With the top teams in each of the three divisions squaring off, it was a pretty good night to be a second-place team.
The Phillies picked up a game on the first-place Mets in the East with a 4-2 win in 10 innings Tuesday night, and the Padres closed within a game of the first-place Diamondbacks in the West with a 6-4 win.
Only a four-run seventh inning by the NL Central-leading Chicago Cubs against the second-place Milwaukee Brewers, leading to a 5-3 win, prevented a sweep by the second-place clubs.
And after St. Louis beat Houston, the Cardinals, not the Brewers, were in second in the Central.
Ryan Howard's two-run home run in the 10th helped the Phillies win after being down 2-0 in the eighth. Howard's hefty cut went about 400 feet and sent the Phillies faithful into a frenzy.
``Every game down the stretch is a playoff-atmosphere type game, especially with the Mets in town,'' Howard said. ``That's all you can ask for. You just want to get the feel for it.''
The Phillies are back in the thick of the NL East race, trailing the division-leading Mets by four games after taking the first two of a pivotal four-game series.
``This is one of those games where everyone's like, 'Oh, this a great game,''' Howard said. ``Somebody had to lose. Fortunately for us, we were on the other side of that.''
In other NL games, it was: Pittsburgh swept a doubleheader from Cincinnati, 6-4, 3-2; Florida 4, Atlanta 3; St. Louis 7, Houston 0; San Francisco 3, Colorado 1; and Los Angeles 4, Washington 3.
For seven shutout innings, the Phillies were stymied by 300-game winner Tom Glavine. The highest scoring offense in the NL didn't wake up until Glavine left with a 2-0 lead - on a two-run shot from Carlos Delgado.
Jimmy Rollins rallied the Phillies in the eighth with his 23rd homer of the year off Pedro Feliciano.
``We've got to win at least one more, but the series hasn't started out like we wanted it to,'' Glavine said.
At San Diego, Mike Cameron homered to start a four-run rally off reigning NL Cy Young winner Brandon Webb in the sixth inning.
Webb (14-9) allowed a season-high six earned runs in 5 1-3 innings and had his six-game winning streak snapped.
``We beat a good pitcher today,'' Cameron said. ``It's going to take that down the stretch in order for us to approach the goal we need to get to, a chance to play in the postseason.''
The Padres, trying to win their third straight division title, have won the first two games in the four-game series. San Diego has won seven of nine overall and is a game behind Arizona for the first time since Aug. 7.
``We've lost two games. It's not the end of the world,'' said Arizona manager Bob Melvin, who was ejected in the sixth for arguing a call at first base.
Webb was making his first start since his shutout streak ended at 42 innings. He fell to 4-7 lifetime against San Diego and to 2-3 at Petco Park.
At Chicago, Jacque Jones hit a game-tying two-run double in the seventh and scored the go-ahead run on an error by reliever Scott Linebrink as the Cubs rallied to beat the Brewers.
The first-place Cubs knocked Milwaukee into third place in the NL Central, 2 1/2 games back. St. Louis beat Houston 7-0 and is now in second, two games behind.
``It's important to win the first game and put yourself in a good position,'' Chicago manager Lou Piniella said.
The slumping Brewers lost for the 11th time in 14 games. And this was a difficult one to take after strong pitching from Jeff Suppan. Milwaukee fell below .500 for the first time since April 9.
``It's tough for all of us. It just seems like every time we get late into a ball game, maybe we start to press,'' said Milwaukee's J.J. Hardy, who had three hits. ``I don't know what it is.''
Dodgers 4, Nationals 3
At Los Angeles, Jeff Kent homered, Andre Ethier's sacrifice fly broke a seventh-inning tie and the Dodgers won their third straight.
Chad Billingsley (9-4) won his second in a row, allowing three runs and eight hits in seven innings. The right-hander struck out six and walked one.
Cardinals 7, Astros 0
At Houston, Chris Duncan shook off an August slump with a three-run homer and an RBI single to help St. Louis Cardinals ruin Cecil Cooper's first game as Phil Garner's successor.
Duncan snapped a 28-game home run drought with a three-run drive in the first inning off Houston starter Woody Williams (8-13).
St. Louis starter Braden Looper (11-10) pitched seven scoreless innings, allowing only four hits with four strikeouts. Looper has won five of his last nine starts.
Marlins 4, Braves 3, 11 innings
At Miami, Alejandro De Aza's 11th-inning sacrifice fly gave Florida the win.
In the 11th, Oscar Villarreal (2-2) walked Alfredo Amezaga with one out and Jeremy Hermida moved Amezaga to third with a double off the left-center field scoreboard. Villarreal intentionally walked Matt Treanor, loading the bases for De Aza, who flied to right to score Amezega.
Giants 3, Rockies 1
At San Francisco, Matt Cain (7-13) struck out eight in seven innings to win his third straight start, Bengie Molina homered and Randy Winn drove in two runs in the Giants' sixth straight victory.
Franklin Morales (0-2), a left-hander making just his third major league start, allowed two runs and six hits in five innings.
Pirates 6, Reds 4; Pirates 3, Reds 2
At Pittsburgh, Freddy Sanchez drove in five runs in the opener, then tripled and scored the winning run in the eighth inning of the second game to give Pittsburgh a doubleheader sweep that slowed previously surging Cincinnati.
The Reds had won six in a row and nine of 11, only to be swept by Pittsburgh in a doubleheader for the first time since September 2000.
Sanchez tied a career high with five RBIs and hit his second career grand slam as the Pirates won the opener. Tom Gorzelanny (13-6) gave up four runs in six innings but still won his fourth in five starts.
In the nightcap, Sanchez tripled with one out in the eighth against Bill Bray (3-1). With the infield pulled in, Adam LaRoche singled up the middle to score Sanchez.

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