Kansas City, Missouri: Houston’s Scott Kazmir pitched seven strong innings in his first outing for the Astros, leading the visitors to a 4-0 win at Kansas City in Friday’s clash of American League divisional leaders.

The Astros moved into a virtual tie for the lead of the AL West division, while the Royals’ lead in the Central was trimmed to 5-1/2 games. The other AL division leaders, the New York Yankees, suffered a heavy defeat at the hands of Minnesota and ex-Yankees pitcher Phil Hughes.

St Louis maintained their six-game break atop the National League Central by beating Atlanta, while Pittsburgh remained in touch with a victory over Washington. Despite that defeat, the Nationals stayed three games clear atop the NL East as the New York Mets were beaten at home by the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Houston’s Kazmir (6-5), acquired by the Astros in a trade with Oakland on Thursday, only allowed one runner past first base, retired the last nine batters he faced and lowered his season earned run average to 2.24. He hasn’t lost a July start since 2010, going 7-0 in 14 July starts since.

Preston Tucker had three of the Astros’ hits, including his fourth home run in five games when he hit a bases-loaded homer in the second.

Minnesota’s Hughes pitched seven scoreless innings against his former team as the Twins cruised past the Yankees 10-1.

Hughes (9-6) wiggled out of a bases-loaded jam in the seventh but the Twins were otherwise comfortable in handing New York its first loss in five games.

Miguel Sano, Trevor Plouffe, Torii Hunter and Brian Dozier all hit homers for Minnesota.

St Louis’ Randal Grichuk hit a two-run homer in the second inning for the second game running to help the Cardinals beat Atlanta 4-2.

Rookie Tim Cooney (1-0) earned his first major league win, giving up two earned runs and no walks while striking out five over seven efficient innings.

St Louis improved to 6-1 since the All-Star break and pushed its home record to an MLB-best 35-12. Meanwhile, the Braves have lost their last six road games.

Pittsburgh’s Gregory Polanco homered and drove in three runs as the Pirates beat Washington 7-5, exacting some measure of revenge against Max Scherzer and the Nationals.

Just over a month after Scherzer pitched a no-hitter against the Pirates, Pittsburgh touched Washington’s ace for five runs in five innings. Neil Walker and Pedro Alvarez also homered off Scherzer” the most home runs he has given up in a game in nearly four years.

Los Angeles’ Justin Turner homered and drove in three runs against his former club to lead the Dodgers past the Mets 7-2.