MIAMI — The Florida Marlins kept swinging, and by the middle of the game the Philadelphia Phillies were literally ducking out of the way.
All that's left is the knockout punch from the Marlins, who held on during a harrowing eighth inning and beat slumping Philadelphia 6-5 Wednesday night to take a three-game lead in the NL wild-card race with only four games to go.
Phillies third baseman Placido Polanco scrambled to avoid being beaned by a broken bat on a run-scoring single. Florida's Jeff Conine homered for the second night in a row, Juan Encarnacion also homered and Josh Beckett took a two-hit shutout into the eighth inning.
The Phillies said Wednesday's game was one they had to win, and they scored five times in the eighth after falling behind 6-0. But Chase Utley struck out with two on to end the inning, and Ugueth Urbina's perfect ninth gave Florida its largest lead this season in the wild-card standings.
ASTROS 2, GIANTS 1: At Houston, with the Astros trailing in the late innings, Jose Vizcaino came up with a big hit that kept them from dropping even farther back in the NL Central. Vizcaino pinch hit in the seventh inning and singled home two runs to lead Houston over a lineup of San Francisco substitutes. Houston stopped a four-game losing streak, and Roy Oswalt (10-5) won his fourth straight start. He allowed three hits in eight innings, including Pedro Feliz's second-inning homer. Oswalt struck out six and walked none.
Sidney Ponson (3-6), backed by three double plays, allowed just two singles in the first six innings, but got in trouble in the seventh.
Ponson hit Jeff Kent with a pitch with two outs and Lance Berkman followed with a double off the left-field scoreboard, sending Kent to third.
BRAVES 9, EXPOS 1: At Atlanta, Russ Ortiz allowed three hits in five scoreless innings to win his 21st game and Atlanta beat Montreal in the Braves' final home game of the regular season. Ortiz (21-7), who will be the Braves' starter Tuesday when Atlanta opens its first-round NL playoff series, ran his scoreless innings streak to 14. Atlanta's Rafael Furcal went 3-for-4. He had an RBI single and scored twice. Gary Sheffield, Andruw Jones and Robert Fick each drove in two runs.
CUBS 8, REDS 0: At cincinnati, Sammy Sosa, Shawn Estes and Chicago turned off the television and kept themselves in control of the NL Central. Sosa tied Mickey Mantle for 10th place on the career home run list, Estes pitched a shutout and the Cubs rolled past the Reds 8-0 Wednesday night to preserve their one-game division lead. Chicago took advantage of three errors by the majors' worst defense, fulfilling the first requirement for a playoff contender — beat up on the downtrodden. The Cubs finish with one more game in Cincinnati, and three at Wrigley Field against the lowly Pittsburgh Pirates.
METS 5, PIRATES 3: At New York, Steve Trachsel (16-10) set a career high for wins, allowing two runs and six hits in six innings as New York won consecutive games for the first time since completing a three-game sweep of Atlanta on Sept. 3. Timo Perez had three hits and two RBIs, and Mike Stanton pitched the ninth for his fifth save. Jeff D'Amico (9-16) lost for the fourth time in five decisions, allowing five runs and nine hits in five innings.
CARDINALS 8, BREWERS 4: At Milwaukee, J.D. Drew homered and Matt Morris (11-8) allowed three runs on seven hits in seven innings for St. Louis, which would have been eliminated from postseason contention with a loss. The Cardinals, who won for the seventh time in eight games, trail NL Central-leading Chicago by 3 1/2 games.
Jason Isringhausen got five outs for his 20th save. Matt Kinney (10-13) allowed five runs, seven hits and four walks in five innings.
DIAMONDBACKS 6, ROCKIES 3: At Denver, Randy Johnson beat Colorado for the eighth straight time and Danny Bautista homered twice to back him as Arizona won 6-3 over the Rockies.
Johnson (6-8) allowed two runs on seven hits and improved to 8-0 in his past nine starts against Colorado. Johnson is 13-4 in 18 starts against the Rockies and hasn't lost to them since June 24, 2001.
Matt Mantei pitched a perfect ninth for his 27th save in 30 chances. Bautista drove in three runs and was 3-for-4. It was his third career multihomer game.
DODGERS 2, PADRES 1, 11 innings: At San Diego, Pinch-hitter Jolbert Cabrera drove in the go-ahead run with a single in the 11th to give Los Angeles a win over San Diego. The win allowed the Dodgers to stay 3 1/2 games behind Florida in the NL wild-card race. Cabrera looped a ball into shallow right field off Mike Matthews that eluded the diving Gary Matthews Jr., allowing Dave Roberts to score. Eric Gagne pitched the 11th for his 55th save, tying him with John Smoltz.