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NL: Cards cut magic number to two

©Associated Press
September 20, 2002

DENVER -- The Cardinals couldn't have been much more efficient than this: They came to Coors Field with a magic number of seven to clinch the Central and left Thursday with the number at two.

"We're closing in on the finish line," manager Tony La Russa said. "Our boys can smell it."

Scott Rolen hit his fourth homer in three games as the Cardinals beat the Rockies 12-6 for their 13th win in 15 games.

By sweeping the three-game series as Houston was losing two of three to Milwaukee, the Cardinals increased their lead to 81/2 games. St. Louis has 10 games remaining and Houston nine, and those teams begin a three-game series today at Busch Stadium.

"We all can feel it," said second baseman Fernando Vina, who had three hits and two RBIs.

"It's been a tough year for us with the tragedies and the things that have happened," Vina said, referring to the deaths of pitcher Darryl Kile and broadcaster Jack Buck. "We've got to keep going hard so we can finish it up at home. When it happens, it's going to be something real special."

Colorado, which trailed 7-4 going into the bottom of the seventh, got within a run on Ben Petrick's two-run homer. But the Cards responded in the eighth as Eli Marrero, Jim Edmonds and Albert Pujols hit consecutive homers off Todd Jones. Wilson Delgado capped a five-run inning with a two-run double.

Jason Simontacchi allowed four runs and six hits in six innings for the win. He singled and scored on Vina's triple in the fourth. Greg Norton leaped high to grab Marrero's chopper to third, but his throw to first was wild, allowing Vina to score to give St. Louis a 6-4 lead.

DODGERS 6, GIANTS 3: Odalis Perez pitched a seven-hitter and Brian Jordan hit a three-run double for visiting Los Angeles, which climbed within one game of San Francisco in the wild-card race.

The teams split the four-game series, and are not scheduled to play again this season. Both clubs have nine games left.

Perez struck out seven and walked two in his fourth career complete game.

Jordan continued his big hitting in September, going 3-for-4 and driving in three runs. He has 24 RBIs in 18 games this month, which leads the league.

Barry Bonds went 1-for-3 with a walk. The Giants outfielder leads the majors in hitting at .373.

BREWERS 5, ASTROS 4: Bill Hall's two-run double keyed host Milwaukee's four-run fourth as Houston starter Roy Oswalt lost for the first time in two months. Oswalt allowed four runs and four hits in six innings to lose for the first time since July16.

The Astros left 11 runners on base and went 2-for-13 with runners in scoring position. They put the potential tying run on third in the eighth and ninth.

DIAMONDBACKS 3, PADRES 1: The last thing Arizona manager Bob Brenly thought he'd have to do was take out Randy Johnson after seven innings and the score tied at 1. But Johnson ended up with another September win after the Diamondbacks rallied for two unearned runs in the eighth.

The Diamondbacks lowered their magic number to four for clinching consecutive West titles and third in four seasons.

Johnson (23-5) won his fourth straight start and tied teammate Curt Schilling for the major-league lead in wins. Johnson allowed one run and four hits in seven innings, struck out nine and walked none. Padres rookie Clay Condrey allowed two runs, one earned, and four hits in seven innings in his second big-league start. He struck out seven and walked two.

Arizona's runs in the eighth were unearned, coming on a single, a walk and two errors.

BRAVES 6, PHILLIES 0: Bobby Cox reached another milestone. John Smoltz will have to wait to get his.

Cox became the 12th manager in major-league history to win 1,800 games for host Atlanta.

Tom Glavine pitched six scoreless innings, tuning up for the playoffs.

Smoltz didn't get a chance to go for his 53rd save. He remains one from the NL league record shared by Trevor Hoffman and Randy Myers, five from the major-league mark held by Bobby Thigpen.

EXPOS 6, MARLINS 5: Bartolo Colon became the second pitcher to win 10 games in both leagues in a season and Vladimir Guerrero drove in the go-ahead run with a disputed infield hit for visiting Montreal.

With runners on first and third and two outs in the sixth, Guerrero hit a chopper to third baseman Mike Lowell, whose throw appeared to be in time on video replay. First-base umpire Angel Hernandez called Guerrero safe, allowing Jamey Carroll to score.

REDS 5, PIRATES 4: Kelly Stinnett hit his first career grand slam with two outs in the ninth for visiting Cincinnati. Stinnett was playing in just his 28th game of the season and making his 20th start. He spent more than three months on the disabled list from April to July with a right elbow injury.

METS 3, CUBS 2 (12): Roger Cedeno drove home the winning run with an infield single in the 12th for host New York, which tied the score in the ninth against Antonio Alfonseca. The Mets won after Raul Gonzalez led off the 12th against Will Cunnane with a one-hop double off the leftfield wall.

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