Chicago It's almost over for the Chicago Cubs. A late-season collapse when they needed to play their best baseball has left them on the verge of wild-card elimination.
Four straight losses and six defeats in the last seven games had manager Dusty Baker almost in disbelief Friday after the Cubs' ninth-inning rally came up short in a 5-4 loss to the NL East champion Atlanta Braves.
"We're due to win one of these. Geez, man. I can't explain it," Baker said. "It's a bad period right now."
The Cubs fell two games behind Houston and San Francisco in the wild-card race.
"I don't see tightness. If anything, looseness rather than tightness. We're not hitting the ball the way we're capable of hitting it. And when the eighth and ninth hitters hit two-run homers, it's not going to make for a good day."
Pitcher Mike Hampton hit a two-run homer off Kerry Wood, and so did No. 8 hitter Dewayne Wise as the Braves wrapped up the NL's second seed in the playoffs.
Wood gave up 10 hits and five runs in seven innings. The Cubs rallied with three runs in the ninth before Corey Patterson struck out and Derrek Lee grounded out to end the game.
Frustrated fans at Wrigley Field littered the outfield with debris just before the bottom of the eighth, and the grounds crew had to run on the field and clean it up, delaying the game for a couple of minutes.
Giants 4, Dodgers 2
Los Angeles -- Kirk Rueter pitched seven strong innings, and San Francisco defeated Los Angeles, preventing the Dodgers from clinching their first NL West title since 1995. The Giants remained tied with the Astros in the wild-card race. J.T. Snow homered, and former Dodger Marquis Grissom doubled home two runs for the Giants.
Grissom doubled to the right-field wall with two outs in the second off Jeff Weaver (13-13), giving the Giants a 2-0 lead.
Astros 4, Rockies 2
Houston -- Jeff Bagwell hit a two-run homer, and Houston overcame a sloppy start, remaining atop the NL wild-card standings with a victory over Colorado.
Mike Gallo (2-0) earned the win by getting the last out of the third inning, and Brad Lidge recorded three outs for his 28th save. They were two of seven pitchers to hold off the Rockies for Houston's seventh win in eight games, and 11th in 14.
Joe Kennedy (9-7) was denied a chance at a career high-tying fourth straight victory, allowing four runs on eight hits in eight innings.
Padres 3, D'backs 2
Phoenix -- San Diego found out between the second and third innings it had been eliminated from wild-card contention, then rallied for a win over Arizona. Pinch-hitter Miguel Ojeda hit a two-run homer in the seventh for the Padres, who were knocked out of the playoff race when Houston beat Colorado.
Cardinals 4, Brewers 1
St. Louis -- Rick Ankiel won his first game in 31/2 years with a four-inning relief stint marred only by an errant curveball that beaned Dave Krynzel, leading St. Louis over Milwaukee.
Expos 4, Mets 2
New York -- Terrmel Sledge hit a tiebreaking RBI double in the eighth inning, and Montreal opened the team's final series before the franchise moves to Washington with a victory over New York.
Phillies 6, Marlins 2
Philadelphia -- Jimmy Rollins and Placido Polanco homered, Cory Lidle pitched six solid innings, and Philadelphia secured second place in the NL East with a win over Florida.
Reds 5, Pirates 1
Cincinnati -- Barry Larkin homered in his final at-bat, and Adam Dunn hit his 46th homer as Cincinnati beat Pittsburgh.