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Astros slip past Giants; Cubs roll on

Lance Berkman hit a three-run homer off Dustin Hermanson in the ninth inning, and the visiting Houston Astros rallied from a late three-run deficit for a 7-3 victory over the San Francisco Giants last night.

Carlos Beltran had three hits for the Astros, who gave their flagging playoff hopes a big boost by scoring five runs in the ninth.

Houston was in danger of being swept and falling four games behind the Giants in the NL wild-card race. Instead, the Astros lingered 2 1/2 games behind the Chicago Cubs, who took a half-game lead over San Francisco for the wild card.

Cubs 6, Pirates 3 -- Greg Maddux reached 15 wins for a record 17th consecutive season and hit a two-run single in a four-run second inning for visiting Chicago. He allowed three runs and seven hits in six innings.

Dodgers 9, Padres 6 -- Cesar Izturis homered and Adrian Beltre had three hits for Los Angeles, which survived a shaky start by Kazuhisa Ishii in San Diego to take a 1 1/2-game lead over San Francisco in the NL West. The Dodgers and Giants open a three-game series tonight in San Francisco.

Phillies 9, Marlins 8 -- Jimmy Rollins's two-out homer in the 10th inning gave Philadelphia the victory over Florida in Miami and moved the World Series champion Marlins within a game of elimination from playoff contention.

Rangers 5, Athletics 4 -- Hank Blalock's solo homer and David Dellucci's two-run double rallied Texas in the ninth inning, and the host Rangers beat Oakland to complete a three-game sweep that moved them within two games of the AL West-leading Athletics.

. . .
Elsewhere -- In the AL, Cliff Lee won for the second time since July 16 and rookie Grady Sizemore hit a two-run homer, leading the host Cleveland Indians to a 9-7 win over Minnesota . . . Joe Crede hit a game-winning three-run shot in the ninth -- his second homer in two innings -- to lead the Chicago White Sox to a 7-6 victory over visiting Kansas City . . . In other NL games, Gabe White earned his first save in more than four years, preserving the Cincinnati Reds' 3-2 win over Atlanta and preventing the host Braves from clinching another division title . . . The St. Louis Cardinals reached 100 wins for the first time since 1985 and the seventh time overall with a 4-2 victory over host Milwaukee . . . Host Colorado made it a doubleheader sweep over Arizona. In the first game, Jeff Francis pitched six strong innings in the Rockies' 7-1 victory. Andy Tracy and Jeromy Burnitz hit RBI singles in the first and Francis made the early lead stand up. In the second game, Burnitz drove in the winning run with a bloop single in the 10th as the Rockies prevailed, 2-1 . . . Tom Glavine (10-13) won for just the third time since mid-June, and Gerald Williams and Victor Diaz homered to lead the visiting New York Mets over Montreal, 4-2.

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