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Mets’ late rally falls short in loss to Nats

NEW YORK — A six-run ninth inning wasn’t enough for the Mets.

An improbable rally fell just short when Paul Lo Duca flied out with a runner on third, and New York’s 10-9 loss to the scrappy Washington Nationals cost the NL East leaders another chance to expand their cushion.

With the Mets in dire need of a strong pitching performance, Tom Glavine was hit hard and the Mets lost their fifth straight home game. They got help elsewhere, though.

New York’s magic number was trimmed to four for clinching its second consecutive division title when second-place Philadelphia lost 10-6 to Atlanta. The Mets remained two games ahead of the Phillies with five to play.

Marlins 4, Cubs 2

MIAMI — Eager to sew up the NL Central, Chicago instead managed only two hits in eight innings against Dontrelle Willis and lost to Florida.

Given the Cubs’ storied tradition of collapses, it takes little imagination for their long-suffering supporters to envision another this week. Chicago began the night with a three-game division lead over second-place Milwaukee, which played St. Louis. Chicago’s magic number for clinching the division was four, with five games left in the regular season.

Pirates 6, Diamondbacks 5

PITTSBURGH — Arizona pnch-hitter Josh Phelps singled in the go-ahead run with two outs in the eighth after Pittsburgh blew a four-run lead in the top of the inning, and the Pirates halted a nine-game losing streak by beating the Diamondbacks.

The Diamondbacks trailed 5-1 going into the eighth but scored four runs against three relievers to tie it. Chris Snyder’s RBI double off Romulo Sanchez led to pinch-hitter Conor Jackson’s two-run single and Stephen Drew’s tying single, with both against John Grabow.

Astros 8, Reds 5

CINCINNATI — Hunter Pence homered and the Houston Astros, aided by two Cincinnati errors, rallied from a four-run deficit to beat the Reds.

Craig Biggio drove in two runs, including the go-ahead run-scoring single, to start his last career visit to Cincinnati and send the Reds to their third consecutive loss.

Brewers 9, Cardinals 1

MILWAUKEE — Prince Fielder became the youngest major league player ever to hit 50 home runs in a season, connecting twice in Milwaukee’s victory over St. Louis.

The win pulled the Brewers to within two games of the NL Central-leading Chicago Cubs. With five games remaining for each team, the Cubs’ magic number remained stuck at four.

The Milwaukee crowd cheered when the final score of the Cubs-Marlins game was posted on the scoreboard at Miller Park. The Brewers still face an uphill climb to unseat the Cubs in the final week of the season, but at least they’re making it interesting.

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