BALTIMORE – There was no overlooking the game on the top left portion of the scoreboard at Camden Yards, which showed Boston losing big against Toronto.

The New York Yankees knew a win over Baltimore would likely thrust them into sole possession of first place in the AL East, and they weren’t about to let the opportunity slip away.

Alex Rodriguez hit a milestone homer, Derek Jeter singled in the tiebreaking run in the seventh inning, and the Yankees used a fine pitching performance by Shawn Chacon to beat the Orioles 2-1 Wednesday night.

The game ended with Boston trailing 7-2 in the eighth inning. So the Yankees walked off the field knowing they would finish the day no worse than tied atop the division, and probably up by one game with four to play. The AL East winner will be determined during a three-game series between the leaders at Fenway Park, beginning Friday night.

Devil Rays 1, Indians 0

CLEVELAND – Suddenly, there’s another AL Central team cracking under the pressure.

And for the Cleveland Indians, it’s happening at the worst time possible.

Tampa Bay’s Seth McClung pitched eight shutout innings as the Devil Rays beat Cleveland 1-0 on Wednesday night, dealing the Indians a devastating loss to their hopes of catching the Chicago White Sox.

McClung (7-11) allowed just four hits and only two runners to reach second base while outpitching Cliff Lee (18-5) and handing the Indians their third straight setback – the club’s first three-game slide since being swept by the Devil Rays on Aug. 12-14.

White Sox 8, Tigers 2

DETROIT – Jose Contreras won his eighth straight start and Scott Podsednik had four hits, leading the White Sox over the Detroit Tigers 8-2 Wednesday night and opening a three-game lead for Chicago in the AL Central.

The White Sox would clinch no worse than a wild-card berth in the playoffs with one more win. With Chicago’s win and second-place Cleveland’s 1-0 loss to Tampa Bay, the White Sox lowered their magic number to two for clinching their first division title since 2000. After Thursday’s series finale in Detroit, the White Sox finish the regular season with three games at Cleveland.

Pirates 3, Cubs 2

CHICAGO – The Cubs’ disappointing season at Wrigley Field came to a close as rookie Nate McLouth homered for the third straight day to lead the Pittsburgh Pirates over Chicago 3-2 Wednesday.

Chicago finished 38-43 at Wrigley Field and must sweep a four-game series at Houston to finish at .500 overall.

Paul Maholm (3-1), in his sixth major league start, outpitched Mark Prior (11-7) who lost to Pittsburgh for the first time in his career. Maholm, a 23-year-old left-hander, gave up two runs and six hits in 6 2-3 innings.

Rockies 10, Braves 5

ATLANTA – On a night when a lot of rookies were on display, Colorado first-year shortstop Clint Barmes had the biggest hit, driving in the go-ahead run with a two-run double in the sixth inning and the Rockies beat the Atlanta Braves 10-5 on Wednesday night.

Fourteen rookies started for the Braves and Rockies, including the starting pitchers for both. It was the most rookies to start a major league game since Sept. 24, 2003, when 14 started for Cleveland and Minnesota.

Jeff Francis (14-12) gave up seven hits and four runs, three earned, in five innings for Colorado.

Twins 6, Royals 3

MINNEAPOLIS – Jacque Jones hit a go-ahead triple in the three-run eighth inning to lead the Minnesota Twins past Kansas City 6-3 Wednesday night, handing the Royals a team record-tying 104th loss.

Luis Rodriguez walked against Andrew Sisco (2-5) to open the inning, and advanced to second on a ground out. Jones, who had two hits in his previous 17 at-bats, then hit a drive that rolled to the wall in left-center for his fourth triple of the season. Michael Cuddyer doubled off Chris Demaria later in the inning for two more Minnesota runs.

Astros 7, Cardinals 6

ST. LOUIS – Morgan Ensberg had a tiebreaking double in the ninth inning, his fourth hit of the game, and the Houston Astros beat the St. Louis Cardinals 7-6 Wednesday night to maintain a 21/2-game lead over Philadelphia in the NL wild-card race.

With the score 6-6, Willy Taveras led off the ninth with his major league-leading 69th infield hit, and to start the ninth and scored without a play on Ensberg’s double into the left-field corner off Jason Isringhausen (1-2). Houston swept a two-game series against the NL Central champions, finishing the season 5-11 against St. Louis, and will close the regular season with a four-game series at home against the Cubs that starts Thursday.

Phillies 16, Mets 6

PHILADELPHIA – Chase Utley hit a three-run homer and drove in five runs, and David Bell and Kenny Lofton each had four hits to give the Philadelphia Phillies’ fading postseason hopes a boost with a 16-6 win over the New York Mets on Wednesday night.

The Phillies avoided a three-game sweep and maintained their slim chance of catching Houston for the NL wild card. The Phillies began the day 21/2 games behind the Astros, who played in St. Louis and finish the season with four home games against the Cubs.

The Phillies are off Thursday and close the season with a three-game series in Washington.

Nationals 11, Marlins 7

MIAMI – Preston Wilson homered and had five RBIs and Nick Johnson added a home run and four RBIs to help the Washington Nationals beat the Florida Marlins 11-7 on Wednesday night and sweep the three-game series.

Miguel Cabrera had three hits, including a homer, and four RBIs for the Marlins, who lost their season-high sixth straight, eighth of nine and 12th in 14. Rookie Jeremy Hermida also had three hits, including his second home run.

Reds 11, Brewers 4

MILWAUKEE – Adam Dunn hit his 39th home run and Felipe Lopez drove in three runs to lead the Cincinnati Reds to an 11-4 victory over Milwaukee on Wednesday night, denying Chris Capuano of the Brewers his 19th win.

Capuano (18-11) pitched five innings, giving up six runs and eight hits. It was the second straight game he allowed six runs, although he was able to get the win over St. Louis on Sept. 23.

He was trying to be the first to win 19 games since Teddy Higuera won 20 games in 1987.


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