Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Reds left fielder Ryan Ludwick is congratulated by teammates after hitting the game-winning hit during the fourteenth inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Great American Ball Park. The Reds defeated the Pirates 4-3 in 14 innings. Credit: Frank Victores-US PRESSWIRE
The National League, all of a sudden, has a couple of teams sniffing at playoff spots that you might not have had on your radar a couple of weeks ago -- despite those clubs still being under .500. Here's what happened Monday.
Nationals 5, Mets 1: Gio Gonzalez posted his 19th win -- tops in the NL -- as the Nats reduced their magic number to clinch the NL East to 15. Ryan Zimmerman, Ian Desmond and Kurt Suzuki all homered for the Nats; the three homers accounted for all the Washington scoring off the woeful Mets. Collin McHugh, a Mets rookie making just his third big-league start, was the victim of all three long balls.
Brewers 4, Braves 1: The Brewers have one of the top home records in the National League, and the schedule-makers granted them a six-game homestand at a propitious time. The Brew Crew won their seventh consecutive Miller Park game, moving them to within one game of the .500 mark (they haven't been at .500 since April 18, when they were 6-6) and within five games of the Cardinals for the second wild card spot. Norichika Aoki delivered the key hit, a two-run double in the seventh inning, to nail down the win.
Reds 4, Pirates 3, 14 innings: The Pirates continue to slip in the wild-card race as the Reds begin to run away with the NL Central; Cincinnati's magic number for a division clinching is 12 after a five-hour, 22-minute marathon win over the Bucs in Cincinnati. Ryan Ludwick drove in the winning run with an infield single with two out in the bottom of the 14th. Despite their position in the standings, the Reds drew their smallest announced crowd of 2012 -- just 16,577. Only a few hundred fans were left when the game ended shortly after 12:30 a.m. ET.
Padres 11, Cardinals 3: The Cardinals still hold the second wild-card spot, but they might not for long; they've lost eight of their last 12 and teams behind them are creeping closer. Monday night in San Diego, Jaime Garcia and four St. Louis relievers gave the Padres 17 hits, including a two-run homer by Cameron Maybin and a four-hit night by outfielder Chris Denorfia.
Rockies 6, Giants 5: The Giants just finished winning a series against their arch-rivals, the Dodgers, in San Francisco, and headed to Denver to play the lowly Rockies. Naturally -- right? -- this resulted in a win by the worse team. Rockies pitcher Alex White homered off Ryan Vogelsong and Colorado held on for the win despite homers from Giants Buster Posey and Hunter Pence. The loss sliced San Francisco's lead in the NL West to five game over the Dodgers, who had Monday off.
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Phillies 3, Marlins 1: The Phillies and Brewers have both climbed to within five games of the Cardinals for the second wild-card spot. With 21 games remaining for all three clubs, that deficit isn't insurmountable, although neither Philadelphia nor Milwaukee will play St. Louis again this year -- thus both would need to keep winning and get help to make it. Monday, Kyle Kendrick threw five no-hit innings before Rob Brantly led off the sixth with a single. Kendrick finished with seven strong innings and Domonic Brown hit a two-run homer for the victorious Phils.
Up next: The series above all continue Tuesday evening; in addition, the Dodgers are back in action, facing the Diamondbacks in the first of an abbreviated two-game series in Phoenix.