Rays maintain AL East lead; Mets reclaim first place in NL

Entering the final month of the regular season, with each team having only about 30 games remaining, the playoff races in both leagues are starting to tighten up considerably. Even after playing a grueling 162-game season, which at times can seem endless, the difference between qualifying for the postseason and an early golf vacation usually comes down to the final weekend of September and, as such, every team within smelling distance of a wildcard spot is scrambling for each and every win it can get. Just last year, the Colorado Rockies caught fire in the last month of the regular season, unbelievably losing just once in the final four weeks, to finished tied with the San Diego Padres after 162 games. They won the play-in game to grab the NL wildcard and were only stopped in the World Series by a red-hot Boston Red Sox team. So as the pressure mounts, in this, the time of the year when the most clutch performances define careers, the top teams and players must continue to step up nightly if they hope to be playing in October and beyond. In Wednesday's action, the Tampa Bay Rays edged the Toronto Blue Jays 1-0 to maintain their lead in the American League East division. Tampa Bay starter Matt Garza and two relievers combined on a six-hitter to keep the Rays 31⁄2 games ahead of Boston in the East. In New York, the Red Sox crushed the Yankees 11-3 to drive another nail into the coffin of the Yankees' playoff ambitions. Dustin Pedroia's first career slam capped a seven-run eighth inning and New York dropped seven games behind Boston, which leads the AL wildcard race. The Chicago White Sox' advantage over Minnesota in the Central was sliced to one game as they lost to the Baltimore Orioles 11-3 while the Twins beat the Seattle Mariners 6-5. The Oakland A's beat the Los Angeles Angels 6-5, yet the Angels still hold a 15-game lead in the AL West. In the National League, the Mets' Daniel Murphy hit a tiebreaking double after Carlos Delgado's second solo homer had tied the game in the eighth as New York beat the Philadelphia Phillies 6-3 to reclaim first place in the NL East. Ryan Howard hit a two-run homer and Jayson Werth homered for the Phillies, who fell a half-game behind the Mets in the division. The Chicago Cubs, a major league-best 83-50, won its fifth straight in a 2-0 victory over the hapless Pittsburgh Pirates. The Cubs are 33 games over .500 for the first time since they were 98-56 at the end of the 1945 season. Ryan Ludwick was a triple short of a cycle and had two RBIs to lead St. Louis Cardinals' 5-3 comeback victory over the Milwaukee Brewers from a three-run deficit. Rebounding from a 12-0 rout Tuesday, the Cardinals scored four runs in the eighth and pulled within 31⁄2 games of Milwaukee for the NL wild-card lead. The NL West-leading Arizona Diamondbacks lost their fourth straight to the San Diego Padres by a score of 5-4, but still hold a three game lead over the LA Dodgers, who also lost their fourth in a row to Washington. The closest races should shape up to be the NL East pennant contest between the Mets and Phillies and the AL Central race between the White Sox and Twins, with the loser fighting for the wildcard with the defending-champion Red Sox. Either way, it looks to be setting up for another exciting September of riveting and dramatic baseball. Stay tuned. AP contributed to this report.