

The Mets came to Pittsburgh with a magic number of 1 and the best record in the majors. Even with a sizable contingent of New York fans in the stands, the young Pirates became the first NL team to sweep the Mets this season.

Zach Duke (10-13) pitched shutout ball for 8 innings to get the win. Salomon Torres pitched the 9th for his 9th save.

John Maine (5-5) allowed 2 runs and 6 hits in 6 innings for the Mets.

Phillies 6, Astros 4

At Houston, Ryan Howard hit his major league leading 57th home run and Mike Lieberthal connected twice as Randy Wolf and the Phillies kept up their push in the wild card race.

Jimmy Rollins also homered as Philadelphia prevented the Mets from clinching the NL East.

Wolf (4-0) won while pitching on 3 days' rest for the first time in his career. He won his career best 9th straight decision, the first time a Phillies starter has done that since Steve Carlton in 1980-81.

Wandy Rodriguez (9-10) took the loss.

Braves 8, Marlins 7, 10 innings

At Atlanta, Marcus Giles hit an RBI single and another runner scored when Florida left fielder Josh Willingham let the ball go through his legs, capping a 5 run rally.

After Florida scored 4 times in the top of the 10th, errors by shortstop Hanley Ramirez and Willingham helped Atlanta rally for the win.

It was a demoralizing defeat for the young Marlins, who fell 4 games behind Los Angeles in the wild card race. Florida lost for the 4th time in 5 games.

Joe Borowski (3-3) took the loss. Kevin Barry (1-1) got 1 out for the win.

Rockies 6, Diamondbacks 1

At Phoenix, Jeff Francis gave up 3 hits in 8 strong innings and Jeff Baker hit his first homer of the season for the Rockies.

Francis (12-11) struck out 5 and did not walk a batter as Colorado snapped a 3 game losing streak. Brian Fuentes pitched the 9th to complete the 3 hitter.

Miguel Batista (10-7) gave up 3 runs in 6 innings for the loss.

Cubs 11, Reds 3

At Chicago, Carlos Zambrano hit his 5th homer of the season and threw 7 shutout innings in his return to lead the Cubs.

Zambrano (15-6) had missed his last 2 starts with lower back stiffness and picked up his first win since August 24. He gave up 4 hits, struck out 6 and walked 4. He is now 1 win away from tying his career high, set in 2004 when he went 16-8.

Jacque Jones, Ronny Cedeno and Zambrano all homered in the Cubs' 7 run 1st inning.

Eric Milton (8-8) left after recording just 1 out for the Reds.

Nationals 6, Brewers 1

At Washington, Austin Kearns homered and hit the go ahead single in the 7th for the Nationals.

Doug Davis (10-11) was perfect for the first 4 1-3 innings before Kearns hit his 23rd home run of the season to left field. In the 7th, Bernie Castro reached on an infield single, moved to 2nd on a sacrifice by Felipe Lopez and scored when Kearns looped a single to shallow right field.

The Nationals added 4 runs in the 8th inning, including a rare 3 run single by Lopez.

Saul Rivera (3-0) pitched a scoreless 7th to earn the win.