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It's no stretch: Cubs still in first place

Posted: Wednesday, September 24, 2003

CINCINNATI Kerry Wood struck out 12 and limited the Cincinnati Reds to one infield single in seven innings Tuesday night, leading the Chicago Cubs to a 6-0 victory and sole possession of first place in the NL Central.

The Houston Astros dropped a game back with a loss to San Francisco.

The Cubs had not been alone in first place so late in a season since 1989, the last time they won a division title.

The Reds couldn't even get a ball out of the infield through the first six innings as Wood (14-11) didn't come close to giving up a hit. He walked Russell Branyan with one out in the seventh, and Wily Mo Pena broke up the no-hit bid with an infield single.

Kyle Farnsworth and Mike Remlinger completed the two-hitter. Wood set a career high for wins and leads the majors with 266 strikeouts.

Aramis Ramirez led Chicago's offense with a solo homer and RBI single off right-hander Scott Randall (2-4), a nine-year minor leaguer who was making his first big league start.

Giants 10, Astros 3

HOUSTON Edgardo Alfonzo hit a grand slam in a 10-run second inning, and San Francisco knocked Houston out of first place in the NL Central.

The Giants roughed up Wade Miller (14-13) and sent the Astros to their fourth consecutive loss. Houston had held at least a share of the division lead since Sept. 8.

Jason Schmidt (17-5) benefited from all the San Francisco offense. The right-hander, slated to start Game 1 of the playoffs for the NL West champion Giants, gave up only two runs and three hits in seven innings.

He has won five straight decisions and 12 of his last 14.

The Giants lead Atlanta by two percentage points in the race for the best record in the NL and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

Marlins 5, Phillies 4

MIAMI Jeff Conine's three-run homer off Kevin Millwood highlighted a five-run seventh inning, and Florida rallied to beat fading Philadelphia.

The Marlins overcame a shaky start by rookie Dontrelle Willis. They were on the verge of falling into a tie with Philadelphia in the wild-card race, but instead moved two games ahead with five to go including two more between the teams.

The second game of the three-game series is Wednesday, with Brett Myers (14-8) scheduled to pitch against the Marlins' Josh Beckett (8-8).

Jimmy Rollins' two-run double in the second put the Phillies ahead, and they were up 3-0 when Florida rallied in the seventh.

The Phillies lost for the sixth time in 10 games, and they've lost five in a row in Miami. Florida has won 12 of its past 14 home games.

Luis Castillo's RBI single put Florida ahead, and Michael Tejera (3-3) got the win. Ugueth Urbina pitched a perfect ninth for his fourth save with Florida he also had 26 for Texas this season.

Mike Williams (1-7) took the loss.

Braves 2, Expos 0

ATLANTA John Smoltz got his first save since coming off the disabled list after Rafael Furcal's two-out single in the eighth inning broke a scoreless tie, and Atlanta defeated Montreal.

Gary Sheffield added a run-scoring double off Javier Vazquez (13-12), who dominated the Braves for seven innings before tiring in the eighth. Sheffield has 128 RBIs, breaking the Atlanta record held since 1966 by Hank Aaron.

But the most encouraging performance for the Braves was turned in by Smoltz, who missed nearly a month because of tendinitis in his right elbow. The closer pitched for the second night in a row, striking out all three batters in the ninth for his 45th save in 48 chances and first since Aug. 23.

Shane Reynolds threw seven scoreless innings before Jaret Wright (2-5) earned the win by working the eighth, his first victory since being claimed off waivers by the Braves on Aug. 29.

Cardinals 5, Brewers 1

MILWAUKEE Woody Williams mastered Milwaukee for the second time in a week as St. Louis beat the Brewers.

The Cardinals stayed 3 1/2 games behind Chicago in the NL Central race with four left. They snapped a five-game road losing streak.

Williams (17-9) scattered three hits over seven innings, walking none and striking out six as the Cardinals improved to 12-3 against Milwaukee.

Mike Matheny hit a two-run homer off Ben Sheets (11-13).

Mets 1, Pirates 0

NEW YORK Al Leiter pitched his first complete game in slightly more than a year and Tony Clark drove in the only run as New York broke an eight-game losing streak with a victory over Pittsburgh.

The Mets had lost 16 of 17 games.

It was Leiter's 10th career shutout and his 16th complete game. Leiter (15-9) allowed eight hits, struck out six and walked one.

Tony Clark drove in Mike Piazza, who singled, with a double in the fourth inning off Pirates starter Kip Wells (9-9).



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