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Nats keep hope alive with big win over Braves

Washington's Brad Wilkerson connects on a double during the Nationals' win over Atlanta on Friday.
Washington's Brad Wilkerson connects on a double during the Nationals' win over Atlanta on Friday.
Nick Wass, Associated Press

Things looked pretty bleak to Jose Guillen.

His Washington Nationals were trailing the Atlanta Braves by four runs, their bullpen was weary, their offense was quiet again, and a fourth consecutive loss seemingly was on the horizon, another blow to fast-fading wild-card hopes.

So Guillen turned to teammate Carlos Baerga in the dugout and told him what he thought: Unless we come back here, forget about the playoffs.

Then, with plenty of help, Guillen went out and did something about it, breaking a tie with a two-run double in the eighth inning for his 1,000th career hit to cap Washington's 8-6 victory over NL East leader Atlanta on Friday night in Washington.

"I'm pretty sure if we lost," Guillen said, "the season was done."

Wild-card leader Houston's 7-4 loss to Milwaukee allowed Washington to pull within three games of the Astros.

"We're still alive," Vinny Castilla said. "We showed today that we still believe."

Castilla's upper-deck solo homer off reliever Kyle Davies cut Washington's deficit to 6-4 in the seventh.

"We should have won that game," Davies said.

The win was similar in so many ways to several that came when the Nationals were starting 50-31 and occupying first place. The rally. The final margin. The bullpen work, including Chad Cordero's 1-2-3 ninth inning for his club-record 44th save. And the clutch hit from Guillen.

"I forgot about him," Nationals manager Frank Robinson said.

CARDINALS 3, METS 2: At St. Louis, Larry Walker hit a tiebreaking home run off the right-field scoreboard with two outs in the eighth inning, and Jason Marquis threw eight strong innings. Albert Pujols and Hector Luna each drove in a run for the defending NL champions, who reduced their magic number for clinching the Central division to nine.

BREWERS 7, ASTROS 4: At Milwaukee, Roger Clemens lasted just three innings in his shortest start in more than a year. Clemens gave up five runs, tying a season high, on five hits and five walks in losing his third straight decision. His major league-leading ERA jumped from 1.57 to 1.78. It is Clemens' longest single-season losing streak in five years. Despite the loss, Houston remained a half-game ahead of the Florida Marlins for the National League wild card.

PHILLIES 12, MARLINS 5: At Philadelphia, Pat Burrell and Ryan Howard hit two-run homers, and the Phillies snapped a five-game losing streak. Burrell surpassed 100 RBIs and Chase Utley tripled, doubled and singled for the Phillies. Phillies starter Cory Lidle (10-10) was hurt by a couple of botched balls behind him that gave the Marlins a 4-1 lead. But Philadelphia's hitters responded in the third against slumping A.J. Burnett (12-10).

PIRATES 8, REDS 4: At Cincinnati, Jason Bay hit a pair of two-run homers, and Pittsburgh beat the Reds in Oliver Perez's first start in more than 10 weeks. Nate McLouth and Jack Wilson had two hits and scored two runs apiece to help send the Reds to their third loss in four games.

DIAMONDBACKS 7, ROCKIES 1: At Denver, Shawn Estes pitched six shutout innings for his first win since June 24 and Chad Tracy hit a three-run homer to lead the Diamondbacks. Troy Glaus and Craig Counsell also connected for Arizona.

GIANTS 2, CUBS 1: At San Francisco, Matt Cain pitched an electrifying two-hitter in his third major league start, and fellow rookie Dan Ortmeier got his first RBI for the Giants with a tiebreaking single. Cain, a 20-year-old right-hander, retired seven straight batters before Derrek Lee's leadoff homer in the fourth inning. Cain then retired his next 15 hitters, many with fastballs topping 95 mph.