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Yankees Rivalry Roundup: Chris Sale returns, Blue Jays stop the bleeding

After the Yankees suffered a crushing loss, they saw a couple of their rivals gain a bit of ground.

MLB: Philadelphia Phillies at Toronto Blue Jays John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

After a Monday that featured few AL rivals to scoreboard watch on, the action was back on last night, with a full slate of games across the junior circuit. The Yankees had lost an absolute stunner last night, giving those in pursuit a chance to gain a bit of ground. Let’s run down what happened.

Boston Red Sox 2 (47-41) vs. Tampa Bay Rays 3 (47-40)

There were two headlines out of this matchup of AL East foes. First, the Rays rallied to take the second game of this series. Also important was the return of Chris Sale, who looked sharp in his first start back from a rib fracture.

Sale had the Red Sox in position, shutting out the Rays for five innings, allowing three hits and a walk while striking out five. He departed with a 2-0 lead, with Franchy Cordero and Bobby Dalbec driving in runs in the fifth.

Those two runs were the only damage Boston could muster against Tampa starter Corey Kluber, who managed six solid innings, striking out seven and walking one. Kluber walked away with the win thanks to a sixth-inning burst, with Francisco Mejia coming up with an RBI single and Taylor Walls singling home two more for a 3-2 advantage.

Jalen Beeks and Brooks Raley covered the final three innings to secure the victory for the Rays. They moved back into second place in the AL East, 14 games back of the Yankees.

Philadelphia Phillies 3 (46-42) vs. Toronto Blue Jays 4 (46-42)

This was another close battle, with Toronto looking to claw out a much-needed win and stop the bleeding, having lost nine of their last ten. Starter José Berríos gave the Jays what they needed, allowing three runs over six, but striking out 13 and walking none in what was one of his best outings of the year.

That said, it could have been a worse start if not for a heroic effort from George Springer in center field that preserved what was a 3-2 lead:

The Phillies tied the score at three in the fifth, but Lourdes Gurriel Jr. doubled a run home in the sixth to make it 4-3. Toronto got quality relief work out of Tim Mayza, Yimi Garcia, and Jordan Romano, with the trio breezing through the last three innings. The Blue Jays snapped their four-game losing streak, but they’ll need to do more to stay afloat in the AL.

Minnesota Twins 3 (48-41) vs. Milwaukee Brewers 6 (49-39)

This quick two-game series between the top two teams across the Central divisions got started with a relatively straightforward Brewers victory. Milwaukee worked around a rain delay and relied on their bullpen en route to a 6-3 win.

Andrew McCutchen picked up two hits, including a two-run homer off Josh Winder to open the scoring in the first. Minnesota was able to level the score at two, but the Brewers tacked on three more in the fifth, with the primary damage via a two-run jack off the bat of Willy Adames:

That was more than enough for the Milwaukee relief unit. Only Brad Boxberger faltered among the five relievers to follow starter Jason Alexander, with the power duo of Devin Williams and Josh Hader at the back looking particularly daunting. Williams mowed down the Twins on nine pitches in the eighth, and Hader struck out all three batters he faced for his league-leading 27th save.

Houston Astros 6 (57-29) vs. Los Angeles Angels 5 (38-50)

Even as the Yankees go through a rough patch, their lead in the division is so vast, it’s hard to feel too worried as of now about the chase pack. In the overall AL standings, however, the Astros are growing large in the rearview mirror. The Yankees had to hope that the Angels could deter Houston in this three-game set in Anaheim.

Houston sent 25-year-old righty Luis Garcia to the mound, and he delivered one of the strongest starts of his young career. Garcia limited the Angels to just one hit and one run across six innings, striking out seven against three walks. His counterpart, Noah Syndergaard, turned in another uneven outing in what’s been an uneven season for the fireballer. He never quite settled in, departing after just four frames and three runs allowed.

The Astros built an early lead, thanks to a two-run shot from Aledmys Diaz in the first. Jose Altuve’s two-run single the sixth gave them a 5-1 advantage, and it looked like they’d cruise to an easy win to open this series.

But the Angels got back into it thanks to a strange rally against reliever Phil Maton. The Angels loaded the bases thanks to a walk and two errors, before Maton hit Brandon Marsh to force in a run. David MacKinnon singled home two more, and a wild pitch from Rafael Montero tied things up at five, despite the Angels recording just one hit in the frame.

Despite that ugly turn of events, the Astros were able to stabilize and regain the lead. They did so off of closer Raisel Iglesias, with Kyle Tucker landing the finishing blow in the form of an RBI double to drive home Altuve:

The win pushed the Astros to just 3.5 games back of New York in the race for the league’s best record.