NL wild-card race tighter than ever

Watching San Diego across the field might be the closest Milwaukee gets to seeing a playoff team.

The Brewers made five errors, their most in 8 years, and Scott Hairston hit a tiebreaking, three-run double to lead the Padres over host Milwaukee, 9-5, last night.

San Diego (88-71) has a one-game lead over the Phillies, Mets and Rockies in the NL wild-card race and is a game behind Arizona (89-70) in the NL West.

Colorado, led by Brad Hawpe (homer, four RBI), Todd Helton (homer, two RBI) and Garrett Atkins (home run, two RBI) defeated the host Los Angeles Dodgers, 10-4, last night.

Earlier yesterday, the Diamondbacks used a exceptional hitting performance by starting pitcher Micah Owings - 4-for-4 with three doubles and three RBI - to fuel an 8-0 win over the visiting Pittsburgh Pirates.

Given an ominous weather forecast, Arizona manager Bob Melvin decided less than an hour before game time to hold back ace Brandon Webb (17-10) and pitch Owings (8-8). Webb will pitch tonight as the Diamondbacks open a three-game series at Colorado.

Last night, the Brewers (81-78) failed for the second straight day to take advantage of a loss by the Chicago Cubs (83-76) and trail the NL Central leaders by two games.

Third baseman Ryan Braun made three errors for the bumbling Brewers, who haven't been to the playoffs since 1982, and first baseman Prince Fielder and leftfielder Geoff Jenkins made one each. Milwaukee, which allowed four unearned runs, hadn't made five errors in a game since Aug. 1, 1999, against Montreal.

San Diego arrived in Milwaukee for its season-ending, four-game series at 6 a.m. after winning Wednesday night in San Francisco but didn't seem sleepy at all, taking a 4-0 lead in the third.

Padres starter Jack Cassel was chased after 4 2/3 innings as Milwaukee closed to 5-2. Joe Thatcher (2-1) relieved with the bases loaded and retired Prince Fielder on a grounder, then pitched a perfect sixth.

Padres manager Bud Black said he planned to pitch ace Jake Peavy (19-6) on 3 days' rest Sunday only if the Padres needed a win to clinch a tie for a postseason spot.

Brewers rookie Yovani Gallardo (9-5) gave up five runs - three earned - and five hits in five innings.

Rickie Weeks homered twice for the Brewers, who led the NL Central by 8 1/2 games in late June.

Before the game, the Brewers said Chris Capuano will start tonight instead of ace Ben Sheets, who has a hamstring injury.

San Diego went ahead in the third, when Brady Clark singled, Cassel's bunt stayed fair down the first-base line for his first career hit, Brian Giles singled to load the bases and Hairston doubled into the leftfield corner. Hairston took third when Jenkins misplayed the ball, then scored on Kevin Kouzmanoff's groundout.

Weeks homered in the bottom half, a 440-foot-drive, but Fielder booted Josh Bard's leadoff grounder in the fourth, and Bard scored on Cassel's doubleplay grounder with the bases loaded for a 5-1 lead.

J.J. Hardy's RBI single chased Cassel in the fifth, Cla Meredith hit Braun with a pitch, and Thatcher came in to retire Fielder.

San Diego made it 9-2 in the seventh, when Hairston's sharp grounder bounced off Braun's glove for an RBI single, and after Adrian Gonzalez's sacrifice fly, Braun leapt and deflected Khalil Greene's two-run single

Weeks hit a two-run homer in the seventh off Doug Brocail, a drive that a leaping Clark couldn't hold at the centerfield wall. Braun homered two batters later to complete the scoring. *