NL Capsules

NEW YORK -- Steve Pearce hit a two-out, two-run single in the ninth inning and the Pittsburgh Pirates became the latest team to take advantage of the Mets' shaky bullpen, rallying past New York 7-5 Monday.

The Mets led 5-1 when Pedro Martinez left after six innings, but five relievers couldn't preserve the edge. The Pirates, in town to play a makeup game, scored three times in the seventh and three more in the ninth.

It marked the ninth time this season New York lost a game in which it led in the eighth inning or later. The Mets have struggled lately minus injured All-Star closer Billy Wagner.

Aaron Heilman (2-7) began the ninth with a 5-4 lead, but allowed four straight Pirates to reach after striking out leadoff hitter Nate McLouth. Ryan Doumit tied it with a single off the right-center fence.

Scott Schoeneweis relieved Heilman and got Brandon Moss to ground into a forceout at the plate. Pearce followed with his tiebreaking single to center.

Denny Bautista (4-1) worked a scoreless eighth for the win and John Grabow earned his second save.

Brewers 7, Nationals 1

MILWAUKEE -- Rickie Weeks and Corey Hart homered, and Dave Bush pitched Milwaukee past Washington for its sixth straight victory.

Weeks hit a leadoff homer and Hart added a two-run shot in the fourth for the Brewers, who finished a four-game sweep. It was the second consecutive season that the Nationals were swept at Miller Park.

Milwaukee stayed three games ahead of St. Louis for the NL wild-card lead despite the absence of Ryan Braun for the second straight game. Out with a lower-back injury, he is day to day.

Bush (7-9) won his third start in a row against Washington, allowing five hits in 6 1-3 innings. He walked two, struck out six and left with a 4-1 lead.

Garrett Mock (0-3), called up from Triple-A Columbus last Thursday, yielded four runs and five hits in 4 2-3 innings. He walked three but struck out a career-high nine in his first start since June 21.

Cardinals 4, Marlins 2

MIAMI -- Yadier Molina hit a two-run homer, Joel Pineiro pitched seven strong innings and St. Louis beat Florida in a matchup of surprising playoff contenders.

Joe Mather added a pinch-hit home run in the ninth for the Cardinals, who took the opener of a four-game series to keep pace with Milwaukee in the wild-card race. The low-budget Marlins, who began the day 2½ games behind first-place Philadelphia in the NL East, fell six games off the wild-card pace.

Pineiro (5-5) allowed two runs, one earned, and seven hits. Kyle McClellan worked out of a tough jam in the eighth to protect a one-run lead, and Chris Perez pitched the ninth for his second save.

Anibal Sanchez (1-2), making his third start since returning from shoulder surgery, gave up three runs in seven innings. He struck out eight, equaling his career high.

Cody Ross homered for Florida.

Astros 3, Giants 1

HOUSTON -- Brandon Backe threw seven effective innings, Ty Wigginton homered and drove in three runs, and Houston beat San Francisco to win its fifth straight.

Jose Valverde shut out the Giants in the ninth for his 29th save after LaTroy Hawkins pitched a perfect eighth for the Astros, who have won nine of 11.

Backe (7-11) allowed a run and four hits. He rebounded from his worst start of the season, when he gave up 11 runs in 3 1-3 innings against the Chicago Cubs last Wednesday.

Jonathan Sanchez (8-9) didn't allow a hit for five innings, but again got little support from San Francisco's bats. The Giants have scored one run or less during 12 of his 24 appearances.