CHICAGO — The Pittsburgh Pirates’ hopes of catching up in the NL Central took a big hit Wednesday when Darnell McDonald launched a three-run homer, leading the Chicago Cubs to a 4-2 win.
With three games remaining in the regular season for each team, the Pirates trail division-leading St. Louis by three games.
The Pirates, who already have clinched a playoff spot, hold a one-game lead over Cincinnati for the first wild-card slot. Pittsburgh and the Reds finish up with a three-game set in Cincinnati this weekend.
McDonald had three hits, including his homer in the sixth inning that put the Cubs ahead 4-1.
Jake Arrieta (4-2) allowed one run and four hits for the Cubs. Kevin Gregg allowed an unearned run in the ninth for his 33rd save.
Francisco Liriano (16-8) allowed four runs and eight hits in five innings. He struck out eight and walked one.
The Cubs took a 1-0 lead in the first inning. Darwin Barney hit a one-out double and scored on a single by Anthony Rizzo.
The Pirates tied it in the third when Justin Morneau walked with the bases loaded to score Starling Marte. Arrieta avoided a bigger inning by getting the next batter, Garrett Jones, to ground out.
The Pirates wasted other scoring chances. They had a runner on second with two outs in the fifth. Morneau hit a leadoff double in the sixth and advanced to third with out, but was stranded when Pedro Alvarez grounded out and Tony Sanchez struck out.
Cardinals 4, Nationals 1
ST. LOUIS — Rookie Shelby Miller won his 15th game, and Yadier Molina had the go-ahead hit for the St. Louis Cardinals, who wrapped up a three-game sweep of the Washington Nationals and moved another step closer to the NL Central title with a 4-1 victory on Wednesday.
Jordan Zimmermann (19-9) missed his only shot at 20 wins, allowing four runs in seven innings. The Nationals had five hits one day after breaking up rookie Michael Wacha’s bid for a no-hitter in the ninth inning.
Matt Adams hit his eighth home run since replacing injured Allen Craig and doubled for the Cardinals, who led the Pirates by 2½ games with three games to go. The Reds lost 1-0 to the Mets on Wednesday and were eliminated from the divisional race.
The Cardinals (94-65) are a season-high 29 games above .500 and have a day off before 14-game winner Lance Lynn faces the Cubs on Friday night to open the final series.
Miller (15-9) was wild high early and walked two of the first three hitters to set up Bryce Harper’s RBI single. The Nationals had no other runners in scoring position against the 22-year-old Miller, who allowed a run in six-plus innings and beat them for the second time this season.
Mets 1, Reds 0
CINCINNATI — Daisuke Matsuzaka scattered four hits in 7 2-3 shutout innings to win his third consecutive start, outdueling Cincinnati’s Mat Latos in the New York Mets’ victory over the Reds.
Eric Young Jr. drove in the only run for the Mets, who won two of three in the series to further dampen Cincinnati’s hopes of hosting the National League wild-card playoff game on Tuesday.
The Reds came into the game in third place in the Central Division and second in the wild-card standings, one game behind Pittsburgh. The Pirates and Reds end the regular season with a three-game series starting Friday in Cincinnati.
Matsuzaka (3-3) allowed two walks and hit a batter. He struck out six and evened his record after three losses and a no-decision in his first four starts after joining the Mets in August.
He left the game with a runner on second and two outs in the eighth. Pedro Feliciano came on to walk Shin-Soo Choo before getting Joey Votto to fly out to center fielder Juan Lagares for the fourth time in four at bats.
LaTroy Hawkins pitched the ninth for his 13th save.
The shutout loss was Cincinnati’s 11th of the season, after only four last season.
Brewers 4, Braves 0
ATLANTA — Kyle Lohse pitched a two-hitter and the Milwaukee Brewers overcame Carlos Gomez’s ejection in the first inning to beat the Atlanta Braves.
The NL East champion Braves were shut out for the second time in three nights and have been blanked 17 times, second-most in the league.
After losing three of four, Atlanta has fallen three games behind the St. Louis Cardinals for the NL’s best winning percentage.
Lohse (11-10) struck out five and threw just 22 of 89 pitches for balls. In his first season with Milwaukee, Lohse was pitching for St. Louis when he had his last shutout, a 5-0 victory over Washington on April 21, 2011.
Gomez, made it 1-0 in the first with his 23rd homer, but was ejected without touching home plate during a benches-clearing argument.
Marlins 3, Phillies 2
MIAMI — Adeiny Hechavarria drove in three runs, including a go-ahead run in the eighth inning, to help the Miami Marlins to a victory.
Hechavarria hit a two-run triple in the second before driving in the run that made it 3-2 on a fielder’s choice.
Justin Ruggiano walked and Placido Polanco singled for his third hit in the eighth off Ethan Martin (2-5) before Hechavarria hit a grounder to shortstop Jimmy Rollins, whose throw went wide of catcher Carlos Ruiz allowing Ruggiano to slide in safely.
Steve Cishek pitched the ninth for his 33rd save in 35 chances. It was Cishek’s 28th consecutive save setting the team record previously held by Todd Jones in 2005.
Chad Qualls (5-2) got the final out in the eighth to earn the victory.