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McPherson gives Angels a lift

Anaheim gains ground in races

Dallas McPherson had three hits and an RBI in his first major league start last night, helping the Angels gain ground in the playoff race with a 5-2 victory over the Seattle Mariners in Anaheim, Calif.

The Angels closed within 2 1/2 games of idle Oakland in the AL West and 4 1/2 of Boston in the wild-card chase despite playing most of the night without star right fielder Vladimir Guerrero, who was hit in the head by a pitch in the first inning.

X-rays at a hospital were normal, and Guerrero returned to the dugout during the game.

Winning pitcher John Lackey (13-12) gave up two runs and 10 hits in six innings, striking out seven and walking none. Troy Percival pitched a scoreless ninth for his 29th save in 34 chances.

Angels second baseman Adam Kennedy left the game after spraining his right knee in the fifth on a fielding play.

Guerrero left after he was hit on the left side of his head by a pitch from Ryan Franklin (4-16). Anaheim manager Mike Scioscia was ejected for the fourth time this season after yelling and pointing at Franklin. Seattle's bench emptied, but no punches were thrown.

Franklin gave up four runs and 11 hits in five innings, becoming the first Mariners pitcher to lose 16 games since Erik Hanson went 8-17 in 1992.

Blue Jays 6, Yankees 3 -- Gustavo Chacin became the first lefty starter to win his major league debut against the Yankees in the Joe Torre era, pitching Toronto past host New York. With a shaved head, a 19-2 record in the minors, and fresh off a playoff win with the Double A New Hampshire Fisher Cats, Chacin held the AL East leaders to a mere four hits before leaving in the eighth inning.

New York remained 4 1/2 games ahead of Boston. A crowd of only 10,732 saw a game rescheduled less than two weeks ago. The three-game series was supposed to open tonight, but was pushed up to accommodate a makeup against Tampa Bay caused by Hurricane Frances. Not since Boston's Vaughn Eshelman May 2, 1995, had an opposing lefty started and won his major league debut at Yankee Stadium, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Torre, who took over as the Yankees' manager in 1996 when they began their championship run, said there was a "certain mystery" in facing a pitcher his team never had seen.

Chacin (1-0) proved that, leaving in the eighth with no outs, the bases loaded on a walk, single, and hit batter, and Toronto ahead, 6-1.

Twins 8, White Sox 2 -- If Minnesota couldn't win the AL Central title at home, Chicago was the next-best place for a party. Torii Hunter and Corey Koskie each hit a two-run homer in the first inning, and the Twins clinched their third straight division crown on their main rivals' home turf.

Henry Blanco and Luis Rivas also homered. When Timo Perez popped to shortstop Cristian Guzman for the final out, the Twins rushed onto the field for hugs and handshakes.

It's the first time Minnesota has won three straight division titles in its 44-year history.

As if watching the Twins celebrate in their own park wasn't bad enough, the loss officially eliminated the White Sox from the playoffs.

Tigers 3, Indians 1 -- Mike Maroth pitched well into the seventh and Dmitri Young and Brandon Inge homered to lift host Detroit. Maroth (11-11) pitched 6 2/3 scoreless innings, allowing six hits while striking out three.

Royals 6, Devil Rays 3 -- Calvin Pickering hit a tie-breaking two-run homer in the eighth inning to lift visiting Kansas City. Brian Anderson (5-11) allowed three runs and seven hits over 7 2/3 innings to win his third straight.

Cubs, 5-1; Marlins, 5-2 -- Chicago's 24-hour visit to Miami included a brief stay atop the National League wild-card race. The Cubs then lost their lead because they couldn't beat David Weathers. Weathers, a journeyman righthander making his first start in six years, limited Chicago to two hits and one run in five innings, as Florida prevailed for a split of their doubleheader.

Mark Prior allowed just five hits in 7 2/3 innings and out-pitched Carl Pavano as the Cubs took the opener.

With the victory in Game 1, Chicago climbed one percentage point ahead of San Francisco in the wild-card race. But the Cubs ended the day where they started: one-half game behind the idle Giants.

The Marlins, who had hoped to gain ground with a sweep, instead remained 4 1/2 games behind San Francisco. The defending World Series champions have no games left against any of the four teams ahead of them.

Weathers (7-7), pitching for his third team this season, entered the game 0-4 lifetime against the Cubs with an 11.44 ERA. But he left the mound after the fifth with a 5-1 lead. Cardinals 7, Brewers 4 -- Albert Pujols hit a tie-breaking single in the ninth inning, and St. Louis beat host Milwaukee for its major league-leading 98th victory.

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