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Victory puts Tigers above slumping White Sox

DETROIT -- The Detroit Tigers took over the lead of the American League Central Division with a 5-4 win over the Kansas City Royals on Wednesday, moving above the slumping Chicago White Sox for the first time since July.

Detroit leads Chicago by only one game with seven to play, but the White Sox have lost seven of eight and will need a huge form turnaround if they're to make the playoffs.

The Tigers were forced to work hard against the Royals, with the winning run coming in the eighth as Jhonny Peralta brought home the go-ahead run when Andy Dirks' hard slide broke up a potential innings-ending double play.

Detroit's Miguel Cabrera, who is chasing a rare triple crown for a league's top batter by average, home runs and RBIs, looked like moving equal top on homers only to be robbed by an outfielder's leaping catch above the left-field wall.

Chicago's pitchers will shoulder much of the blame for the 6-4 defeat by the lowly Cleveland Indians, having walked 12 batters.

The Central division is the tightest of the playoff races, but no team in the American League has yet clinched a postseason spot as the regular season moves toward its final week.

In the West, the Oakland Athletics beat the Texas Rangers 9-3 to close the gap between first and second to an achievable three games, while the Los Angeles Angels remain on their tails and in the wild-card hunt after a 4-3 win over the Seattle Mariners.

Texas pulled its starting pitcher Martin Perez before the end of the first inning as Oakland got away to a flying start, leading 5-0 just eight batters into the game. The As made it two wins from two games in this key series, with the final game to come on Thursday.

Oakland currently holds the consolation prize of a wild-card spot but the Angels are looming only two games behind. Torii Hunter hit RBI singles in the seventh and ninth innings to first tie the game then put Los Angeles ahead against Seattle.

In the East division, the New York Yankees maintained a 1 1-2 game lead over the Baltimore Orioles as both won.

Yankees starter C.C. Sabathia struck out 10 batters over eight innings to steer New York to an 8-2 win over the Minnesota Twins, while the Orioles tied a team record by hitting seven home runs in the 12-2 win over the Toronto Blue Jays; Chris Davis and Manny Machado both had two long shots.

The Tampa Bay Rays remain on the fringe of wild-card calculations, three games behind Oakland, after a 4-2 win over the Boston Red Sox.

In the National League, the playoff picture is all but set, with four of the five spots already secured. The race for the second wild-card spot is St. Louis' to lose, even though the Cardinals were beaten 2-0 by the hapless Houston Astros. St. Louis had won their previous 10 against Houston.

The Washington Nationals beat the Philadelphia Phillies 8-4 to remain four games clear atop the East, ahead of the Atlanta Braves, who were 3-0 winners over the Miami Marlins.

The Los Angeles Dodgers and Milwaukee Brewers are the nearest challengers, having cut the deficit to 3 1-2 games with victories on Wednesday.

The Dodgers downed the San Diego Padres 8-2, with Matt Kemp having four hits and four RBIs, while the Brewers were 8-1 winners over Central Division champs, the Cincinnati Reds. Ryan Braun hit his NL-leading 41st homer for Milwaukee.

The San Francisco Giants, having already secured the West division title, shut out the Arizona Diamondbacks 6-0, the New York Mets won by the same score against the Pittsburgh Pirates, as did the Colorado Rockies against the Chicago Cubs.

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Philadelphia Phillies second baseman Chase Utley, left, reaches for the throw as Washington Nationals' Bryce Harper steals second in the second inning of a baseball game in Philadelphia, Wednesday, Sept. 26. (AP)

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