Oakland takes key win in playoff race

Oakland takes key win in playoff race

CHICAGO - The Associated Press
Oakland takes key win in playoff race

The Oakland Athletics beat the Los Angeles Angels 3-1, ending their rivals’ six-game winning streak. The Athletics took a major advantage in the MLB playoff race. REUTERS photo

The Chicago White Sox and Oakland Athletics both earned themselves a little breathing space in Major League Baseball’s playoff race by beating their close divisional rivals on Monday.

Chicago’s Alex Rios and A.J. Pierzynski hit back-to-back homers in the sixth inning to help the White Sox beat the Detroit Tigers 6-1, increasing their American League Central division lead to three games.

The White Sox, who had lost seven straight to Detroit, looked like making it eight as they were struggling against Rick Porcello (9-12), going 0 for 10 with runners in scoring position. However an error by Tigers second baseman Omar Infante gave them an opening.

With one out in the sixth, Infante muffed Dewayne Wise’s easy grounder. Paul Konerko then singled to put runners at the corners and Alex Rios delivered a three-run homer. Pierzynski followed with his own long shot to make it 4-1 lead, ending Porcello’s night and sending him to his sixth straight loss. Gordon Beckham added a two-run shot in the eighth.

The Oakland Athletics beat Los Angeles 3-1, ending the Angels’ six-game winning streak and opening the gap between the teams to 3 1-2 games in the AL West. The A’s hold the first wild card and crept within three games of the division-leading Texas Rangers.
Oakland’s Jarrod Parker (10-8) pitched seven strong innings while Brandon Moss and Cliff Pennington both homered.
The Angels slipped 1 1-2 games behind the idle Baltimore Orioles for the second wild-card berth.
In the other AL game, the Minnesota Twins beat the Cleveland Indians 7-2.

In the National League, the Cincinnati Reds drove another nail into the coffin of Pittsburgh’s playoff hopes by downing the Pirates 4-3 in 14 innings.

Pittsburgh loaded the bases in the top of the 14th but failed to score, and paid the price in the bottom of the inning as Ryan Ludwick came up with a two-out single to drive in Cincinnati’s winning run.

The Pirates have lost four straight and are now 2 1-2 games of the second and last wild-card position, while the Reds moved 9 1-2 games clear atop the NL Central and a step closer to seemingly inevitable division title.

The only good news for the Pirates was that the St. Louis Cardinals missed a chance to shore up their lead in the wild-card chase as they lost 11-3 to the San Diego Padres.

St. Louis had its lead cut to one game over the idle Los Angeles Dodgers for the second wild card. The loss started a crucial seven-game West Coast trip for the Cardinals, who begin a four-game set against the Dodgers tomorrow.

Los Angeles does still have an outside chance at the NL West title, trailing San Francisco by five games after the Giants lost 6-5 to the Colorado Rockies. San Francisco has cause for concern over the form of pitcher Ryan Vogelsong (12-8), who gave up four runs over five innings and has a 9.57 ERA over his past six starts.

In the East division, the Washington Nationals pushed their lead back out to a comfortable 6 1-2 games by beating the New York Mets 5-1 while the Atlanta Braves were beaten 4-1 by the Milwaukee Brewers.

Washington’s Gio Gonzalez (19-7) became the first pitcher to notch 19 wins this season, giving up only one run over six innings, while the lineup supported him with three home runs.

Milwaukee sent 10 batters to the plate in the seventh inning, scoring all their runs of the game with two hits and a sacrifice fly. The Braves had won five straight.

In the other NL games, the Philadelphia Phillies beat the Miami Marlins 3-1 while the Chicago Cubs were 4-1 winner over the Houston Astros.