The Yankees weren’t the only American League contender to be off yesterday. The Blue Jays, Mariners, Rays, and Twins were all idle as well, thus leaving today’s Rivalry Roundup pretty light.
We still have to check in on those meddlesome Astros though, and with just eight weeks to go now until the likely beginning of the postseason, we’ll launch a new rapid-fire rundown on a few other AL teams still in the playoff mix. This will be located toward the end of each day’s Rivalry Roundup since the other clubs still command our primary focus. (The Twins will be demoted to this section beginning tomorrow because the top of the AL Central is such a jumble of mediocrity.)
Houston Astros 7 (72-41), Texas Rangers 3 (49-61)
Given how the Yankees have been playing for the past six-to-eight weeks, it was probably only a matter of time before the Astros surpassed them for the AL’s best record. Yesterday afternoon, it happened, and for the first time since April 27th, the top seed no longer resides in the Bronx. There’s a ways to go, but since the Astros have the third-weakest strength of schedule in baseball down the stretch — including 16 against the lousy Angels, A’s, and Tigers — it’s looking awfully likely that the road to the AL pennant will go through Houston. The Astros are a tremendous team, but the Yankees only have themselves to blame if their season ends at Minute Maid Park. They were probably going to have to learn how to beat the Astros there eventually, though.
Anyway, I’m getting distracted. But it doesn’t really matter because this game was a snooze anyway. Someone named Cole Ragans got clobbered by the Astros for five runs on six hits and three walks in 4.1 innings. Alex Bregman homered, Martín Maldonado clubbed a three-run shot, and Framber Valdez spun seven shutout innings. The Rangers only scored in garbage time, when Houston was ahead, 7-0. That sounds about right.
- Boston Red Sox 4 (55-58), Baltimore Orioles 3 (58-53): This was a one-game makeup from an opening week series that got postponed due to the owners’ lockout. The O’s actually entered yesterday tied with the Rays for the third Wild Card spot and they also tied the Red Sox at 3-3 in the sixth at Fenway. But Eric Hosmer delivered his first extra-base hit in Boston to score J.D. Martinez, and the Red Sox bullpen threw three shutout innings for the win.
- Cleveland Guardians 4 (59-52), Detroit Tigers 3 (43-70): Zach Plesac turned in 6.1-inning, four-hit, one-run outing atypical of his slumping season and easily handled a ballclub that dismissed its GM of seven years on Wednesday. Enyel De Los Santos blew the save in the ninth, but Oscar Gonzalez hit a go-ahead single in the 10th to help Cleveland add a full game to its AL Central lead over Minnesota.
- Kansas City Royals 5 (47-66), Chicago White Sox 3 (56-56): Cy Young contender Dylan Cease and former Cy Young winner Zack Greinke locked horns for a pitchers’ duel, and at the time the starters departed in the seventh, Vinnie Pasquantino’s solo homer was the only run scored by either team. Joe Kelly and José Ruiz let the game get away from Chicago, pushing the now-.500 White Sox to 3.5 games back of the Guardians.*
*The White Sox might very well not last long in this feature.