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Yankees Rivalry Roundup: Drew Rasmussen strives for perfection

A packed Sunday of AL action was highlighted by a run at perfection.

MLB: Baltimore Orioles at Tampa Bay Rays Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees have given their rivals an opening recently, dropping games left and right and slipping in the race for the AL’s best record. Thankfully, no one in the AL East has had it in them to make the division much of a competition, but the Yankees lost yet again yesterday, offering another opportunity to make up ground.

Of course, the biggest story around the American League wasn’t exactly the playoff race, but a brush with perfection.

Tampa Bay Rays 4 (60-53), Baltimore Orioles 1 (59-55)

On August 15, 2012, Félix Hernández pitched the last perfect game in MLB, retiring all 27 of the Tampa Bay Rays he faced that day. Almost exactly 10 years later, the Rays nearly captured perfection themselves. Drew Rasmussen came agonizingly close to immortality, taking a perfect game into the ninth inning before Jorge Mateo broke things up with a leadoff double.

Mateo’s hard grounder down the left field line was essentially the only hard contact Rasmunssen yielded all day. Per Statcast, Rasmussen allowed just two batted balls that had a better than even chance of going for hit. While Rasmussen didn’t pile up the whiffs, ending with seven strikeouts over 8.1 innings, the Orioles simply could not square him up. The result was easy dominance, with Rasmussen needing only 79 pitches to get through his eight perfect innings.

Rasmussen didn’t require much run support, and the Rays gave him enough. Taylor Walls doubled home a run off Jordan Lyles in the third, and Randy Arozarena followed with a two-run homer to provide the needed insurance.

While Rasmussen didn’t etch his name into the history books, his scintillating performance came in the middle of a pennant race. The Rays consolidated their hold on the final AL Wild Card, and knocked the Orioles back a bit.

Cleveland Guardians 7 (61-53), Toronto Blue Jays 2 (61-52)

Cleveland and Toronto sent out aces, with Shane Bieber vs. Kevin Gausman offering promise of a pitchers’ duel. Gausman couldn’t hold up his end of the bargain, however, with the Guardians hitting him around and securing a series win.

Bieber was his steady self, holding Toronto to two runs across seven innings, striking out eight and walking none. While the dominant version of Bieber that surfaced across 2019 and 2020 seems to have gone, Bieber has molded himself into a still-great pitcher with lessened velocity.

Gausman was knocked for nine hits across 4.1 frames. Amed Rosario led the way with a homer and two singles, driving in two and scoring three times. Former Yankee prospect Trevor Stephan combined with Emmanuel Clase to record the final six outs and make sure Bieber and the offense’s performances stood up.

Houston Astros 6 (75-41), Oakland Athletics 3 (41-73)

When we look back on the 2022 season, we may reflect on the impact of strength of schedule on the race between Houston and New York for the best record in the AL. The Astros continued to feast on the AL West’s assortment of cupcakes, sweeping away the A’s and strengthening their grip on the top seed.

The Astros hit Cole Irvin hard early. Alex Bregman smoked a two-run dinger in the first, and Jose Altuve drove in two more in the second for a quick 4-0 lead. Irvin recovered to survive through six innings, but the damage was done. The A’s attempted to make things interesting, pushing across a pair of runs in the ninth to cut the lead to 6-3, but the Astros brought closer Ryan Pressly in to record the final two outs and put away his 23rd save.

Texas Rangers 5 (51-63), Seattle Mariners 3 (62-54)

Contrary to what Yankee fans may believe after last week, the Rangers have shown that it’s possible to cut down the Mariners. Texas frustrated Seattle for the second straight night to take the series and to set Seattle back in their playoff push.

He had to dance a little bit, walking five over six innings, but Martin Perez ultimately turned in another useful start to continue his resurgent season, allowing three runs (one earned). Opposite him, Logan Gilbert also had to work a bit, scattering five hits and four walks across six innings of three-run ball.

The game entered the seventh tied at three, when the Rangers uncorked a two-out rally. Corey Seager doubled, and Adolis Garcia singled him home for the lead:

Nathaniel Lowe added an RBI double to take the score to what ultimately be the final at 5-3. Jose Leclerc handled the ninth for his first save of 2022. Despite the win, this would be Chris Woodward’s last game at the helm for the Rangers. He was dismissed on Monday morning.

Other Contenders

  • Chicago White Sox 5 (59-56), Detroit Tigers 3 (43-73): These two AL Central disappointments finished up their series, as the White Sox continued to try and hang on in the the playoff race. Lance Lynn gave them what they needed, pitching six strong and yielding two. Eloy Jimenez and AJ Pollock homered to pace Chicago.
  • Los Angeles Angels 4 (51-64), Minnesota Twins 2 (58-55): The Twins missed an opportunity, dropping the series to the lowly Angels as they try to keep up in the AL central race. Trade import Tucker Davidson paced the Angels with six solid innings, and Luis Rengifo and Shohei Ohtani each drove in runs to back up Davidson.