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Yankees Rivalry Roundup: Mariners, Rays clinch playoff spots

Recapping how the Yankees’ top AL opponents fared on September 30th.

Chicago White Sox v Seattle Mariners Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images

There was nothing to report from last night in the Bronx on the Yankees except for muttering about Aaron Judge and some relief pitcher injuries here and there. No. 62 will have to wait for today at the earliest, and the Orioles remained alive by beating the Yankees, 2-1. It was ultimately just a stay of execution, as they were eliminated later in the night.

Here’s what happened elsewhere in the American League.

Seattle Mariners 2 (86-70), Oakland Athletics 1 (56-101)

Normally, I try to go in chronological order for the Rivalry Recap, but I’ll make an exception here because the Mariners just did something that they haven’t done since I was in sixth grade. They had the longest postseason drought in professional sports, as they hadn’t made it to the MLB playoffs since the 116-win 2001 team that the Yankees doomed in the ALCS.

The 21-year wait is over. Because nothing ever seems to come easy in Seattle sports, they made it dramatic against a miserable A’s team. Former Baby Bomber Ken Waldichuk allowed one run in five innings with eight strikeouts, and the Oakland bullpen held the Mariners at a single run until the bottom of the ninth. However, Seattle starter Logan Gilbert dazzled with eight brilliant frames of three-hit ball; he was only burned on a solo blast by Shea Langeliers.

Once reliever Matt Brash blew the A’s away in the ninth, the stage was set for a hero to deliver Seattle to the promised land. That hero’s name was Cal Raleigh, the starting catcher who had previously been sitting for a night off. The lefty came off the bench and delivered a majestic swing that baseball fans across the Pacific Northwest will not soon forget:

Fun roll call to join, eh?

Toronto Blue Jays 9 (88-69), Boston Red Sox 0 (75-82)

Since the Jays clinched their playoff berth during the offday on Thursday with Baltimore’s 5-3 loss to Boston, they already declared that they would celebrate after their own game on Friday against the Red Sox. Can you blame them? The last time they got to do that at Rogers Centre was 2016, and despite the goofy banner for 2020, I don’t think anyone in Toronto is super-attached to a brief No. 8 seed appearance in the COVID-impacted playoffs by a team that played its home games in Buffalo.

Anecdotes aside, John Schneider’s ballclub ensured that it wouldn’t be popping bottles after a lame loss to a terrible team. They treated the last-place Red Sox with all the dignity that the crappy Boston ballclub deserves, clobbering them by a 9-0 margin. Alek Manoah held the Red Sox hitless until the fifth en route to six innings of two-hit shutout ball. On the Toronto side, homers from Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Raimel Tapia, and George Springer broke the game open, and that just left it up to Yusei Kikuchi to close it out.

Tampa Bay Rays 7 (86-71), Houston Astros 3 (102-55)

The Jays and M’s weren’t the only teams celebrating, as the Rays punched their ticket to the playoffs with an impressive win over a much better opponent. The Yankees didn’t give them any help, so Tampa Bay pushed its magic number to zero on its own with a 7-4 win over Houston. They’ll join Toronto and Seattle as the three Wild Card teams, and they’ve now made the playoffs for four consecutive years. The final five games of the regular season will determine specific seeding and matchups. Toronto currently leads Seattle by 1.5 games, and the M’s have a half-game advantage on the Rays.

An Alex Bregman homer and an RBI single from Yuli Gurriel gave Houston a 2-1 lead over Drew Rasmussen, but the right-hander took over from there. He spun seven innings of two-run ball, and the Rays offense lit into All-Star Astros starter Framber Valdez for five runs between the fifth and the sixth. Randy Arozarena tied it up with an RBI triple to dead center, and Wander Franco drove him in to put the Rays in front for good.

Jose Siri and Yandy Díaz added insurance runs with a pair of doubles to increase the lead to 6-2, and Taylor Walls’ solo shot was the cherry on top. Colin Poche took the mound for the final out as the Rays clinched.

Cleveland Guardians 6 (89-68), Kansas City Royals 3 (63-94)

Playing out the string pre-Wild Card Series, the Guardians showed some resilience anyway, as they fell behind Brady Singer and the Royals, trailing 3-0 at the beginning of the bottom of the fifth. Aaron Civale and the Cleveland bullpen kept KC to those three runs though, and after getting one run in the fifth on an RBI single from Will Brennan, the best hitter in the Guardians’ lineup demonstrated his worth:

Yeah, José Ramírez will do that. The three-run bomb was the difference-maker in the ballgame as the Guardians polished off their outstanding September with a 21-8 record. They were tied atop the AL Central as recently as September 4th, and they’re probably going to end up winning the division by double-digits. Decisive!