Happ propels surging Phillies

Mets top Nationals to keep pace in NL East

Dodger infielder Nomar Garciaparra grimaces after reinjuring his knee. He has played in only 50 games this season because of hand, calf, and knee woes. Dodger infielder Nomar Garciaparra grimaces after reinjuring his knee. He has played in only 50 games this season because of hand, calf, and knee woes. (Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press)
Associated Press / September 18, 2008
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Ryan Howard drove in the first run in Philadelphia's four-run first inning, and rookie J.A. Happ pitched six scoreless innings to help the Phillies earn their season-high sixth straight win, a 6-1 victory over the Braves last night in Atlanta.

Howard, bidding to win his second National League MVP Award in three years, has 29 RBIs in his last 21 games and 137 this season to lead the majors.

Philadelphia remained a half-game ahead of New York in the NL East after the Mets beat the Nationals.

Happ (1-0) allowed three hits, walked one, and struck out two in his fourth career start.

Happ was recalled from Triple A Lehigh Valley for the third time this season Sept. 1. He is 1-0 with a 2.11 ERA in three starts, far better than his work in three relief appearances, a span of 6 1/3 innings in which he has no record and 9.95 ERA.

Mets 9, Nationals 7 - Carlos Beltran homered from both sides of the plate, Jose Reyes and Carlos Delgado also went deep, and New York built a big lead, then barely held on to beat host Washington.

Brandon Knight (1-0), a 32-year-old journeyman, earned his first major league victory with five solid innings. Luis Ayala, New York's seventh reliever, got the final out for his eighth save.

The Mets had lost four of their previous five games to fall out of first place in the NL East.

Indians 6, Twins 4 - Cliff Lee was denied his 23d win and finished with a no-decision against Minnesota - the only AL team to beat him - and host Cleveland completed a three-game sweep of the Twins, another gnawing loss for the Central's second-place team.

Jhonny Peralta and Victor Martinez hit RBI doubles in the seventh inning off Matt Guerrier as the Indians prevented the Twins from gaining ground on Chicago. The White Sox lost at New York but stayed 2 1/2 games ahead of Minnesota.

Lee took a 4-2 lead into the seventh and was poised to improve his record to 23-2 - only the second pitcher to own that record in 108 years - when the Twins tied it.

Brewers 6, Cubs 2 - Milwaukee overcame the loss of injured starter Ben Sheets and, boosted by Prince Fielder's three-run double, beat Chicago at Wrigley Field to end a five-game losing streak.

Sheets's injury was initially announced as tightness in his right forearm. But after the game, he said it was his elbow that forced him out and had been giving him problems. "It hurts. It wasn't making me nervous. It was the lack of ability to make pitches," he said.

The Brewers won without their All-Star ace, and stayed a half-game behind New York in the NL wild-card race.

Marlins 14, Astros 2 - Hanley Ramirez homered twice before departing with an injured shoulder, Jorge Cantu hit a grand slam, and Florida beat slumping Houston in Miami.

Hunter Pence homered twice for the Astros, who have lost four straight.

Pirates 15, Dodgers 8 - Adam LaRoche hit a grand slam among his two homers and Pittsburgh stalled visiting Los Angeles's late-season surge with an eight-run seventh. The nightmarish seventh was one of the Dodgers' few blips during a run in which they won 14 of 16.

Diamondbacks 7, Giants 6 - Brandon Webb pitched seven solid innings to win his 21st game and host Arizona trimmed its deficit in the NL West to three games by edging San Francisco.

In other games: The Angels made two throwing errors in the ninth, the second by closer Francisco Rodriguez that allowed two runs to score, in host Oakland's 3-2 win . . . Travis Snider drove in the go-ahead run with a sacrifice fly in the eighth as host Toronto rallied from a 6-0 deficit to beat Baltimore, 8-7 . . . Jose Guillen hit a key two-run single, helping host Kansas City to a 5-2 win over Seattle . . . Freddy Garcia pitched five innings to win his first game since June 2007 as visiting Detroit scored nine runs in the fifth to beat Texas, 17-4 . . . Aaron Harang pitched a six-hitter and Cincinnati hit back-to-back homers to beat visiting St. Louis, 7-0 . . . At Denver, Joe Koshansky homered as Colorado beat San Diego, 1-0.

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