Al Leiter pitched two-hit ball for six innings to earn his first win in six weeks, and the New York Mets put another dent in Chicago's playoff hopes yesterday with a 3-2 victory over the Cubs at Shea Stadium.
Chicago remained a half-game in front of San Francisco in the NL wild-card race after losing, 4-3, to the fourth-place Mets in 11 innings Saturday, but luckily for the Cubs, San Francisco lost again to Los Angeles.
The Mets capitalized on a streak of wildness by Cubs starter Kerry Wood (8-8) to score three runs in the first inning.
Leadoff batter Jose Reyes walked, stole second and scored on a single by Kaz Matsui. After a double play, rookies Craig Brazell and Victor Diaz, the heroes of the Mets' victory Saturday, both singled. Then Eric Valent and Jason Phillips were hit by pitches, forcing in one run, and a bases-loaded walk to Gerald Williams brought in a run.
The Cubs got two runs back in the fourth when Aramis Ramirez and Moises Alou walked with one out. Nomar Garciaparra followed with a drive to left-center that bounced into the stands for a ground-rule double, scoring Ramirez. Sammy Sosa's RBI grounder brought Alou home.
Sosa, in a 5-for-41 slump, went 0 for 3 and finished 0 for 12 in the three-game series. He struck out four times and grounded into a double play Saturday, stranding eight runners -- five in scoring position.
Chicago loaded the bases in the fifth on a single by Neifi Perez, an error by first baseman Brazell and a walk to Ramirez. But Alou took a called third strike on Leiter's 98th pitch, ending the threat.
"The guy had a terrible strike zone," Alou said of plate umpire Bill Miller. "It was terrible, not even close. I think because I argue, they're after me. Is it a coincidence? I don't know, but I've got to do something about it. I got a letter that said if I get thrown out again, I'll get suspended. Maybe they know. Maybe they're baiting me. It's like guarding Shaq with five fouls."
* DODGERS 7, GIANTS 4: Alex Cora's second homer in two days provided an unexpected spark for visiting Los Angeles.
The light-hitting second baseman homered and drove in two runs again, and the Dodgers moved 21/2 games ahead of the Giants in the NL West.
Barry Bonds's 703rd homer gave the Giants a third-inning lead. But Cora was just one of several heroes for the Dodgers, who manufactured more than enough runs to take two of three weekend games in San Francisco.
A day after sitting out in observance of Yom Kippur, Shawn Green drew a bases-loaded walk in the fifth to put the Dodgers ahead.
Jayson Werth hit a two-run homer off Brett Tomko, who lost for the first time in 12 starts since July 29. Jeff Weaver (13-12) allowed nine hits over six innings for his first win in six starts, and Eric Gagne got six outs to earn his 45th save in 47 chances.
Deivi Cruz had three hits and an RBI for the Giants, who wasted a chance to reclaim the lead in the wild-card race from Chicago.
Bonds had been walked seven straight times by the Dodgers before his homer. He drew a walk in his final plate appearance Friday night before receiving five free passes Saturday and another in the first inning yesterday.
Weaver struck out Bonds in the fifth. The slugger reached on an error in the seventh and an infield single in the ninth before leaving for a pinch runner.
* BRAVES 6, MARLINS 3: Florida won't be repeating as World Series champion after being eliminated from postseason contention as John Thomson held the Marlins to one run in seven innings in Atlanta.
* PADRES 7, DIAMONDBACKS 1: Jake Peavy pitched six strong innings and lowered his NL-leading ERA to 2.25 as host San Diego made up ground in the wild-card race.
The Padres pulled within 21/2 games of the Cubs. Houston and San Francisco are also ahead of the Padres.
* ASTROS 11, BREWERS 7: Raul Chavez drove in a career-high five runs for Houston in its road victory.
Lance Berkman and Jeff Kent homered for the Astros, who kept the heat on Chicago and San Francisco in the wild-card race.
* CARDINALS 9, ROCKIES 3: In Denver, Albert Pujols hit his 46th homer to move within one of the major league lead and Jason Marquis pitched seven strong innings, helping St. Louis win its fourth straight.
* PIRATES 4, REDS 2: Tike Redman hit a pair of run-scoring singles, and host Pittsburgh stopped a five-game losing streak.
* PHILLIES 2, EXPOS 1: Bobby Abreu hit a two-run double to back a solid outing by Cory Lidle (11-12) in Montreal.