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Yankees Rivalry Roundup: Rays creep within six ahead of weekend showdown

Recapping how the Yankees’ top AL opponents fared on August 31st.

Tampa Bay Rays v Miami Marlins Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images

August has at last fully come and gone. So even though October will have a few more regular season games than it normally does (due to the owners’ lockout delaying the season), the beginning of September always carries its own gravitas. It’s as good a time as any to reacquaint yourself with the current MLB standings — if you haven’t been doing so through our series already, of course.

The American League’s leading teams will be chronicled daily as we run through the remainder of 2022. We don’t need to relive the Yankeesmisery, so let’s get to it.

Houston Astros 5 (84-47), Texas Rangers 3 (58-71)

The resurgent Martín Pérez has been one of the Rangers’ few bright spots in 2022, and one of his highlights involved a shutout of the mighty Astros back in May. But he found no such luck on Wednesday, even with an early lead after Corey Seager’s first-inning homer off Cristian Javier. The Astros peppered him to death with eight singles and a double, and said two-bagger from the bat of Jose Altuve put Houston back in front, 3-2.

The Astros eventually went up, 5-2, and though Javier had to be pulled after five innings with a pitch count nearing 100, the Houston bullpen held firm. The quartet of Phil Maton, Ryne Stanek, Will Smith, and Rafael Montero allowed just two hits and nary a run or walk over the final four frames. Dusty Baker’s club retains a healthy five-game lead entering September ahead of the Yankees for AL home-field advantage.

Tampa Bay Rays 2 (72-57), Miami Marlins 1 (55-75)

In perhaps a not-too-surprising fun fact that I learned from the Marlins’ broadcast last night, Miami is an atrocious 2-18 against Tampa Bay since the start of 2019. They just usually don’t even have a prayer against their in-state rivals.

That trend continued last night, but I suppose if it makes old pal Don Mattingly feel any better, the Fish at least made it competitive. Trevor Rogers matched Drew Rasmussen with six innings of one-run ball, as Jon Berti went deep for one of Miami’s five hits on the night. It’s hard to win when you only get five hits though, and with the Marlins trying some 31-year-old named Tommy Nance on the mound in the 10th, the Rays won the battle of the bullpens.

Manuel Margot brought Tampa’s zombie runner in with a hit, and occasional opener Jalen Beeks closed one out for a change with a perfect 10th. The suddenly-surging Rays ended August with AL-best 18-9 record and remain on top of the Wild Card chase, half a game ahead of the second-place Mariners and two up on Toronto. Most importantly for the Yankees, the Rays are now within six games of them for the first time since June 3rd, and a weekend sweep at the Trop could shrink the once-enormous advantage to three. Bad!

Chicago Cubs 7 (56-75), Toronto Blue Jays 5 (70-59)

I think if you told a random Blue Jays fan that the Cubs’ Wednesday pitching roll call included each of Luke Farrell, Manuel Rodríguez, Mark Leiter Jr., Erich Uelman, Michael Rucker, Brandon Hughes, and Rowan Wick, they would’ve expected a win — particularly at home. Toronto even got homers from Cavan Biggio and Alejandro Kirk to help them plate five runs.

Mitch White didn’t hold up his end of the bargain for the Jays though, as for the second-straight start, he threw a clunker against a bad team. Toronto might have a potent offense, but it’s hard for anyone to win when you go down 5-0 by only the third.

Biggio and Kirk made a game of it, but that unlikely North Side pitching staff held on to avoid a sweep.

Seattle Mariners 5 (72-58), Detroit Tigers 3 (50-80)

The Tigers became the fourth MLB team this year to hit the ignominious 80-loss mark before the end of August, and they are unquestionably the most disappointing since none of the other three (A’s, Pirates, and Nationals) began 2022 with any vague notions of contending.

For a little while though, it looked like A.J. Hinch’s ballclub might upset the far-superior M’s. Jeimer Candelario broke a 2-2 in the sixth by singling Eric Haase in, which at least briefly brought a smile to the hometown fans’ faces in Detroit. But this is not a year for smiles in the Motor City, and just three batters into the seventh, the lead had vanished.

Give credit to Abraham Toro — he’s had a miserable season of his own that included a demotion to Triple-A after being the prize of the controversial Kendall Graveman trade last year. He got the job done anyway, helping Seattle avoid an unnecessary loss. The M’s tacked on a fifth run in the ninth via a bases-loaded walk in the ninth, and Paul Sewald saved his 17th game of the year.

With the season entering its home stretch, the Mariners are in prime position to snap their 21-year playoff drought. At the very least, they’ll need the Orioles and Twins to remain at bay in the Wild Card race throughout September (and the first few days of October), but the odds are good for the longest postseason drought in North American pro sports to end.

Other Contenders

  • Baltimore Orioles 4 (68-61), Cleveland Guardians 0 (68-60): Wednesday night in Cleveland was all about ascendant O’s prospect Gunnar Henderson making his MLB debut. And what a welcome party it was for the youngest Oriole to take the field since Manny Machado in 2012. Henderson lost his helmet on a swing in the fourth, but homered off Triston McKenzie for his first career hit as Jordan Lyles and company blanked the Guardians.
  • Boston Red Sox 6 (63-68), Minnesota Twins 5 (67-62): It’s been a bad year in Boston, who definitely did not expect to begin September 2022 playing mostly meaningless baseball after coming two wins shy of a World Series berth in 2021. But every now and then, they do have a game go mostly how they expected, as both Xander Bogaerts and J.D. Martinez homered as part of a five-run third in a 6-5 victory. Minnesota had the winning run at the plate in the ninth, but Carlos Correa bounced into a double play to end it.

MLB Standings at a Glance

We won’t do this for every day of September, but at the start of the month, why not? We’ll try to only hit the at-worst mildly relevant teams, though. The current playoff teams are in board.

AL East

  1. New York Yankees [5 GB Astros for top seed]
  2. Tampa Bay Rays (6 GB)
  3. Toronto Blue Jays (8 GB)
  4. Baltimore Orioles (10 GB)

AL Central

  1. Cleveland Guardians [9.5 GB Yankees for No. 2 seed]
  2. Minnesota Twins (1.5 GB)
  3. Chicago White Sox (5 GB)

AL West

  1. Houston Astros [top seed]
  2. Seattle Mariners (11.5 GB)

AL Wild Card

  1. Tampa Bay Rays (2 GA)
  2. Seattle Mariners (1.5 GA)
  3. Toronto Blue Jays
  4. Baltimore Orioles (2 GB)
  5. Minnesota Twins (3 GB)

NL East

  1. New York Mets [8 GB Dodgers for top seed]
  2. Atlanta Braves (3 GB)
  3. Philadelphia Phillies (10 GB)

NL Central

  1. St. Louis Cardinals [7 GB Mets for No. 2 seed]
  2. Milwaukee Brewers (6 GB)

NL West

  1. Los Angeles Dodgers [top seed]
  2. San Diego Padres (18.5 GB)

NL Wild Card

  1. Atlanta Braves (7.5 GA)
  2. Philadelphia Phillies (0.5 GA)
  3. San Diego Padres
  4. Milwaukee Brewers (2.5 GB)