Division races and playoff baseball, and so much more

1. One is the loneliest number

Aubrey Huff and Buster Posey each hit two-run homers, and Pat Burrell and Juan Uribe hit solo shots as the Giants beat San Diego, 7-3. The Giants homered in four consecutive innings (3rd – 6th). The Padres lead the Giants by one game.

San Francisco has won eight of 11 while the Padres have lost 11 of 14. It was the 13th straight game in which the Padres were held to four or fewer runs.

The two teams square off for three more this weekend.

2. Steal my heart away

Dave Roberts. There is not a Red Sox fan alive who does not equate Mr. Roberts’ steal during the 2004 postseason as the jump starter to their world championship drive. For the fans of the Rockies, the equivalent may be Chris Nelson. Cincinnati broke out to a quick 5-0 lead against the Rox yesterday afternoon, but when you play in Colorado, in September, that is simply not enough.

Sparked by a two-run homer by Jason Giambi, the home team battled to tie the game at five in the 8th inning. Then came the Dave Roberts, err, Chris Nelson moment. With one out and runners on the corners, Nelson broke for home before Nick Masset (3-4) threw his first pitch to Miguel Olivo. Masset stepped off the mound, whirled to his left and toward second base and, by the time the shocked Masset had regained his wits enough to throw home, Nelson had stolen home to send the Colorado Rockies to a 6-5 victory over the Cincinnati Reds.

The Rox completed a four-game series sweep over the NL Central leaders and stretched their winning streak to season-best seven games. At 76-64, the Rockies are a season-best 12 games above .500. They have won 14 of their past 16 games and are 47-22 (.681) at Coors Field. The Rockies complete their 23rd comeback victory this season.

Cincinnati has dropped five straight and its lead in the NL Central is now five games after the St. Louis Cardinals won 11-4 at Atlanta.

Nelson became the first player to take home for his first career steal since Dan Uggla of the Florida Marlins accomplished the feat on April 21, 2006, against the Philadelphia Phillies.

It was the fourth time this season that the Rockies won a game after trailing by at least five runs, tying the Tigers for the most such wins in the majors. It was the third time this season that the Reds lost a game after leading by at least five runs, tying the Red Sox, Rangers and Nationals for the most such losses in the majors.

It was a great game to watch, but not listen to. The MLB Network inexplicably provided the play-by-play and color commentary and I can tell you that I am personally offended that I cannot find work and Mitch Williams is employed. I could live with the fact that he is constantly unprepared if he were making astute comments as the game progressed, but his ongoing simplistic and incorrect remarks were an insult to the audience and to the network.

3. Georgia on my mind

Colby Rasmus hit a pair while Albert Pujols and Skip Schumaker hit one homer each as Adam Wainwright and the Cardinals topped the Braves. 11-4.

For the Cardinals it was just their fifth win in 16 games and the Braves, after holding first place from May 31 until Tuesday, have now lost 6-of-8.

Despite the loss, the Braves are 49-20 at Turner Field, still the best home record in the majors, but are only 4-5 in the past nine. The Phillies have a weekend road series at New York Mets and the Braves have three more against the Cardinals, who are 5-0 against the Braves this season.

Overall, the fading Braves are 4-6 in their last 10, 9-11 in their last 20, and 16-14 in their last 30.

4. Postseason games are coming to Seattle

I’m sure you read the headline of this story and wondered if Billy-Ball.com was now dispensing illegal drugs. I understand your confusion, but I am speaking the truth.

The Triple-A Tacoma Rainiers will host Games 3-5 of their best-of-five series with the Sacramento Rivercats. And with Cheney Stadium undergoing a $30 million renovation, the Rainiers will borrow Safeco Field for the weekend while the Mariners are in Cleveland in a series appealing only to baseball fans greater than myself.

The Pacific Coast League North Division champions took Game 1 on Wednesday, beating the Rivercats, 10-8, at Raley Field in Sacramento. Game 2, last night, was also won by Tacoma, 8-5, thanks, in part, to a grand slam homer by Dustin Ackley.

Tacoma left-hander Mauricio Robles (3-1, 3.54 ERA) will face Sacramento right-hander Vince Mazzaro (3-1, 3.13) in Game 3 tonight at Safeco Field.

5. The tenor of the pennant race

Phillies third baseman Placido Polanco is playing with a small break in his left elbow but is postponing surgery until after the season ends as the Phils continue their climb in the pennant race.

Polanco is batting .308 with six homers and 47 RBIs for the Fightin’ Phils.

6. A major minor start

After spending two months on DL, Yankees left-hander Andy Pettitte was back on the mound and pitching postseason baseball. In a minor league rehabilitation start last night, Pettitte allowed two hits and struck out four in four innings for the Trenton Thunder against the New Hampshire Fisher Cats in an Eastern League playoff game. He did not walk anybody but did uncork two wild pitches in four scoreless innings.

Going into the game, Pettitte’s pitch count was limited to 65 pitches or four innings, whichever came first and his 51st pitch was a strikeout that ended the 4th inning. Pettitte is traveling to Texas to meet up with the big league club and discuss his next move. His next start would be slated for Tuesday on five-days rest, but it is uncertain whether it will be another rehab start or with the Yankees.

Rene Rivera homered in the 12th as the Trenton edged the Fisher Cats, 1-0, to take a 2-0 lead in their best-of-five Eastern League playoff series.

7. I changed my name to Tom Verducci?

Good buddy Jayson Stark has a great column endorsing the concept of expanding the postseason by adding a one and done extra Wild Card game. Many names are mentioned for promoting the idea:

“Now we don’t pretend we’re the first to think of this ingenious idea, even though we’ve endorsed it several times over the years. We believe that the Elias Sports Bureau’s always-thoughtful Steve Hirdt was the first to propose it. And it tends to bubble to the surface from other people we admire and respect — most recently Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci — in seasons like this one.”

8. Red Sox Stat of the Day

John Lackey has the highest ERA of his career (4.48), the highest WHIP of his career (1.481), the most walks per 9 innings of his career (3.2), the lowest strikeout to walk ratio of his career (1.94), leads the AL with 205 hits surrendered, and has a Win Above Replacement rate of 1.4, all for just $18,700,000.

With all the Sox injuries this season, Lackey has not missed a start.

9. Yankee Stat of the Day

Mark Teixeira is hitting .252 from the left side of the plate and .291 from the right side, but he has 21 homers as a lefty and 9 homers as a righty.