NEW YORK (AP) -The New York Mets' lead is gone, leaving them on the brink of a historic collapse.
The free-falling Mets managed just three hits off Joel Pineiro and Jason Isringhausen in a 3-0 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals on Thursday night, dropping New York into a first-place tie with Philadelphia in the NL East.
Not even Pedro Martinez could save New York, which had led the division alone every day since May 16. The Mets (87-72) were ahead by seven games on Sept. 12 with 17 remaining but have lost 10 of their last 14, a monumental tailspin for a team that counted on being in the playoffs.
No major league team has failed to finish first after having at least a seven-game advantage with 17 remaining. But with three games remaining in the regular season - a weekend series at home against Florida - the Mets might fail to win the division or the wild card.
Philadelphia closes the season at home against Washington.
Phillies 6, Braves 4
PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Ryan Howard hit his 44th homer, Pat Burrell also connected and the Phillies roughed up John Smoltz, before hanging on for a victory over the Braves.
The collapsing Mets lost 3-0 to St. Louis to drop into a tie with Philadelphia (87-72) for first place. Both teams have three games left. The Phillies host Washington, which is coming off a three-game sweep at Shea Stadium. The Mets host Florida.
Chipper Jones and Mark Teixeira hit consecutive homers for the Braves, who were mathematically eliminated from the division race.
While the Phillies celebrated their 11th win in 14 games, a crowd of 40,589 cheered wildly and waved their white-and-red ``Fightin' Phils'' towels.
Marlins 6, Cubs 4
MIAMI (AP) - Struggling to avert another collapse, the Chicago Cubs stranded 10 runners and lost to the last-place Florida Marlins for the third game in a row.
Chicago remained two games in front of Milwaukee, which lost 9-5 to San Diego.
The Cubs' magic number for clinching the division fell to two. They close the regular season with a three-game series at Cincinnati beginning Friday.
Florida beat Chicago for the 10th straight game over the past two seasons. That's the longest active streak between major league teams.
Hanley Ramirez hit his 29th homer for Florida while Jeremy Hermida had two hits and finished the series 7-for-12.
Chicago's Aramis Ramirez went 4-for-4. But Steve Trachsel (1-3), making his first start in two weeks, lasted only 4 1-3 innings and allowed five runs.
Scott Olsen (10-15) gave up four runs, two earned, in 5 1-3 innings and won for the first time since Aug. 5.
Padres 9, Brewers 5
MILWAUKEE (AP) - Milwaukee made five errors, their most in eight years, and Scott Hairston hit a tiebreaking three-run double to lead the San Diego Padres over the Brewers.
While San Diego (88-71) maintained its one-game lead in the NL wild-card race and stayed one game back of Arizona in the NL West, the Brewers (81-78) failed for the second straight day to take advantage of a Chicago loss. The Cubs (83-76) lead the NL Central by two games with just three games remaining.
Padres starter Jack Cassel was chased after 4 2-3 innings as Milwaukee closed to 5-2. Joe Thatcher (2-1) relieved with the bases loaded and retired Prince Fielder on a grounder, then pitched a perfect sixth.
Brewers rookie Yovani Gallardo (9-5) gave up five runs - three earned - and five hits in five innings.
Rickie Weeks homered twice for the Brewers, who led the NL Central by 8 1/2 games in late June.
Diamondbacks 8, Pirates 0
PITTSBURGH (AP) - Last-minute replacement Micah Owings pitched 6 1-3 innings and went 4-for-4 with three doubles and three RBIs to help Arizona stop three-game losing streak.
Given an ominous weather forecast, Melvin decided less than an hour before game time to hold back ace Brandon Webb and pitch Owings.
The Diamondbacks assured themselves of holding at least a one-game lead in the NL West when they open a three-game series Friday at Colorado with Webb on the mound. Arizona remained one game ahead of San Diego, which beat Milwaukee 9-5, and two in front of Colorado, which was at Los Angeles.
Owings (8-8) allowed four hits, struck out four and walked none.
He hit an RBI double during a three-run second against John Van Benschoten (0-7), then added a two-run double in the seventh off Romulo Sanchez.
Astros 4, Reds 3
CINCINNATI (AP) - Carlos Lee's RBI single in the ninth inning broke a tie and the Astros beat Cincinnati to complete a three-game sweep of the Reds.
Ty Wigginton doubled off the wall in left field with one out against Gary Majewski (0-4) and he scored on Lee's single to left that gave the Astros' cleanup hitter a career-high 117 RBIs. Lee went to second on the throw home and advanced to third on Majewski's throwing error before scoring on Eric Bruntlett's single.
Cincinnati right-hander Matt Belisle was perfect through six innings but he couldn't help the Reds avoid being swept by the Astros in a three-game series in Cincinnati for the first time since Aug. 30-Sept. 1, 2004.
Dave Borkowski (5-3) pitched a perfect eighth inning for the win. Brad Lidge gave up a run in the bottom of the ninth but earned his 18th save in 26 opportunities.

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