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Phillies edge Brewers to close in on playoff spot

By Steve Keating

MILWAUKEE (Reuters) - The Philadelphia Phillies moved to the brink of a playoff spot with a 3-2 extra-inning win on Saturday over the Milwaukee Brewers, who continued a worrying late season slump.

Riding a six game win streak, the Phillies have opened a 12-game lead over the Atlanta Braves at the top of the National League East and could become the first team lockup a post-season berth on Sunday with a victory over of the Brewers and a loss by the St. Louis Cardinals.

"I'm happy with that number (12 games) where we're at," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel told reporters. "That's what we play for, our number one priority is to win the game.

"We think we are going to win when we show up at the ball park. That's what works for us. We don't look back and we don't look forward."

Despite having the Major League's best record and a runaway division lead, the Phillies insist they do not want to plan to far ahead but there is little doubt post-season games are in their future.

The Brewers, meanwhile, are beginning to look over their shoulders at the Cardinals, who have strung together four consecutive wins to take a big bite out of their lead.

Mired in five game tailspin, the Brewers have seen their once comfortable lead at the top of the NL Central chopped to six games.

Milwaukee owns the Major League's best home record but Miller Park has provided little edge against baseball's top rotation.

After facing Cole Hamels and Roy Halladay in the opening two games of the series, the challenge did not get any easier in game three with Cliff Lee on the hill, the lefthander having not given up a run in almost a month.

A first inning solo homer from Hunter Pence provided Lee with a 1-0 lead and with six complete game shutouts this season, including a 9-0 masterpiece against the Braves in his last start, that one run has often been enough to guarantee the Phillies a win.

But not this night as Brewers bats briefly came alive.

Lee's shutout streak came to a jarring end with one out in the second inning when Casey McGehee, unable to beat the throw to the plate, put his shoulder down and ran over Phillies catcher George Kottaras knocking the ball loose to tie the game at 1-1.

"He was actually out until he dropped the ball but that is part of those plays at the plate," said Lee. "You have to give McGehee some credit to get the run but if we hold onto the ball he is out right there."

It was the first run yielded by Lee since August 17 ending a spotless string of 31 scoreless innings.

The Brewers added another in the fourth on McGehee's RBI groundout but the Phillies answered with another solo shot from Placido Polanco in the fifth to level the contest at 2-2.

Lee's night ended after seven innings and a no decision yielding two runs, one earned on six hits, striking out seven and walking two.

The Phillies sealed their 94th win of the season in the 10th inning when Raul Ibanez doubled and then scored on a LaTroy Hawkins throwing error to first.

(Editing by Alastair Himmer)

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