Sunday afternoon was rough on Pennsylvania baseball, as both of the Keystone State's clubs suffered tough losses, their scant postseason prospects fading even farther. But things are looking up for the Badger State, whose Brewers have now won 20 of their last 26 games and become players in the Wild Card race.
Braves 5, Nationals 1: Truthfully, this game didn't have any serious postseason implications, since there's very little chance that the Nationals will blow their lead in the East, or that the Braves will blow their lead in the Wild Card standings. But Gio Gonzalez did take the loss Sunday night on ESPN, instead of recording his 20th win, which does impact his Cy Young chances. Meanwhile, Mike Minor and a trio of Atlanta relievers limited the Nationals to just five hits and one walk. The Braves went ahead 2-0 in the third, and made it 5-1 in the seventh when Dan Uggla delivered a two-run single with two outs.
Cardinals 5, Dodgers 2: With Chad Billingsley and Clayton Kershaw out of action, are the Dodgers giving up on the playoffs? Hardly. First place in the West seems almost impossible, but the second Wild Card remains in play, and this weekend the Dodgers nearly took three of four from the St. Louis Cardinals, their closest competition. But they didn't, instead settling for a split.
Sunday, rookie Stephen Fife started in place of Kershaw, and struck out six Cardinals in the first two innings. He couldn't keep that up, of course, and excited after giving up two runs in five innings. Meanwhile, Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright went six innings and also gave up two runs. From there, both bullpens took over, and the score remained 2-2 until the 12th. But with two outs in the top of that frame, Jon Jay doubled home Matt Carpenter, who'd led off the inning with a walk. With John Ely on the mound for nearly all of it, the Cardinals would eventually bat around and tack on a couple of insurance runs. Jason Motte pitched the bottom of the 12th for his 35th save.
Astros 7, Phillies 6: The Phillies were back in the hunt! Entering their weekend series against the lowly Astros, the Phillies were only three games out in the Wild Card standings! They would just sweep the Astros, pick up another game or two in the standings, and suddenly the Phillies would be incredibly relevant. Except they got shut out by the Astros Saturday, and lost a heartbreaker Sunday. The Phillies were up 4-3 until the seventh, when the Astros plated four runs, thanks largely to an error and a couple of walks; Justin Maxwell laced a two-run double, Matt Dominguez a two-run single. The Phillies fought back with a couple of runs in the eighth, but Wilton Lopez worked around a couple of baserunners in the ninth to pitch a scoreless ninth for the save.
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Brewers 3, Mets 0: Ryan Braun hit his 39th and 40th home runs of the season, and Wily Peralta -- making just his third start in the majors -- tossed eight shutout innings, allowing two hits and one walk. Braun's homers were both solo shots, with one of them coming in the fourth inning just before Aramis Ramirez launched one of his own. The Brewers' victory jumped them past the Pirates in the standings; now they trail only the Cardinals and Dodgers for the second Wild Card berth. (via MLB.com, some clips of Peralta's excellence)
Cubs 13, Pirates 9: By any accounting, the slumping Pirates needed to win at least three of their four games against the Cubs in this four-game series. But after taking a bad beating Sunday afternoon at Wrigley Field, the best the Pirates can do is split, with the finale scheduled for Monday night. The Pirates led this one 6-1 and 9-5, but the Cubs exploded for five runs in the sixth and three more in the eighth. Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo enjoyed a huge day, with two home runs and six RBI.
Up Next: Monday night, the Pirates and Cubs conclude their series. The Rockies begin a four-game series in San Francisco. And with a great pitching match-up, Cliff Lee vs. R.A. Dickey, the Phillies open a must-sweep three-game set against the Mets in New York.