Mets collapse; Phillies surge
The New York Mets' meltdown reached the absurd last night. Out of first place and nearly out of time, they're going to need help just to make the playoffs.
All-Star third baseman David Wright forgot he had an easy force play, Oliver Perez hit a pair of batters with the bases loaded, and the Mets stumbled out of the NL East lead with a 7-4 loss to the last-place Florida Marlins.
New York has lost five straight and 11 of 15 to fall one game back of surging Philadelphia, which beat Washington. The Mets' eighth straight home loss dropped them out of first place for the first time since May 15.
Everything looked rosy for the Mets when they held a seven-game lead Sept. 12 with 17 games left, but it's been mostly downhill from there. They're on the brink now of an unthinkable collapse: No major league team has blown such a big lead in such a short time at the end of a season.
They have two games left against Florida at Shea Stadium but they might be better off on the road. The Mets are in the midst of their longest losing streak at Shea since they dropped nine in a row in 2004.
Phillies 6, Nationals 0 - Cole Hamels struck out 13 in eight dominant innings, Ryan Howard hit his 45th homer, and host Philadelphia grabbed the NL East lead.
Making his third start since missing one month because of a strained elbow, Hamels (15-5) shut down the Nationals, allowing six hits and walking one.
Cubs 6, Reds 0 - Alfonso Soriano hit another leadoff homer, Carlos Zambrano (18-13) kept his cool, and the Cubs clinched the NL Central with a victory at Cincinnati.
Thousands of Chicago fans made the five-hour road trip and cheered every move by the Cubs, who earned their first playoff spot since 2003 when Milwaukee lost.
Padres 6, Brewers 3 - Khalil Greene hit a go-ahead double and drove in three runs as San Diego boosted its playoff hopes and eliminated host Milwaukee.
Greg Maddux (14-11) gave up three runs and six hits in five innings for his 347th win as San Diego opened a two-game lead in the NL wild-card standings and remained one game behind Arizona in the NL West. Trevor Hoffman pitched the ninth for his 42d save in 47 chances.
Indians 5, Royals 3 - C.C. Sabathia picked up his 100th career victory and visiting Cleveland wrapped up home-field advantage for the first round of the playoffs against the Yankees.
The Indians claimed their 95th victory, tying them with the Red Sox for the most wins in the American League. The Red Sox, however, hold the tiebreaker by taking five of seven from Cleveland.
Diamondbacks 4, Rockies 2 - Brandon Webb and Arizona clinched a playoff spot and stopped Colorado's 11-game winning streak with a victory in Denver.
Arizona's win combined with the Mets' loss put Arizona into the playoffs for the first time since 2002. The Diamondbacks still don't know whether they'll be the wild-card team or NL West champion.
The Rockies, who fell three games behind Arizona with two to go, can still get into the playoffs as a wild card, although they'll need lots of help.
Other games: John Lackey took over the AL lead in earned-run average (3.01) and the Angels beat the Athletics, 2-0, in Oakland to snap a three-game losing streak . . . Paul Konerko hit a three-run home run and Jim Thome hit his 506th career homer to lead the White Sox to a 5-2 win over the Tigers in Chicago . . . Adam Lind hit a two-run homer to power host Toronto to a 5-4 victory over Tampa Bay. Carlos Pena hit his 45th home run for the Devil Rays . . . Jim Edmonds had a three-run single in the eighth to help visiting St. Louis take a 6-1 victory over Pittsburgh . . . Jeff Francoeur hit a two-run homer as the Braves beat host Houston, 7-2 . . . David Wells (9-9) picked up the win and singled home a run as the host Dodgers beat the Giants, 8-3 . . . Rookie Jeff Clement homered to spark host Seattle to a 6-4 victory over Texas.