NEW YORK – The New York Mets ended nearly two decades of disappointment in their division and days of delay, clinching the NL East for the first time since 1988 with a 4-0 victory over the Florida Marlins on Monday night.

Jose Valentin, one of their unexpected stars, homered twice and Steve Trachsel, their longest-tenured player, combined with three relievers on a four-hitter.

Fireworks shot off from behind the center-field wall when Cliff Floyd caught Josh Willingham’s fly ball to left for the final out. The Mets rushed to the center of the diamond to celebrate, hugging near shortstop.

“I got that ball in my back pocket. For a small fee, I might give it up,” Floyd said, laughing.

Braves 6, Nationals 1

WASHINGTON – Andruw Jones hit a tiebreaking, two-run homer in the sixth inning and Kyle Davies won for the first time since April 30 to lead the Atlanta Braves over the Washington Nationals 6-1.

Jones also doubled and scored three runs for Atlanta, which won for the fourth time in five games. Daryle Ward added a pinch-hit, three-run homer in the eighth inning in his first appearance against the Nationals since they traded him to the Braves on Aug. 31.

Davies allowed one run and four hits, struck out five and walked two.

Brewers 4, Cardinals 3

MILWAUKEE – Tony Graffanino singled in the winning run in the ninth inning to lift the Milwaukee Brewers over the St. Louis Cardinals 4-3.

Albert Pujols hit a three-run drive for his 46th homer for the Cardinals, whose magic number was lowered to seven when Cincinnati lost 5-3 to the Houston Astros.

St. Louis is seeking its third straight NL Central title and at least a share of the division’s top spot for the sixth time in seven seasons.

Cubs 11, Phillies 6

PHILADELPHIA – Aramis Ramirez homered twice and drove in a career-best seven runs and the Chicago Cubs held off the Philadelphia Phillies for an 11-6 victory.

Pinch-hitter Jose Hernandez hit a grand slam in the fourth inning to bring Philadelphia within two runs after trailing 8-0, but five Cubs relievers held the Phillies scoreless over the last five innings.

Ramirez went 4-for-5 and Juan Pierre and Scott Moore hit solo homers for Chicago, which has the NL’s worst record.

Astros 5, Reds 3

HOUSTON – Roy Oswalt pitched 6 2-3 innings to continue his mastery of Cincinnati, leading the Houston Astros over the Reds 5-3.

Oswalt (14-8) allowed two runs and eight hits to improve his career record to 17-1 against Cincinnati. He struck out eight and didn’t walk a batter before departing with muscle spasms in his neck.

Oswalt was 15-0 against Cincinnati until April 28, the longest streak without a loss for one pitcher against one team in major league history. He lost that day but started another streak against the Reds with a win at Cincinnati on Aug. 23.

Yankees 7, Blue Jays 6

TORONTO – Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez hit two-run homers and the New York Yankees held on for a 7-6 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays.

New York reduced its magic number to clinching the AL East for a ninth straight season to three. The Yankees could wrap up the division title during the seven-game road trip to Toronto and Tampa Bay.

Jeter hit a two-run homer, his 14th, off A.J. Burnett (8-8) in the seventh inning to give New York a 4-3 lead.

The Yankees added three runs in the ninth but Toronto matched that in the bottom half, forcing New York to use four pitchers in the final inning. Jose Veras got the last out for the first save of his career.

Orioles 4, Devil Rays 1

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Corey Patterson hit a three-run homer and Erik Bedard won his third consecutive start, helping the Baltimore Orioles beat the Tampa Bay Devil Rays 4-1.

Bedard (15-9) allowed one run, four hits and one walk and struck out 10 in seven innings. In his last three starts, the left-hander has given up three runs and 10 hits over 20 innings.

Patterson hit his 14th homer of the season off Tim Corcoran (4-9) in the second inning to put Baltimore up 3-1.

David Newhan made it 4-1 with a sacrifice fly in the fourth.

Rangers 8, Mariners 1

ARLINGTON, Texas – Kevin Millwood allowed one run over seven innings for his 16th victory and Michael Young had his third straight multihit game in the Texas Rangers’ 8-1 victory over the Seattle Mariners.

Millwood (16-10) won his fourth straight game at home, where he struggled early in the season after the Rangers signed the free agent to a $60 million, five-year deal.

It is the fourth time the right-hander has won 16 games, the most since he was 18-8 for Atlanta in 2002.

Tigers 8, White Sox 2

CHICAGO – Kenny Rogers pitched six shutout innings for his 16th win, Magglio Ordonez homered twice against his former team and the Detroit Tigers increased their AL Central lead by beating the Chicago White Sox 8-2.

The Tigers lead Minnesota, which was idle Monday night, by 11/2 games in the division and are six games ahead of the defending World Series champion White Sox, whose return to the playoffs is in deep jeopardy after a sixth loss in eight games.

Rogers (16-6) allowed just four hits, escaped several jams and is 5-1 over his last nine starts.

He improved to 3-1 against the White Sox this season and has allowed three earned runs in 33 innings against Chicago.


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