ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Alex Rodriguez hit his 42nd home run and Robinson Cano erased a four-run deficit with a grand slam, helping Aaron Small and the New York Yankees rally to beat the Tampa Bay Devil Rays 9-5.

Small (8-0) became the first pitcher to win his first eight decisions with the Yankees since Doug Bird in 1980 and 81, and New York’s fourth straight win continued its strong push in the AL East and wild-card races.

The Yankees started the night 21/2 games behind Boston in the division and pulled within one-half game of idle Cleveland for the AL wild card.

Cano and Rodriguez homered off Seth McClung (6-10) in the sixth inning. Cano’s drive into the right field stands wiped out a 5-1 deficit, and Rodriguez followed with a two-run shot in his first at-bat after the Devil Rays’ starter hit him in the back with a pitch in the fifth.

Cano added an RBI triple in the ninth to give him a career-high five RBIs, and Bubba Crosby had a career high three hits and two RBIs.

Small allowed five runs and seven hits in 6 2-3 innings, improving to 6-0 in seven starts as a fill-in in a rotation decimated by injuries.

Royals 7, White Sox 5

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – John Buck hit a two-run double to key four-run seventh inning, and the Kansas City Royals beat the White Sox 7-5 on to cut Chicago’s lead in the AL Central to 41/2 games.

Chicago’s second straight loss to the team with the worst record in the majors has given idle Cleveland a sliver of hope for catching the White Sox for the division crown. The White Sox’s magic number to clinch the Central is 13 with 17 games left.

Ambiorix Burgos (2-5) got the victory in relief of starter Zack Greinke, going 1 1-3 innings and giving up two runs.

Mark Buehrle (15-8) went 6 1-3 innings for the White Sox and was charged with four runs on nine hits, with two walks and three strikeouts.

His career record fell to 12-6 against the Royals, who started the season losing 10 in a row to Chicago but won five of their last eight.

Rangers 4, Mariners 3

ARLINGTON, Texas – Michael Young reached 200 hits for the third straight season and Gary Matthews Jr. had a tiebreaking sacrifice fly to lead the Texas Rangers over the Seattle Mariners 4-3.

Young’s RBI single in the third inning made him the 22nd player in major league history with three consecutive 200-hit seasons. The last to accomplish the feat was Seattle’s Ichiro Suzuki, who is trying to stretch his run to five straight years.

Young went 1-for-4 and leads the AL with a .328 batting average. Kameron Loe (9-5) pitched 5 1-3 innings and left with the 3-2 lead despite making three errors in his sixth major league start. He allowed two runs and six hits, struck out two and walked four.

National League

Astros 4, Marlins 1

HOUSTON – Andy Pettitte allowed one run over eight innings to win his sixth straight start, a 4-1 victory over the Florida Marlins that put the Houston Astros back in the NL wild-card lead where they were when the series started.

The Astros (78-68) took a half-game lead over Florida and Philadelphia, which lost to Atlanta, in the wild-card race. Houston and Florida split their four-game series, the last games against each other this season.

Florida, which went 6-5 on its road trip, begins a three-game series at home Friday against the Phillies. Houston remains home to play Milwaukee.

Pettitte (16-9) scattered five hits and struck out five. Aside from Miguel Cabrera’s 32nd homer leading off the seventh, the left-hander allowed five baserunners, three of whom were erased by double-play grounders. Brad Lidge struck out the side in the ninth for his 37th save in 40 chances.

After Brad Ausmus led off the fifth with his third home run, Pettitte followed with a deep fly ball of his own – that was caught by center fielder Juan Pierre well short of the wall. Craig Biggio then hit his 21st homer into the left-field stands near where Ausmus’ ball had landed for a 3-0 lead.

An inning later, Florida intentionally walked Ausmus with two outs and a runner on to get Pettitte to the plate. He hit another fly to center, shaking his arms in frustration as he jogged toward first base.

Still, Pettitte did what he does best with another impressive pitching performance. He is 13-3 with a 1.50 ERA since June 20 – the most wins and best ERA in the major leagues during that span.

Braves 6, Phillies 4

PHILADELPHIA – Chipper Jones hit two homers and tied his career-high with five RBIs, helping the Atlanta Braves avert a four-game sweep with a 6-4 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies.

The NL East-leading Braves came in with a five-game lead over the Phillies and Florida Marlins. Philadelphia and Florida were tied for first place in the NL wild-card standings, a half-game ahead of Houston.

Jorge Sosa (12-3) allowed two runs and seven hits in 5 2-3 innings for the Braves and Adam LaRoche had a solo homer.

Jones hit a three-run homer in the third inning and a two-run shot in the seventh for his 32nd career multihomer game.

Brewers 14, Diamondbacks 2

PHOENIX – Tomo Ohka pitched seven strong innings, Bill Hall had a career-high five hits and Chad Moeller drove in four runs to lead the Milwaukee Brewers to a 14-2 rout of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Jeff Cirillo went 3-for-4 with two walks and three RBIs, including a two-run homer against reliever Jason Bulger in the sixth inning to make it 14-0. Carlos Lee also had a two-run shot and Ohka drove in two runs to help the Brewers win for the seventh time in 10 games. Milwaukee had 19 hits and tied a season high with its 14 runs. Ohka (11-8), acquired from Washington on June 10 in a trade for infielder Junior Spivey, allowed two runs on four hits and a walk. He struck out seven and improved to 4-1 in his last seven starts.

Cardinals 6, Cubs 1

CHICAGO – The St. Louis Cardinals clinched another NL Central title in what has become a customary experience under manager Tony La Russa.

Jeff Suppan allowed six hits over eight-plus innings and the Cardinals beat the Chicago Cubs 6-1 in a game called with two outs in the bottom of the ninth after a 58-minute rain delay.

St. Louis’ fourth NL Central title in the last six years made the Cardinals the first team to clinch a playoff berth this season. Now they hope to find their way back to the World Series where they were swept last year by the Boston Red Sox.

The victory over the Cubs coupled with Atlanta’s 6-4 win over Philadelphia gave St. Louis (94-54) the division title because Houston could at best match the Cardinals at 94 wins, with both teams assured of playoff berths at that figure. St. Louis has the tiebreaker because it clinched the season series against the Astros.

Nationals 6, Mets 5

NEW YORK – Vinny Castilla drove in the go-ahead run with two outs in the 10th inning after Braden Looper and the Mets’ sloppy defense wasted a ninth-inning lead, and the Washington Nationals beat New York 6-5 to complete a three-game sweep.

Cliff Floyd hit a grand slam and Jose Reyes also homered for the Mets, who have lost 15 of 18. New York fought back from a three-run deficit to take the lead, then wasted strong relief work from Shingo Takatsu and Aaron Heilman and fell to 2-12 in September.

Roberto Hernandez (6-6) walked Nick Johnson to open the tenth and Preston Wilson followed with his fourth hit to move Johnson to third. Castilla singled to right with two outs.

Jason Bergmann (2-0) pitched one inning and Gary Majewski worked the 11th for his first save.


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