A superb pitching performance by Adam Wainwright led the St Louis Cardinals to a 5-0 win over Pittsburgh on Saturday, leapfrogging the Pirates into first place in the National League Central division.
The top three teams in the division are separated by just 1.5 games following Cincnnati’s 10-inning win over the Los Angeles Dodgers.
In the American League, Boston put one foot into the playoffs with a third-straight high-scoring win at the home of their archrival, the New York Yankees, and moved 8.5 games clear atop the East division following Tampa Bay’s loss at Seattle.
Surging Oakland moved a game and a half clear in the West division with a tight win over Houston, while nearest rival Texas committed three errors in their loss to the Los Angeles Angels.
The AL Central is tightening up, with Cleveland beating the New York Mets to close within 5.5 games of Detroit, who lost to the Kansas City Royals.
St Louis’ Wainwright (16-9) had given up 15 earned runs over his previous two starts, but regained form at the right time, conceding only two hits in seven innings to guide the Cardinals to victory.
David Freese homered for St Louis, who have taken the first two games of this critical series.
The Pirates remain stuck on 81 wins, one shy of assuring them a positive win-loss record for the first time since 1992.
Cincinnati kept right on the tail of those two teams by winning 4-3 against the Dodgers, with Todd Frazier hitting the game-winning single in the 10th.
Ryan Ludwick opened the Cincinnati 10th with a leadoff walk against Brian Wilson (1-1). Reds manager Dusty Baker then called on Billy Hamilton as a pinch-runner and he stole second as Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis dropped the ball while taking it out of his glove.
Frazier followed with a line-drive single into right field to bring home Hamilton and give Cincinnati five wins in their past six games.
The Los Angeles Dodgers’ lead in the NL West was trimmed to a still-powerful 11 games.
Atlanta also lost, to have their big divisional lead reduced, suffering a 6-5 defeat by Philadelphia.
Freddy Galvis hit a game-ending homer for the Phillies with one out in the ninth inning, responding after Atlanta had scored two runs in the top of the frame to tie the game.
Galvis had four hits for the first time in his career, having not got a single in his previous seven at-bats since being recalled from the minors.
Boston’s Mike Napoli hit two home runs, while Jonny Gomes and prized rookie Xander Bogaerts also cleared the fences as the Red Sox kept up their dizzying scoring spree at Yankee Stadium, bashing New York 13-9 for their fifth straight win.
The AL East leaders became the first visiting team in more than a century to score at least nine runs on three straight days against the Yankees.
In fact, the last time it happened, they were not called the Yankees — Boston did it in 1912 to the Highlanders at Hilltop Park.
The divisional title looks in Boston’s keeping after Tampa Bay slumped to their seventh defeat in nine games, beaten 6-2 at Seattle.
The Rays’ lead in the race for the second AL wild card race was reduced to one game after both Cleveland and Baltimore won.
James Paxton (1-0) became the latest Seattle prospect to make an impressive debut, pitching six strong innings allowing just one earned run.
Justin Smoak and Kendrys Morales hit solo homers for the Mariners.
Detroit’s hold on the AL Central was slightly loosened by a 4-3 loss at Kansas City.
Salvador Perez hit a tiebreaking two-run homer with two outs in the sixth, making it 4-2.
The Tigers pulled a run back in the seventh, but Royals closer Greg Holland worked a perfect ninth for his 39th save in 42 chances.
Cleveland closed the gap on Detroit by beating the New York Mets 9-4, with Asdrubal Cabrera hitting a three-run homer for the Indians.
Meanwhile, Oakland opened a mini-break atop the AL West by edging Houston 2-1.
Dan Straily (9-7) pitched seven scoreless innings, striking out seven and walking one in his third consecutive victory. He has a 1.50 ERA over 18 innings during his winning streak.
They crept 1.5 games clear of Texas, who struggled against Los Angeles pitcher Garrett Richards and lost 8-3 to the Angels.
Richards (6-6) allowed one earned run in seven innings, while striking out five and walking one. The right-hander, who finished his night by fanning the side on 18 pitches, is 4-0 with a 3.25 ERA in seven starts at home this season.
Mark Trumbo hit a mammoth home run for the Angels.
Arizona’s Brandon McCarthy pitched eight strong innings to lift the Diamondbacks to a 2-1 win over San Francisco.
Baltimore posted their third straight win and boosted their wild-card hopes with a 4-3 win over the Chicago White Sox as Matt Wieters hit a winning two-run single in the 10th inning.
San Diego rookie Jedd Gyorko hit a go-ahead homer leading off the eighth inning to give the Padres a 2-1 win over Colorado.
Toronto’s Adam Lind hit a pair of three-run homers as the Blue Jays downed Minnesota 11-2.
Washington’s Ryan Zimmerman homered twice and drove in three runs, powering the Nationals to a 9-2 victory over Miami.
Milwaukee’s Logan Schafer hit a three-run triple to help the Brewers beat the Chicago cubs 5-3.