N.L. Playoffs Chase: Monday-Morning Update

San Francisco, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants pitcher Barry Zito prepares to deliver a pitch against the Los Angeles Dodgers at AT&T Park. Credit: Cary Edmondson-US PRESSWIRE

The Giants' Barry Zito had one of his best starts of the season as San Francisco extended its N.L. West lead. Here's a summary of the rest of Sunday's action involving N.L. contenders.

N.L. East W L
Nationals 86 54 -
Braves 81 60

The Braves won while the Nationals lost Sunday, so Atlanta moves to 5½ games off the division lead, while the Braves still top the wild-card list.

Braves 3, Mets 2, 10 innings: Mets fans gave retiring Braves star Chipper Jones a warm ovation as he left the last game he'll play against them, but the Braves were much happier when Brian McCann's sacrifice fly won the game for them in extra innings. McCann also hit his 20th home run. Craig Kimbrel had thrown the ninth inning for Atlanta, so Peter Moylan was called on in the last of the 10th; he posted his first save this season.

Marlins 8, Nationals 0: After a pair of wild, 10-inning games Friday and Saturday, split between the two clubs, this was all Marlins. Miami's Ricky Nolasco retired the first 13 hitters he faced and wound up throwing a four-hit shutout, his second of the year. Giancarlo Stanton paced the Miami attack with a home run, his 33rd, and also stole a base.

N.L. Central W L
Reds 84 57 -
Cardinals 75 65

Astros 5, Reds 1: Go figure. The Astros began the day with the worst road record in baseball; the Reds, with the best home mark in the major leagues. The game's in Cincinnati, with Cy Young candidate Johnny Cueto on the mound -- this is a no-brainer for the Reds, right? Wrong, because baseball. The Astros pounded Cueto, getting nine hits off him in just four innings, including a three-run homer by Matt Dominguez. Houston's Edgar Gonzalez started and threw five solid innings, and he and three Astros relievers gave Cincinnati just five hits. The Reds are still likely cruising to the division title, but for one day, Houston was the better team.

Cardinals 5, Brewers 4, 10 innings: For the second time in the series, the teams went to extra innings. The Brewers were going for a three-game sweep and would have moved to within four games of St. Louis for the second wild card. Going into the ninth inning trailing 4-2, Milwaukee tied the game on a two-run homer by Norichika Aoki off Jason Motte; for Motte, it was his sixth blown save. But the Cardinals took Motte off the hook when Allen Craig singled in Matt Carpenter with two out in the 10th.

N.L. West W L
Giants 79 61 -
Dodgers 74 67

Giants 4, Dodgers 0: With shadows making it difficult for hitters to see in the early innings, the Giants' Barry Zito shut down Dodgers hitters over 6⅓ innings. Zito allowed just four hits and five Giants relievers finished off the combined shutout. Hunter Pence's two-run double in the first inning gave San Francisco all the runs it needed. Buster Posey pleased the home folks with a sixth-inning home run, his 20th, as the Giants won the series from their southern California rivals, in front of a huge crowd chanting "Beat L.A.!" and extended their lead in the N.L. West.

N.L. Wild Card W L
Braves
81 60
Cardinals 75 65 -
Dodgers 74 67
Pirates 72 67

Cubs 4, Pirates 2: If the Pirates do fail to secure one of the wild-card berths this season, one of the reasons could be the awful Cubs. The Cubs have won just six road games since the All-Star break, but five of them have been in Pittsburgh, and overall since the break the Cubs are 6-3 against the Pirates. Sunday, Alfonso Soriano, Josh Vitters and Anthony Recker homered for the visitors and the Pirates went down to their 13th defeat in their last 18 games. The two clubs will meet again this weekend in Chicago.

Up next: The only series beginning Monday with contending teams facing each other has the Pirates traveling to Cincinnati to face the Reds. The Pirates, one presumes, hope the Astros left some of the visiting-team mojo they had over the weekend. Other series involving contenders: The Nationals will visit the Mets; the Braves will head to Milwaukee to face the Brewers, who are not listed here as contenders, but still have an outside shot at a wild card; the Giants begin a series at Denver against the Rockies, and the Cardinals head to San Diego to take on the Padres. The Dodgers have the day off.

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