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Yankees Rivalry Roundup: Rays blow out Jays, Yanks’ magic number falls to 13

The Yankees got some good news on a day off, with the Rays crushing Toronto and pushing New York’s lead to 6.5 games.

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at Toronto Blue Jays Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees traveled yesterday, along with about half of the league, leaving a rather thin slate of games for Thursday night. There was still some important action, though, as the playoff picture continues to clear up. By the end, the Yankees were fortunate enough to see their magic number in the AL East fall to 13.

Tampa Bay Rays 11 (80-63), Toronto Blue Jays 0 (81-63)

These two rivals just played five games in four days, and are likely sick of seeing each other at this point. From a Yankee perspective, the series found an optimal outcome, as the series was closely fought until the series finale, with Tampa pounding Toronto to take the series 3-2.

The Rays quickly put a hurt on Kevin Gausman and cruised from there. Rene Pinto opened the scoring with an RBI single in the second, and Yandy Diaz followed with a three-run homer:

Gausman settled in from there, blanking the Rays four the next four frames before yielding a solo shot to Isaac Paredes, his 19th of the year. Meanwhile, the Jays could do little against Shane McClanahan and the Tampa staff. McClanahan managed just five innings, but Tampa didn’t need much more than that. The Rays tacked on a six-spot in the ninth inning to bring the score to its unsightly final. Toronto now sits 6.5 games back of the Yankees in the AL East, with the Rays a half-game further at seven games back.

Houston Astros 5 (94-50), Oakland Athletics 2 (52-92)

One of the primary things I’ve taken away from the exercise of reviewing the rest of the AL action on a given day is how rarely the Astros play a strong opponent. This is mostly a stray observation, one that takes nothing away from the excellent 2022 they’ve put together, but suffice to say, the Astros cruised past the hapless A’s for the seventh win in eight tries.

Oakland did briefly take a lead in this one, with former Yankee farmhand Dermis Garcia singling home two in the fourth inning to put the A’s up 2-1. Christian Vasquez quickly tied things up with an RBI double in the home half, and the Astros would move decisively for the lead in the seventh. Aledmys Diaz smoked a two-run homer to put Houston on front, and Kyle Tucker tacked on another with an RBI single:

Lance McCullers was sharp outside of the fourth-inning slip-up, allowing just two hits and striking out 11 across six innings. Houston’s bullpen allowed just one baserunner in relief of McCullers, striking out five and easing their way to a victory in this series opener.

Other Contenders

  • Chicago White Sox 8 (74-70). Cleveland Guardians 2 (76-66): The AL Central rock fight continues, with the White Sox taking the opener of this crucial five-game set behind a strong start from Lance Lynn. Chicago crushed five homers, all off Cleveland starter Hunter Gaddis, who surprisingly is a real pitcher and not one randomly generated by MLB The Show when you sim 30 years into the future. Cleveland’s lead in the division now sits at three games.
  • Minnesota Twins 3 (72-70), Kansas City Royals 2 (57-87): The Twins can’t afford to give away games to the lowly Royals, and they nearly did last night, with stud closer Jhoan Duran putting two on with none out in the ninth of a 3-2 game. But Duran escaped narrowly with the go-ahead in scoring position, helping keep Minnesota’s slim playoff hopes alive. Carlos Correa hit his 21st homer, and Gio Urshela went 2-for-4 to pace the Twins offense.