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Yankees Rivalry Roundup: Non-Astro AL West competitors fall short

At least the Yankees took care of business in Toronto because all four other primary AL rivals won on Tuesday.

Tampa Bay Rays v Oakland Athletics Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

The Yankees certainly did their job last in a key AL East matchup against the Blue Jays. They didn’t look sharp early against Alek Manoah, but an Aaron Judge homer tied the score in the sixth and an inning later, the offense came together to trash the Toronto bullpen. When the dust settled, the final score was a decisive 9-1 victory — the Yankees’ 11th in a row. For the first time in 2022, the Blue Jays have lost a series.

That wasn’t the only American League action relevant to the Yankees, though. How did the league’s other top contenders fare?

Boston Red Sox (10-14) vs. Los Angeles Angels (15-10)

The Red Sox weren’t exactly sending Prime Pedro Martinez to the mound on Tuesday against Mike Trout, Shohei Ohtani, and the Angels, but the result may well have been the same. Trout and Ohtani combined for two of their team’s only three hits against Michael Wacha and company, who hung a zero on the Angels’ side of the scoreboard. Their only real highlight was a nice play by old friend Andrew Velazquez at shortstop.

Rafael Devers broke the scoreless tie in the fourth with a 437-foot bomb to dead center off Noah Syndergaard, and they tacked on some insurance runs (including a JD Martinez dinger in the eighth) to make it a 4-0 final. Nonetheless, the Yankees remain eight games ahead of Boston through almost a month of play.

Minnesota Twins (15-9) vs. Baltimore Orioles (8-16)

The Twins just keep rolling along, and the Orioles played their part in falling to a team on a roll. Despite the end result, it was closer than it seemed for awhile, as O’s southpaw Bruce Zimmermann continued his surprising start by matching superb Twins rookie Joe Ryan. Through five innings, the score was tied at 2-2, thanks in part to the first MLB hit and RBI by Twins rookie Jose Miranda (cousin of Lin-Manuel).

By the sixth, Minnesota had reached the Baltimore bullpen, and, well, that was that. Catcher/”Warriors of Virtue” star Ryan Jeffers belted a go-ahead three-run homer off Joey Krehbiel.

On the mound, Caleb Thielbar, Tyler Duffey, and Cody Stashak blanked the O’s over the game’s final 4.1 innings, sealing the 7-2 win. It’s a selective sample size, yes, but over the last 12 games, the Twins have actually matched the Yankees at 11-1 — a big statement for a club that was considered a fringe preseason AL Central contender.

Seattle Mariners (12-12) vs. Houston Astros (13-11)

In a very similar game to the Red Sox/Angels matchup from earlier, this one was also a scoreless tie until the fourth, when a big ol’ slugger stepped up with a solo shot for the home team. Instead of Devers, this time it Houston’s Yordan Alvarez, who went liftoff against Chris Flexen with a 435-foot bomb of his own (his eighth of 2022). Cristian Javier made the lead hold up over 5.1 innings of shutout ball, and like JD Martinez, Jose Altuve gave his team a fourth insurance run late with a solo homer.

The final score was 4-0, Houston, but the story of the night was Dusty Baker. The beloved Astros skipper became just the 12th manager in MLB history to record 2,000 wins, compiled over a long career with the Giants, Cubs, Reds, Nationals, and Astros.

Tampa Bay Rays (13-10) vs. Oakland Athletics (10-13)

I was a sucker. I really hoped that the A’s might be able to pull this one off. They got to Rays starter Ryan Yarbrough early to take a 5-1 lead on Kevin Smith’s second-inning grand slam. Sure, Brett Phillips countered almost immediately with a two-run blast to cut the lead in half, but from that point on, the combination of Paul Blackburn, Zach Jackson, A.J. Puk, and Dany Jiménez help Tampa Bay scoreless into the ninth. Then, two outs away from victory, Kirby Snead ruined it on an awful pitch to a pinch-hitting Mike Zunino.

Just like that, the game was tied. The A’s didn’t score in the home half of the ninth, and unsurprisingly, the Rays ended things quickly from there. They plated five in the top of the 10th, and while Oakland got two runs back, the final score was 10-7, Rays.

Editor’s note: As a reminder, we are going by FanGraphs playoff odds to determine our AL Central and AL West picks, so while the Angels continue to lead the AL West, we will be focusing on the Astros for the time being. This disclaimer will remain in all Rivalry Roundup posts as the series gets underway.