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Yankees Rivalry Roundup: Extra-innings heroics for Rays, Blue Jays

Recapping how the Yankees’ top AL opponents fared on August 24th.

Los Angeles Angels v Tampa Bay Rays
The Angels self-immolated again. Stunner.
Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

The Yankees and Mets were the only MLB teams off yesterday after finishing their two-game Subway Series on Monday and Tuesday. Wednesday was otherwise a jam-packed slate with all the Yankees’ potential American League playoff opponents in action. There’s no time to waste in a busy roundup, so let’s get to it.

Washington Nationals 3 (42-83), Seattle Mariners 1 (67-57)

Well, that wasn’t an ideal outcome for the M’s. The Nats are the unquestioned cellar of Major League Baseball at the moment, entering Wednesday 42 games under .500 and rolling along in near-anonymity with their only All-Star, Juan Soto, out in San Diego now. They were also on the road against a team that has serious playoff hopes. Easy peasy for Seattle, right?

Wrong. Aníbal Sánchez turned back the clock with 4.1 scoreless innings and the Nats’ bullpen of Hunter Harvey, Víctor Arano, Carl Edwards Jr., and Kyle Finnegan combined to allow just one run over the remaining 4.2 frames. Seattle mustered only five hits, with Julio Rodríguez providing the only offense on a solo homer. The Mariners’ pitching staff almost made up for it since George Kirby fired seven innings of one-run ball (setting a record with 24 consecutive strikes to start the game), but with score tied at 1-1 in the ninth, the normally reliable Paul Sewald got burned.

Yes, that is 31-year-old journeyman Ildemaro Vargas launching just the 11th homer of his six-year career to put Washington in front, 3-1. Seattle had a chance to take the game back in the bottom of the ninth since Eugenio Suárez led off with a double, but they stranded him, securing this misstep in their Wild Card chase. They presently hold the last Wild Card spot, but Tampa Bay and Toronto are each at least a full game ahead of them.

Tampa Bay Rays 4 (68-55), Los Angeles Angels 3 (52-72)

The Angels, man. As previously noted, the Nationals have the worst record in baseball, but you’d be hard-pressed to find an organization in as much dysfunction as the Halos. They fought in this one, but still lost in a brutal manner anyway.

This game was scoreless until the eighth, as Shane McClanahan was unsurprisingly excellent through six, while Mike Mayers and the Angels’ bullpen did a surprisingly good job holding down the Rays. A solo homer from Mike Trout broke the tie in the eighth, but of course LA didn’t hold that lead. Jose Siri darted from third on a Harold Ramírez grounder in the home half to make it 1-1.

Extra innings soon commenced, and both teams plated their zombie runners in the 10th with the Angels even getting a lucky break on a Taylor Walls error to score a run. Taylor Ward then put LA up with an RBI double in the 11th, but for the second-straight inning, Jaime Barría could not hold the lead. Ramírez tied it once more with an RBI double of his own, and the game ended, well ... I’ll just show you how the game ended:

This is the stuff of nightmares. To be clear, this was not an easy play due to that hop, but Jared Walsh’s throw home was abysmal. It’s just another day in paradise for Trout and Shohei Ohtani. Meanwhile, the Rays bolstered their Wild Card lead and cut half a game off the idle’ Yankees lead; they sit in second place, 7.5 games back in the AL East.

Toronto Blue Jays 3 (67-55), Boston Red Sox 2 (60-64)

The Blue Jays held serve with the Rays as well, winning an extra-innings contest of their own. Boston’s 2-0 lead on a Franchy Cordero homer in the second was unlikely to be enough against an offense like Toronto’s. José Berríos buckled down and didn’t allow another run through his six innings of work, and in the meantime, run-scoring hits from Alejandro Kirk and George Springer evened up this game in the fifth.

The bullpens took over from there, and neither side produced many threats at all, though a bases-loaded chance in the seventh for Boston went by the wayside on a Rob Refsnyder lineout. Once extras began, Springer promptly put Toronto in front with an RBI double high off the Green Monster to plate Jackie Bradley Jr.

The Blue Jays stranded Springer from there, but closer Jordan Romano didn’t allow his runner to score in the bottom of the 10th. After J.D. Martinez grounded out to send the Red Sox down to their final out, Toronto wisely issued an intentional walk to Rafael Devers, and Kiké Hernández fanned to end it.

Houston Astros 5 (80-45), Minnesota Twins 3 (62-60)

The Astros became the first AL team to reach 80 wins as Framber Valdez thoroughly outclassed the Twins. In seven innings, the All-Star allowed just a single run on two hits, striking out eight on 108 pitches. Jose Altuve and Trey Mancini both went deep as part of Houston’s damage against Dylan Bundy and Michael Fulmer, respectively.

The Twins did make it interesting in the ninth despite entering it with a 5-1 deficit against a solid reliever in Rafael Montero. They led off the frame with a Gio Urshela single, a Luis Arraez double to score him with the help of an error, and a Nick Gordon walk. Jake Cave brought another in on a fielder’s choice, but as the tying run at the plate, Max Kepler lined into a rally-killing double play. Womp.

Houston stretched its lead as the No. 1 seed to 3.5 games over the Yankees.

Other Contenders

  • Cleveland Guardians 7 (66-56), San Diego Padres 0 (68-58): Cleveland has chosen a good time to play its best ball of the year. Cal Quantrill blanked San Diego with seven shutout innings, José Ramírez clubbed two homers off Blake Snell, and won again to move to an AL-best 14-7 in August. They’re four games up on both Minnesota and Chicago.
  • Chicago White Sox 5 (63-61), Baltimore Orioles 3 (64-59): Speaking of those White Sox, they at least avoided falling to .500 by dispatching the O’s on a sterling effort by Lucas Giolito. He’s had an up-and-down year to say the least, but this time, he threw 6.1 innings of one-run ball. Three combined runs in the seventh and eighth gave the White Sox some wiggle room and they held on. The O’s are 2.5 games behind Seattle in the Wild Card race.