Ryan Howard of the Philadelphia Phillies celebrates a two -un home run with teammate Chase Utley against the New York Mets at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Alex Trautwig/Getty Images)
There were some dramatic comebacks in Wednesday night's games involving contenders, and a win by one in extra innings.
Wednesday, some races tightened; some teams fell further out of races; and some division clinchings got closer.
Nationals 3, Dodgers 1; Dodgers 7, Nationals 6: The teams played a single-admission doubleheader Wednesday, a rarity in modern baseball, due to a rained-out game Tuesday night in Washington. The Nats got solid pitching from Jordan Zimmermann in the first game and the win was their 90th of the season, the most by any Washington-based team since the A.L.'s Senators won 99 in 1933. In the nightcap, the Dodgers took a 6-0 lead into the eighth inning -- one of the runs scoring on a possible blown call in the fourth -- but the Nats had a furious six-run rally in the eighth inning, including two homers off Josh Beckett, to tie the contest. Matt Kemp's ninth-inning homer off Tyler Clippard was the game-winner. The Nationals need to win just once more to assure themselves of a playoff spot.
Braves 3, Marlins 0: Kris Medlen has been a revelation for the Braves since he was placed in the rotation. Atlanta has now won 21 consecutive Medlen starts, the longest such streak for a team in a single starter's games since the Yankees did so in 22 straight starts by Hall of Famer Whitey Ford in the 1950s. Medlen threw eight shutout innings, giving up just four hits and reducing his ERA to 1.51.
Reds 6, Cubs 5, 11 innings: David DeJesus dropped a Brandon Phillips fly ball on a windy night in Chicago; Drew Stubbs drove him in with the eventual winning run, reducing the Reds' magic number to clinch the NL Central to three. For the Cubs, Alfonso Soriano hit his 30th home run of the season; Soriano has 103 RBI, trailing NL leaders Ryan Braun and Chase Headley by just one, a remarkable RBI count for a player on a team that ranks 15th in the league in runs.
Cardinals 5, Astros 0: Lance Lynn, who had a great beginning to 2012 but was demoted to the bullpen last month, made the most of his second start since returning to the rotation. Lynn threw 6⅓ shutout innings and David Freese and Yadier Molina homered for the victorious Cardinals, who opened a two-game lead for the second wild card spot.
Giants 7, Rockies 1: Matt Cain posted his career-best 15th win as the Giants won for the seventh time in their last eight games, reducing their magic number for clinching the NL West to five. Cain gave up just one run in eight solid innings and Pablo Sandoval's first-inning, three-run homer gave San Francisco all the runs they'd need. Sandoval went 3-for-5 with two runs scored as well as the three RBI.
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Phillies 3, Mets 2: The Phillies were one out away from falling farther behind in the wild-card race, but Ryan Howard smacked a two-run homer off Josh Edgin to give his team the lead. Jonathan Papelbon finished off the Mets in the bottom of the ninth inning for his 36th save. Cole Hamels struck out 10 Mets in six innings; the Phils posted their 21st win in their last 30 games.
Brewers 3, Pirates 1: The Brew Crew won for the ninth time in their last 11 games and moved to within half a game of the Dodgers, 2½ games behind the Cardinals in the race for the second wild-card spot. Marco Estrada threw seven shutout innings and John Axford posted his 30th save; for the reeling Pirates, who dropped to the .500 mark for the first time since June 2, it was their 10th loss in their last 12 games.
Diamondbacks 6, Padres 2: Don't count Arizona out quite yet. The D'backs won their third straight game Wednesday night behind solid pitching from Trevor Cahill and a key triple by rookie outfielder Adam Eaton. While the Diamondbacks have the same record as the Pirates and might seem too far behind -- 4½ games back with 14 to go -- 11 of those 14 games are against bottom-feeders (one more against the Padres, three with the Cubs, and six with the Rockies).
Up Next: All of the above series (except Braves/Marlins, which concluded Wednesday night) will continue Thursday. The Phillies/Mets matchup is a makeup of Tuesday night's rainout; the Reds have a chance to clinch a tie for the Central crown if they can defeat the Cubs while the Cardinals lose.