With just three days left in Major League Baseball's regular season, the Houston Astros have pulled to a half game behind the St. Louis Cardinals for the National League Central division lead.

The Astros won their ninth straight game Thursday by shutting out the Pittsburgh Pirates, 3-0, while the fading Cardinals dropped a 9-4 decision to the Milwaukee Brewers.

The San Diego Padres and Los Angeles Dodgers moved closer to clinching playoff spots, while the Philadelphia Phillies suffered a loss, hurting their chance for post-season play.

The Padres thumped the Arizona Diamondbacks, 12-4. The Dodgers crushed the Colorado Rockies, 19-11, as Los Angeles' rookie James Loney tied a franchise record by driving in nine runs.

The Phillies are two games behind the Dodgers for taking the National League wild card playoff spot after dropping a 3-1 decision to the Washington Nationals.

In the American League, the Minnesota Twins have caught the Detroit Tigers for the Central division lead. The Twins scored in the bottom of the ninth and 10th innings to defeat the Kansas City Royals, 2-1. The Tigers lost to the Toronto Blue Jays, 8-6.

In other American League games Thursday, Baltimore pitcher Daniel Cabrera came within two outs of a no-hitter as the Orioles beat the New York Yankees, 7-1. The Los Angeles Angels downed the Oakland Athletics, 2-0. And, the Cleveland Indians edged the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, 5-4.

The National League East division-winning New York Mets beat the Atlanta Braves, 7-4, but also learned that star pitcher Pedro Martinez will miss the post-season with a torn tendon in his left calf muscle.

The Cincinnati Reds kept their slim National League playoff chances alive with a 5-1 victory over the Florida Marlins.

Some information for this report provided by AP.