Jay Bruce homered in three consecutive at-bats as the first-place Cincinnati Reds extended their two-week playoff surge by beating the Chicago Cubs 7-1 on Friday.
The Reds are 10-3 since getting swept at home by the St Louis Cardinals from Aug. 9 to Aug. 11. The streak pushed Cincinnati back ahead of the Cardinals in the National League Central, which the Reds have led for the last 13 days.
Johnny Cueto (12-4) got his first win since serving a seven-game suspension for kicking a couple of Cardinals during a brawl in their series. The right-hander gave up a run and six hits in eight innings.
Bruce hit a solo homer and a three-run shot off left-hander Tom Gorzelanny (7-8), who lasted only five innings. He added a solo shot in the seventh off reliever Scott Maine, giving him three homers in a span of five pitches.
It was Chicago’s first loss since manager Lou Piniella retired on Sunday and was replaced by Mike Quade.
Dodgers 6, Rockies 2
In Denver, Colorado, Casey Blake hit a grand slam in a five-run eighth inning to help Los Angeles beat Colorado and spoil ace Ubaldo Jimenez’s bid for a franchise record 18th win.
Blake’s slam came off Matt Belisle, who relieved Jimenez after the first three batters reached base in the eighth. Scott Podsednik singled and Ryan Theriot walked before Andre Ethier doubled to tie it at 1.
Jonathan Broxton (5-4) got the win for the Dodgers, who are 21-7 against the Rockies dating to the start of last year’s season.
The loss ended Colorado’s four-game winning streak and was just their third defeat in 13 games at Coors Field, where they are 41-21 (.661).
Taiwan’s Kuo Hong-chih earned his sixth save.
Jimenez (17-5) took a 1-0 lead into the eighth thanks to Todd Helton’s homer off Clayton Kershaw.
In other NL action, it was:
• Phillies 3, Padres 2, 12 inns
• Marlins 7, Braves 1
• Cardinals 4, Nationals 2
• Diamondbacks 6, Giants 0
• Mets 2, Astros 1
• Brewers 7, Pirates 2
AP, ST PETERSBURG, Florida
The Boston Red Sox tightened up the race for the American League East and wild-card by beating the Tampa Bay Rays 3-1 on Friday.
Boston starter Jon Lester (14-8) rebounded from the worst outing of his career to pitch seven strong innings, limiting the Rays to one unearned run and striking out 10.
Victor Martinez hit solo homers off Tampa Bay ace David Price (15-6) in the first and seventh.
The Red Sox moved within 4.5 games of both Tampa Bay and New York, which share the lead in both the AL East and the wild-card.
White Sox 9, Yankees 4
At Chicago, the hosts piled on four runs in the first inning to lay the foundation for a comfortable win over New York.
A.J. Pierzynski hit a two-run double in the first as the White Sox roughed up Yankees starter A.J. Burnett (9-12) who struggled once again. He is 0-4 with a 7.80 ERA in five starts this month.
While Burnett toiled, White Sox starter Freddy Garcia (11-5) snapped out of his rut by yielding just one earned run in seven innings, taking his first win this month.
Twins 6, Mariners 3
At Seattle, Joe Mauer had three hits and two RBIs to lead Scott Baker and first-place Minnesota over Seattle.
The sixth, three-hit game this month for Mauer, plus Baker holding baseball’s worst offensive team to five hits and two runs, kept the Twins 3.5 games ahead of Chicago in the AL Central.
Baker (12-9) went 6-and-2/3 innings to win his fifth consecutive decision. He joined Carl Pavano and Francisco Liriano with at least a dozen wins for the Twins.