Ben Sheets was roughed up in his return from an injury, and the Milwaukee Brewers fell back into a tie for the NL wild card with one game left in the season after a 7-3 loss to the Chicago Cubs on Saturday.
Sheets (13-9) tried to put aside nagging elbow soreness to make his first start since Sept. 17, but gave up four runs in only 2 2/3 innings against a Cubs team that was resting most of its starters.
Milwaukee's lineup couldn't manage much of anything against Ted Lilly (17-9), who held the Brewers hitless until Ryan Braun led off the seventh with a double.
Now the Brewers go into the final game of the season tied with the New York Mets for the wild card. Milwaukee's CC Sabathia is expected to face Carlos Zambrano, but Zambrano is scheduled to pitch only an inning or two as the Cubs rest up for the playoffs.
Trailing 4-1 going into the eighth, Milwaukee rallied for two runs but left the bases loaded. Kosuke Fukudome then hit a two-run homer off Brewers reliever Salomon Torres in the ninth, and Mike Fontenot added an RBI single off Todd Coffey to extend the Cubs' lead to 7-3.
Kerry Wood pitched the ninth for Chicago.
Milwaukee entered Saturday with a one-game lead on the Mets and a chance to clinch its first playoff appearance since 1982 with a win and a Mets loss. But Johan Santana pitched New York past Florida 2-0, guaranteeing that the wild-card race would go down to the final day of the regular season.
If the Brewers and Mets remain tied after Sunday, they would play a one-game tiebreaker Monday in New York.
For Lilly, it was the second time this month that he took a no-hitter into the seventh inning at Miller Park.
The Brewers' home stadium was the scene of Zambrano's no-hitter against the Houston Astros in a Sept. 14 game that was moved to Milwaukee because of Hurricane Ike. Lilly nearly repeated Zambrano's feat the next day, taking a no-hitter into the seventh.
On Saturday, Lilly struck out three of the first four batters he faced, then allowed Hardy to reach first base on a throwing error by shortstop Ronny Cedeno.
Lilly cruised through the first two outs of the sixth inning before walking Mike Cameron and striking out Bill Hall.
Braun doubled to start the seventh and Prince Fielder followed with a bloop single. Lilly was relieved by Carlos Marmol, who allowed a sacrifice fly to Hardy that cut the Cubs' lead to three. But Marmol got the next two outs to end the inning.
Sheets gave up a two-run homer with two outs in the first to Daryle Ward. Sheets then loaded the bases with one out in the third and allowed a two-run single to Fontenot that put Chicago ahead 4-0. Sheets was relieved by Mark DiFelice.