MLB jockeying for playoff positions

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There were just eight games on Monday's major league schedule, but seven had a direct bearing on the playoff races.

The Los Angeles Angels have sole possession of the AL West lead for the first time since May 10, 2011, moving a half-game ahead of Oakland with a 4-2 victory in Boston. C.J. Wilson was reached for five hits and five walks in just 5 1/3 innings but left the game with a 2-1 lead. Mike Trout put the Angels ahead with an RBI double in the Angels' two-run second. L.A. also scored twice in the eighth on an error by pitcher Junichi Tazawa.

Kansas City has a two-game lead over Detroit in the AL Central following the Royals' 21st victory in 26 games. Erik Kratz socked a pair of solo homers and Salvador Perez lined a two-run single as the Royals held off Minnesota 6-4. Jason Vargas gave up just one run and four hits in seven innings for his 10th win.

Baltimore still has the largest division lead, moving 7 ½ games ahead of the Yankees in the AL East with an 8-2 rout of the White Sox in Chicago. It was a 3-2 game in the eighth inning until Jonathan Schoop hit a three-run double and scored on a two-run homer by Nick Markakis. Nelson Cruz tied Miami's Giancarlo Stanton for the major league home run lead by hitting his 32nd in the sixth inning.

Adam LaRoche belted a walkoff homer with two out in the 11th inning to give Washington a 5-4 win against Arizona. Wilson Ramos hit a two-run blast for the Nationals, who blew a 3-2 lead in the ninth before staying six-games ahead of second-place Atlanta in the NL East.

The Braves kept pace with the Nats as Jason Heyward and Andrelton Simmons hit solo homers to ignite a six-run first in Atlanta's 7-3 victory at Pittsburgh. Ervin Santana allowed three runs and nine hits in 5 1/3 innings as the Braves dropped the Pirates two games behind San Francisco for the final NL wild-card berth.

St. Louis has climbed to within 2 ½ games of the NL Central-leading Milwaukee Brewers by downing Cincinnati 6-5 on Jhonny Peralta's walkoff single in the bottom of the 10th. Peralta had three hits and drove in two runs to help the Cardinals overcome Jay Bruce's three-run homer and four RBIs.

Seattle fell into a tie with Detroit for the final AL wild-card berth. The Mariners were beaten 4-1 in Philadelphia as Jerome Williams held them to a run and three hits in seven-plus innings. Andres Blanco smacked a three-run homer to put the Phillies ahead 4-0 in the fifth.

Also on Monday, Anthony Rizzo hit a tiebreaking, solo homer in the eighth inning before Javier Baez added a two-run blast in the ninth as the Chicago Cubs downed the Mets 4-1 to earn a four-game split. Kyle Kendricks gave up just three hits in seven innings against the punchless Mets, who have collected four hits or fewer in five straight games.

The Cincinnati Reds gave themselves a boost on Monday by activating Brandon Phillips from the 15-day disabled list.

Phillips was placed on the DL on July 11 after he had surgery to repair a torn ligament in his left thumb. He was batting sixth for tonight's opener of a three-game set against the Cardinals in St. Louis.

Phillips hit .272 with a .701 OPS, seven homers and 40 RBIs prior to the injury. His return comes at a crucial time for Cincinnati, which was swept in a doubleheader at Colorado yesterday and is barely hanging on in the playoff race.

The Reds also activated reliever Logan Ondrusek from the DL and optioned right-hander Dylan Axelrod and catcher Tucker Barnhart to Triple-A Louisville.

Also in the majors:

- Los Angeles Angels outfielder Josh Hamilton sat out a second straight game Monday in Boston after asking to take Sunday's game off. Angels manager Mike Scioscia said that Hamilton needs another day to relax, and he would be coming to the park early Tuesday to work on things. Hamilton is hitting .266 with eight homers and 35 RBIs.

- The Red Sox have optioned center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. to Triple-A Pawtucket and recalled outfielder/infielder Mookie Betts. The 24-year-old Bradley was hitting just .216 with one homer and 30 RBIs in 112 games. Betts hit .244 with a homer and two RBIs over 13 games in his previous two stints with the Red Sox.

- The Washington Nationals agreed to a minor league deal with Nate Schierholtz and assigned the veteran outfielder to Triple-A Syracuse. The lefty-hitting Schierholtz hit .192 with six homers in 99 games with the Chicago Cubs before he was designated for assignment Aug. 6. Schierholtz is a .254 career hitter with 51 home runs and 224 RBIs in 776 games.