National League News: Brewers, Phillies Finishing Strong

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* It's hard not to like what the Brewers are doing despite being a long-shot to make the playoffs as the season winds down. Milwaukee, 15-5 in their last 20 games, have crept to within two games of the .500 mark. At 67-69, they still maintain the slimmest of hopes for a wild-card berth, now trailing St. Louis by six-and-a-half games. The Brewers have also been drawing in the crowds in Coutn Stadium, averaging just under 33,000 during the holiday weekend series with Pittsburgh. If last September taught us anything, it is that nobody is out of the playoff chase until the magic number says so.

* Another team that has impressed because of their recent play resides in Philadelphia. The Phillies, who have struggled with injuries to star players all season long, has regained their health and their winning form, now sitting at 66-71 on the season. Losing 10 of 11 before the all-star break, the Phillies were scuffling, missing Ryan Howard and Chase Utley for huge chunks of the season. Philadelphia has shifted their fortunes thanks to the work of their pitching staff. Since July 31, the Phils have held opponents to three runs or less in 21 of their 35 games, including six shutouts. While out of the playoff picture, their recovery has been impressive nevertheless.

* You've got to hand it to Tim Lincecum, whose Giants career was seemingly at a crossroads a mere two months ago. Struggling in the first half of the season, the fiery right-hander has turned his season around post-All Star break, going 5-4 with a 3.26 ERA. Still racking up the pitch counts in a limited number of innings, the former Cy Young winner has nonetheless been a steady arm for Bruce Bochy's club. San Francisco, facing a monumental task after the Melky Cabrera suspesion, needed Linecum to get right again, and at 77-60, they sit atop the National League West.

* The Pirates are hanging by a thred right now, trying to stick around the wild-card race despite losing 17 of 24 recently. After dropping the first of a three-game series with Houston on Monday, the Bucs responded with back-to-back victories as both Wandy Rodriguez and Kevin Correia recorded their tenth win of the season. Hosting the Cubs this weekend, the schedule does seem to open up a little bit for the Pirates, with seven games against Chicago over the next two weekends. A date in Houston two weeks from now also adds to the light load Pittsburgh must carry. It's up to them to make a run as the schedule get easier down the stretch.