N.L. Playoffs Chase: Sunday-Morning Update

Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers third baseman Elian Herrera, infielder Luis Cruz, shortstop Hanley Ramirez, left fielder Shane Victorino and second baseman Mark Ellis celebrate the win over the St. Louis Cardinals at Dodger Stadium. Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-US PRESSWIRE

The National League's second-wild-card scrum got a bit tighter Saturday night.

N.L. East W L
Nationals 89 56 -
Braves 83 63

Braves 5, Nationals 4: Andrelton Simmons was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded in the bottom of the eighth inning and Craig Kimbrel struck out the side in the ninth for his 36th save in the Atlanta victory, which brought them to within 6½ games of the NL East lead and also widened their lead for the first wild card spot to seven games over the Cardinals and Dodgers, who are tied for the second spot. Earlier in the game, the Braves scored a pair of runs after what appeared to be a blown call by umpire Marvin Hudson. Martin Prado hit a comebacker that was gloved by Nats starter Edwin Jackson, who threw to first base apparently in time to get Adam LaRoche. But Hudson ruled LaRoche was off the bag. Replays indicated Hudson was wrong, but the call stood. Nats manager Davey Johnson was ejected. (Can we have replay now, please?)

N.L. Central W L
Reds 87 59 -
Cardinals 76 70 11

Marlins 6, Reds 4: Cincinnati's magic number to clinch the NL Central was reduced to seven, but not through any effort of their own (the Cardinals' loss accomplished that). For the second straight night, the Marlins topped the Reds, this time thanks largely to the efforts of Carlos Lee. Lee homered and drove in three runs, and his former White Sox, now Marlins teammate Mark Buehrle threw seven solid innings for his 13th win of the season. Giancarlo Stanton tripled to boost his slugging percentage to .597, and Steve Cishek posted his 14th save.

N.L. West W L
Giants 83 62 -
Dodgers 76 70

Giants 3, Diamondbacks 2: Barry Zito had his second straight solid outing for the Giants and Buster Posey -- who is making a late charge toward a possible NL MVP award -- hit a two-run homer for San Francisco. The Giants reduced their magic number for clinching the NL West title to 10. Since the All-Star break, Posey is hitting .390 with 12 home runs and 49 RBI in 55 games. Angel Pagan hit his 13th triple of the season; the 13 three-baggers is a franchise record since the Giants moved to San Francisco in 1958 (Willie Mays set the all-time Giants franchise record, 20, the previous year).

N.L. Wild Card W L
83 63 7
Cardinals 76 70 -
Dodgers 76 70 -
Pirates 73 71 2
Brewers 73 72 2½/td>
Phillies 73 73 3

Dodgers 4, Cardinals 3: Los Angeles came from behind in the bottom of the ninth to take their second straight over St. Louis and tie them for the second wild-card spot. Luis Cruz drove in a run with a two-out double and then was singled in with the game-winning run by pinch-hitter Juan Rivera to give the Dodgers the win. For Cardinals closer Jason Motte, it was his seventh blown save of the season and second in the last week.

Astros 5, Phillies 0: This result is because baseball. The Astros just finished losing two of three at home to the lowly Cubs, and then the Phillies -- a far better team -- came in for a four-game set. But Houston shut them out on seven hits; Jason Maxwell led the Astros' charge with a two-run homer. For Houston, it staved off their 100th defeat of the season. For Philadelphia, it was a setback, but with the Cardinals' loss, they stayed just three games behind the second wild card.

Brewers 9, Mets 6: The Mets took a 4-1 lead into the bottom of the fourth inning at Miller Park, but that's when Milwaukee's bats let loose, with a five-run fourth and a two-run fifth, highlighted by a two-run homer from Rickie Weeks. It was Milwaukee's 19th win in their last 25 games. Ryan Braun, another MVP candidate, had two hits and drove in his 101st run of the year; Braun is now hitting .311/.386/.592.

Pirates 7, Cubs 6: The Bucs snapped their seven-game winning streak, but not before a scare in the bottom of the ninth from the woeful Cubs. Pittsburgh entered the last of the ninth leading 7-4, with usual lockdown closer Joel Hanrahan on the mound. But Hanrahan gave up a couple of hits and had control issues; he walked three, including walking in a run to make it 7-6. With the bases loaded, Hanrahan struck out Dave Sappelt to end it with a win for the Pirates.

Up Next: All the above series conclude on Sunday (except for the Pirates and Cubs, who will finish up a four-game series Monday), with the Nationals and Braves being featured on ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball.

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