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Small is big for Yankees

New York Yankees pitcher Aaron Small improved to 10-0 with an 8-4 victory over Baltimore Thursday.
New York Yankees pitcher Aaron Small improved to 10-0 with an 8-4 victory over Baltimore Thursday.
Chris Gardner, Associated Press

BALTIMORE — Aaron Small's outstanding pitching moved the New York Yankees closer to their eighth consecutive AL East title.

Small took a one-hitter into the seventh inning to improve to 10-0, and the Yankees got homers from Jason Giambi and Hideki Matsui in cruising past the Baltimore Orioles 8-4 on Thursday night.

The victory maintained the Yankees' one-game lead in the division over the second-place Boston Red Sox, who rallied past Toronto 5-4. The longtime rivals play three times at Fenway Park this weekend, and two wins would give New York the AL East crown.

Alex Rodriguez had two hits and scored twice for the Yankees, who built an 8-0 lead in winning for the 15th time in 18 games.

Small gave up two runs and four hits in 6 2/3 innings, striking out four and walking five. After breezing through the first six innings, the right-hander gave up a two-run homer to Javy Lopez in the seventh.

The Orioles then loaded the bases with two outs before Tanyon Sturtze retired Chris Gomez on a grounder.

Small has won his last five starts, including two straight against Baltimore.

Lopez homered for the third time in three games, and Jay Gibbons also connected for the Orioles, who have lost 11 of 12.

New York took control in the first inning against Erik Bedard (6-8), who needed 40 pitches to retire the side. After a walk to Derek Jeter and a single by Rodriguez, Giambi drove a 3-2 pitch over the 25-foot scoreboard onto Eutaw Street, a shot estimated at 425 feet.

The Yankees made it 5-0 in the second when Robinson Cano hit a leadoff double and scored on a two-out single by Sheffield.

Bedard allowed five runs, five hits and three walks in two innings. After going 5-1 with a 2.08 ERA in his first nine games, he returned from a two-month stint on the disabled list (knee) to go 1-7 with a 5.44 ERA over his last 15 starts.

Small issued three straight two-out walks in the third before striking out Melvin Mora on three pitches.

New York made it 6-0 in the fifth when Jorge Posada drew a bases-loaded walk from James Baldwin. Matsui hit his 22nd homer in the seventh, a two-run shot off Jorge Julio on a 3-0 pitch.

Gibbons hit his 25th with a runner on against Sturtze in the eighth. Tom Gordon got two quick outs to end the inning, and Scott Proctor worked a scoreless ninth — allowing closer Mariano Rivera to rest for the Boston series.

ANGELS 7, ATHLETICS 1: At Oakland, Calif., Bartolo Colon (21-8) gave up one run and five hits in five innings, becoming the Angels' winningest pitcher since Nolan Ryan went 22-16 in 1974. Colon pitched on three days' rest to get on schedule for starting Los Angeles' playoff opener Tuesday. Jose Molina homered and drove in three runs, and Robb Quinlan also homered for the AL West champions.

RED SOX 5, BLUE JAYS 4: At Boston, David Ortiz tied the game in the eighth inning with his 47th homer, then singled home the winning run in the ninth as Boston rallied from a 4-1 deficit. Rookie Jonathan Papelbon (3-1) pitched 2 2/3 scoreless innings for the win, and Manny Ramirez hit a two-run homer in the sixth that cut the deficit to 4-3.

INDIANS 6, DEVIL RAYS 0: At Cleveland, C.C. Sabathia pitched eight shutout innings, Travis Hafner homered and Cleveland snapped a three-game losing streak to stay tied with Boston in the AL wild-card race. Sabathia (15-10) allowed five hits and improved to 9-1 in his last 11 starts as the Indians ended Tampa Bay's five-game winning streak at Jacobs Field. He walked two and struck out nine.

Hafner and Ronnie Belliard hit two-run homers in the first off Casey Fossum (8-12) and Jhonny Peralta hit a solo shot in the third.

Peralta's homer gave the Indians 50 in September, tying a club mark set in 1950 and 1997.

MARINERS 4, RANGERS 3: At Seattle, Richie Sexson had three hits and two RBIs for Seattle, which drew 19,781 fans — the first crowd under 20,000 in the 5 1/2-year history of Safeco Field. Ryan Franklin (8-15) gave up three runs and six hits in six innings and Eddie Guardado pitched the ninth for his 35th save. Kenny Rogers (14-8) gave up nine hits and three earned runs in six innings in what was likely his last start for Texas.

ROYALS 10, TWINS 6: At Minneapolis, Mike Sweeney went 3-for-4 with a homer and five RBIs and Kansas City avoided setting the club record for losses in a season. Mark Teahen and John Buck hit solo home runs in a five-run sixth inning off rookie Travis Bowyer (0-1), who then gave up two singles before Sweeney homered to left-center for a 10-6 lead.

The Royals (55-104) must sweep a three-game series at Toronto this weekend to keep from becoming the losingest team in franchise history. They went 58-104 last year.

Nick Punto hit a two-run homer, and Luis Rodriguez had a three-run homer for Minnesota.

D.J. Carrasco (6-8), making his first relief appearance this year, pitched 1 1-3 scoreless innings for the victory.