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Freese leads Cardinals over Nationals 10-9

WASHINGTON -- The St. Louis Cardinals ended an alarming form slump with a thrilling 10-9 win over the Washington Nationals in the National League on Saturday, with David Freese capping a strong individual performance by hitting the go-ahead single in the ninth inning.

The Cardinals went into the game off four straight losses in which they'd scored just one run while conceding 32. But the slumbering batting lineup was revived as St. Louis notched a win that kept its hold on the NL's second wild-card berth.

Freese homered, drove in three runs and hit the winner with a looping shot over the infield, driving in Allen Craig, who had started the ninth with a single and then stole second base.

Washington's lead in the NL East division stayed at 6-1/2 games above the Atlanta Braves, who were beaten 5-1 at home by the Philadelphia Phillies. The Braves still hold the top wild-card but have won only four of their past 14 games, evoking memories of last season's spectacular collapse.

The Los Angeles Dodgers had been another team in mediocre form, but they beat the Arizona Diamondbacks 2-1. Josh Beckett notched his first win as a Dodger, pitching 6-2/3 strong innings as Los Angeles ended a run of eight straight losses to Arizona.

The Pittsburgh Pirates lost a little ground in their pursuit of a wild card as they lost 3-2 at the Milwaukee Brewers. Pirates closer Joel Hanrahan (4-1) gave up a walk-off homer to Corey Hart. Pittsburgh has lost nine of 12 and is 1-1/2 games behind St. Louis.

The San Francisco Giants retained their 4-1/2 game lead in the West division by beating the Chicago Cubs 5-2. Xavier Nady, playing his first game of the season after being called up from the minors, hit a three-run double while ace Tim Lincecum (8-14) allowed only four hits in 6-1/3 innings.

As good as the Giants division lead is, it pales in comparison to the Cincinnati Reds in the Central, who hold an enviable 8-1/2 game buffer despite losing 2-1 to the lowly Houston Astros. Reds second baseman Wilson Valdez made an error on a routine ground ball with two outs and the bases loaded in the ninth inning, letting the ball roll between his legs to gift a victory to the Astros.

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St. Louis Cardinals' David Freese hits a one-run single to score the winning run during the ninth inning of a baseball game with the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park in Washington, Saturday, Sept. 1. The Cardinals won 10-9.

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