There were some stunning late-inning heroics in games involving National League contending teams Friday.
Brewers 4, Nationals 2: Milwaukee struggled for offense for eight innings and it appeared the Nationals would move one step closer to clinching the NL East. But the Brewers stunned Nats closer Tyler Clippard with a three-run ninth inning; it was Clippard's fifth blown save of the season. John Axford posted his 32nd save for the Brew Crew. The Milwaukee win also brought them a game closer to the second wild-card spot.
Phillies 6, Braves 2: Philadelphia also cut a game off their wild-card deficit with a barrage of homers against Atlanta. Carlos Ruiz, Kevin Frandsen, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard all went deep for the victorious Phillies, who got 6⅔ solid innings from Kyle Kendrick. The loss prevented the Braves from gaining on the Nats in the NL East; Washington's magic number to clinch the division was reduced to seven. The Phillies moved to within three games of the second wild-card spot.
Cubs 5, Cardinals 4, 11 innings: Darwin Barney's two-out, two-strike, two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth tied the game, and David DeJesus drove in pinch-runner Brett Jackson from third base with two out in the 11th in a stunning win for the lowly Cubs over the Cardinals; St. Louis' lead for the second wild-card spot was cut to just 1½ games.
Dodgers 3, Reds 1, 10 innings: With St. Louis losing, Cincinnati could have clinched the NL Central title with a victory over the Dodgers. But a two-run Los Angeles rally in the 10th inning won it; Matt Kemp drove in both runs with a single. The Dodgers still cling to wild-card hope as well; the victory brought them to within two games of the Cardinals for that second wild-card berth.
Giants 5, Padres 1: San Francisco's Ryan Vogelsong allowed just five hits and one run in six strong innings, and Pablo Sandoval homered for the third time in his last two games to help lead the Giants to victory in front of another sellout (41,728) at AT&T Park. The Giants reduced their magic number to clinch the NL West to two; a San Francisco win and a Los Angeles loss Saturday would win the division for the Giants for the second time in the last three years.
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Diamondbacks 15, Rockies 5: Arizona pounded out 19 hits, including home runs from Chris Johnson and Adam Eaton, in a demolition of the host Rockies. Seven different D'backs had at least two hits, and five had at least two RBI; Arizona's still on the fringes of this race at 4½ games behind, but has nine of its 12 remaining games against bad teams (the Rockies and Cubs).
Astros 7, Pirates 1: You'll note the Pirates are no longer listed in the standings here; that's because a loss to the horrid Astros Friday night pretty much eliminates them from contention, in spirit if not mathematically. The loss was the Pirates' 12th in their last 14 games and dropped them two games under .500.
Up Next: Saturday afternoon, the Cardinals, Brewers, Nationals, Dodgers, Reds, Phillies and Braves will be in action. The NL Central title could be clinched by the end of the day if the Cardinals lose or the Reds win. The Diamondbacks and Giants will have evening affairs Saturday.