NEW YORK – Gary Sheffield and Alex Rodriguez hit consecutive first-inning home runs to back another strong start by Shawn Chacon, and the New York Yankees defeated the Toronto Blue Jays 6-2 Thursday.

Chacon improved to 3-1 with a 1.80 ERA with the Yankees after going 1-7 with a 4.09 ERA for Colorado. He pitched out of a pair of bases-loaded jams to earn his third straight victory, working seven innings before turning the game over to the bullpen. He allowed six hits, struck out six and walked four.

The Yankees, who took three of four from Toronto, needed just five pitches to take the lead against Gustavo Chacin (11-7).

Derek Jeter singled on Chacin’s second pitch, and Hideki Matsui hit the next pitch up the middle for a single. Sheffield followed with a three-run homer on an 0-1 pitch for his 27th homer of the season. The home run ended an 0-for-12 slide for Sheffield and was the 442nd of his career, tying him with Dave Kingman for 30th place.

Rodriguez followed with his 37th homer. It was his 22nd at Yankee Stadium this season, a record for a right-handed hitter. The old mark of 19 was set by Joe DiMaggio in 1937 and matched by Sheffield last season.

Orioles 2, Angels 0

BALTIMORE – Rodrigo Lopez scattered seven hits over seven innings, Javy Lopez hit a two-run homer, and the Baltimore Orioles defeated the Los Angeles Angels 2-0 on Thursday night to end a five-game losing streak.

Rodrigo Lopez (13-7) struck out five, walked one and worked out of several jams in helping the Orioles avoid a three-game sweep. The right-hander is 5-1 with a 1.70 ERA in seven career games against the Angels.

He outpitched Los Angeles starter John Lackey, who gave up nine hits in his first complete game of the season. Lackey (10-5) was 4-0 in seven starts since July 9.

Athletics 11, Tigers 1

DETROIT – Barry Zito didn’t give up a run in six strong innings while Mark Ellis, Dan Johnson and Jay Payton homered to lead the Oakland Athletics to a 11-1 win over the Detroit Tigers on Thursday.

Zito (12-10) gave four hits, three walks and struck out six. He started in Rich Harden’s place, and somebody else will have to take Harden’s scheduled start on Saturday because of his shoulder injury.

The A’s won their second straight – after dropping seven of nine – to avoid losing a fourth consecutive series and scored their most runs since an 11-0 win over Kansas City on Aug. 7.

Indians 12, Devil Rays 4

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Ronnie Belliard hit his first career grand slam during a seven-run third inning, leading the Cleveland Indians to a 12-4 victory over the Tampa Bay Devil Rays on Thursday night.

Jose Hernandez went 3-for-5 with three RBIs for Cleveland, which stayed less than a percentage point behind the New York Yankees and Oakland in the AL wild-card race. Hernandez had four hits in his last 31 at-bats.

The Indians have won seven of eight overall, and are 39-26 on the road.

Mariners 8, Rangers 2

ARLINGTON, Texas – Jeff Harris limited Texas to just four singles and an unearned run in his second career start and Ichiro Suzuki hit his third career grand slam, leading the Seattle Mariners over the Rangers 8-2 Thursday.

Harris (1-1), a 31-year-old rookie recalled from Triple-A Tacoma to make the start, went seven innings and threw 94 pitches on a day when the temperature was 95 degrees at game time. He benefited from four double plays.

Seattle managed just three hits over seven innings against Joaquin Benoit (3-4), who retired 19 batters in a row at one point but still lost his third straight start.

White Sox 2, Twins 1

MINNEAPOLIS – Timo Perez hit a go-ahead single in the 10th inning, and the Chicago White Sox beat the Minnesota Twins 2-1 Thursday after wasting a lead with two outs in the ninth.

Jon Garland was in position to tie the Angels’ Bartolo Colon for the AL lead in wins at 17 before Minnesota rallied in the ninth. Damaso Marte walked Justin Morneau with one out, Dustin Hermanson relieved and Michael Ryan hit a two-out line drive that deflected off first baseman Paul Konerko’s glove and rolled down the right-field line for an RBI double.

Hermanson (1-2), who blew a save for the third time in 34 chances, then struck out Michael Cuddyer.

Cardinals 6, Pirates 3

PITTSBURGH – Jim Edmonds and Albert Pujols homered in the first inning to get St. Louis off to its customary fast start in Pittsburgh, and Tony La Russa passed Sparky Anderson to move into third place on the manager wins list in the Cardinals’ 6-3 victory on Thursday night.

The Pirates have lost 10 of 13 to the Cardinals, helping accelerate La Russa move up the career victories ladder during a season in which he has passed some of baseball’s all-time best – Anderson, Bucky Harris and Joe McCarthy.

La Russa’s victory No. 2,195 – he trails only Connie Mack (3,731) and John McGraw (2,763) – was Matt Morris’ 101st in the majors, and it came in the home away from home for both the Cardinals and the right-hander. The Cardinals’ 30 victories at 5-year-old PNC Park are the most of any opponent. St. Louis has won 17 of its last 20 in Pittsburgh, including three of four in this just-concluded series.

Marlins 3, Brewers 1

MILWAUKEE – Juan Pierre’s run-scoring single off Jose Capellan with two outs in the 10th allowed the Florida Marlins to avoid a three-game sweep in Milwaukee with a 3-1 win over the Brewers on Thursday.

Pierre hit a hard grounder that first baseman Lyle Overbay couldn’t handle, scoring Alex Gonzalez from third.

Gonzalez led off the inning with an infield single off rookie Jose Capellan (0-1), advanced to second on Paul Lo Duca’s sacrifice and took third on pinch-hitter Lenny Harris’ groundout to second.

Pierre then swiped second base, his 42nd of the year but first in 13 games and the Marlins’ first in 11 games. That proved critical when Jeff Conine singled him home for a 3-1 lead.

Reds 5, Nationals 3

WASHINGTON – Early this season, the Washington Nationals were terrific at home, and the Cincinnati Reds were terrible on the road. Neither is the case now.

Ken Griffey Jr. hit his 30th homer, Brandon Claussen won his fifth straight decision, and the Reds beat the Nationals 5-3 Thursday.

Cincinnati won seven of its first 35 on the road, but it’s 16-7 since, including taking two of three in Washington.

On June 30, the Nationals were a majors-best 30-13 at RFK Stadium, but since then they’ve gone 6-14 and lost five of six home series.

Claussen (9-8) gave up one unearned run, six hits and two walks over 5 2-3 innings.

He is 5-0 with a 2.77 ERA over his last six starts.

With one out in the ninth and the Reds ahead 5-1, Cincinnati’s Kent Mercker hit pinch-hitter Brian Schneider then allowed Brad Wilkerson’s two-run homer. David Weathers, Cincinnati’s sixth pitcher, gave up a single to Jose Vidro to bring the tying run to the plate before getting the last two outs for his 11th save.

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