Yesterday was a crummy day for baseball in the Bronx, and the Yankees obliged with, well, pretty crummy baseball. At least it was meaningless! Hopefully, Aaron Judge gets his swing back in Texas beginning tonight.
All the American League teams played during the day as well, so it’s time for one last regular season check-in on Sunday afternoon baseball.
Toronto Blue Jays 6 (90-69), Boston Red Sox 3 (75-83)
Rogers Centre is going to host its first playoff game in six years — at least if the Blue Jays have anything to say about it. Toronto finished its regular season home schedule with an emphatic three-game sweep of the last-place Red Sox, moving to 16-3 on the year against a team that nearly went to the World Series last year. No one can fairly argue that the Jays were unsuccessful in stomping all over the doormat of the AL East in 2022.
The Red Sox had a brief 2-0 lead in this one on a two-run single by Bobby Dalbec in the second, but that was all they mustered until the seventh. They were even the lucky benefactors of an early exit from the normally dominant Kevin Gausman, who departed after three with a cut on his middle finger. That was the only bad news on the day for Toronto, as they’ll have to keep an eye on that in advance of his start in the Wild Card Series.
On Sunday though, the Jays offense began to smoke Michael Wacha in the home half of the second. They homered in each of the next three innings, as Teoscar Hernández got him twice and Whit Merrifield sent one out in the third. Whit added an RBI single in for the fourth, and Toronto had a 5-2 lead.
The Blue Jays held on, maintaining their spot atop of the Wild Card standings and reducing their magic number for home-field advantage for the Wild Card Series in Toronto down to two with Seattle’s loss (this would lock them into the No. 4 seed). It also guarantees that they won’t be the last seed, so the only round where they could play the Yankees in the playoffs would be the ALCS — if they can take out both their Wild Card Series opponent and the now-104-win Astros.
Houston Astros 3 (104-55), Tampa Bay Rays 1 (86-73)
Speaking of the Astros, they’re doing their part to both end the season on a high note and ensure that the Rays end up facing the Guardians as the lowest-seeded Wild Card team (and a potential Yankees ALDS opponent; joy). Houston captured a quick 2-0 lead in the first when Jeremy Peña took Corey Kluber deep to the opposite field, and with Luis Garcia dealing on the mound, that was all the Astros really needed.
An RBI single by Christian Bethancourt in the second was the only damage that Tampa Bay could muster on Garcia. The right-hander threw six innings of three-hit, one-run ball for his 15th victory. Ryne Stanek, Bryan Abreu, and Rafael Montero finished the Rays off to secure the second-winningest season in Astros history at 104 W’s.
Cleveland Guardians 7 (90-69), Kansas City Royals 5 (64-95)
Were the Guardians playing a meaningless game for them? Yep.
Did they have every reason to take it easy after zooming ahead, 7-0, in the second? Absolutely.
But hey, I will give a tiny bit of credit to the 95-loss Royals for not just rolling over and playing out the string. They fought to make the final score look closer than it really was. KC’s Max Castillo was terrible, and the combination of a Will Brennan three-run homer (his first career shot) and a Josh Naylor two-run bomb helped establish that 7-0 advantage.
Still, the Royals whittled away at the lead, even against the likes of Shane Bieber and James Karinchak. RBI hits from the quartet of Drew Waters, Ryan O’Hearn, MJ Melendez, and Vinnie Pasquantino cut the lead down to two, and that forced Cleveland to use closer Emmanuel Clase. Oh, the ballgame was effectively over at that point, but not bad, Royals.
Oakland Athletics 10 (57-102), Seattle Mariners 3 (87-71)
The M’s clinched their long-awaited playoff berth on Friday in walk-off fashion over Oakland and even beat the A’s on Saturday with their hangover lineup. The latter scenario had to sting more for Oakland, even in an awful season.
So the A’s took out their frustrations on defending AL Cy Young Award winner Robbie Ray, who will, uh, not be winning said honors in 2022. They bulldozed him for six runs on three walks and eight hits — three of which left the yard. Shea Langeliers began the scoring with solo shot in the fourth, and when he homered again in the ninth, he increased the Oakland lead to 10-0.
A more-than-honorable mention goes out to former Baby Bomber James Kaprielian, who carried a no-hitter until two outs in the sixth. Ty France broke it up with a single, but that was Seattle’s only hit off Kaprielian in six shutout frames. Jesse Winker’s three-run homer in garbage time in the ninth was all that kept Seattle from a shutout. A Wild Card Series date with the Blue Jays in Toronto is looking ever-more likely (though if the Rays rally from down a game and a half to even tie them in record, they do own the tiebreaker).