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Yankees Rivalry Roundup: Blue Jays secure crucial sweep in Pittsburgh

The AL Wild Card race stayed hot as Toronto swept the Pirates before heading into a crucial series with the Orioles.

Toronto Blue Jays v Pittsburgh Pirates Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images

The Yankees defeated the Rays yesterday pushing their AL East lead back to five games. The rest of the AL was in action as well, though, and the Wild Card race stayed hot. Toronto was looking for a sweep ahead of a big AL East showdown this week, while the Astros were looking to maintain their grip on the top seed in the league. Here’s what went down.

Toronto Blue Jays 4 (73-59), Pittsburgh Pirates 3 (49-84)

The Blue Jays needed to show out in this series, locked in a tight battle for an AL Wild Card spot. They got the job done, holding on in the series finale in Pittsburgh to secure a crucial sweep of the Pirates.

Things got hairy in the ninth, with the Pirates putting two runners on in the ninth with no outs. Closer Jordan Romano came through, however, striking out three consecutive batters to strand the winning runners in scoring position:

The Jays had jumped out to an early 3-0 lead, but saw the Pirates stay in the fight, with Josh VanMeter doubling home two in the fifth, and Oneil Cruz crushing his 12th homer of the year to tie the game in the sixth:

Teoscar Hernández singled home a run in the seventh to put Toronto up 4-3, and the Toronto bullpen made the lead stand up. The Jays will try to ride the momentum from this sweep into a crucial upcoming series with the Orioles. Toronto stands 2.5 games ahead of Baltimore in the standings entering the showdown.

Seattle Mariners 6 (76-58), Cleveland Guardians 3 (68-64)

The Mariners stay one of the hottest teams in baseball. Not even a four-hour long rain delay could deter Seattle, as they waited out the weather, and extra innings, to secure a sweep in Cleveland and win their seventh consecutive game.

It didn’t always look like this game would take several hours to complete. Ty France doubled in a run in the second, and Julio Rodríguez gave Seattle a 2-1 lead with his 23rd homer — part of a four-hit night.

That’s when the rains came. When the game finally restarted, with starters George Kirby and Cal Quantrill long since forgotten, Seattle extended the lead to 3-1 in the fourth, but their bullpen couldn’t quite win things in regulation. Austin Hedges managed an RBI single in the seventh off Diego Castillo, and Oscar Gonzalez tied things up with an RBI single of his own in the eighth off former Yankee farmhand Erik Swanson.

The Guardians had their chance to end things in the 10th, loading the bases with two outs, but couldn’t bring the winning run home, with Tyler Freeman flying out. The Mariners wouldn’t allow the misstep to stand, with J.P. Crawford singling home a run in the top of the 11th, before Cal Raleigh fired the kill shot:

Chris Flexen managed the bottom half of the inning for his second save. The Mariners remain in excellent position in the Wild Card race, two games clear of the field. FanGraphs assesses their playoff chances at better than 99 percent.

Houston Astros 9 (86-48), Los Angeles Angels 1 (58-76)

The Yankees’ chances of securing the top seed in the AL have pretty much completely evaporated, so you’d be forgiven for not being too interested in Houston’s work down the stretch. Still, it was notable to see a good team do what they’re supposed to do against a doormat like the Angels. The Astros cruised past Anaheim on Sunday to secure a straightforward series win over the Angels.

Houston hung a five-spot in the second and didn’t look back. Kyle Tucker started things off with a two-run homer, and David Hensley doubled the lead with a two-run double. Jose Altuve added an RBI double to put the Astros up 5-0.

The Angels asked starter Tucker Davidson to wear it, letting him work through the disaster second, and he responded fairly well, holding Houston down across the third through sixth frames. Houston finally knocked Davidson out when Altuve launched a two-run homer to give Houston a 7-0 advantage:

Jose Urquidy made the support stand up, tossing seven shutout and making short work of an Angels lineup that was missing Shohei Ohtani. With the win, the Astros remained 5.5 games ahead of the Yankees in the AL hierarchy.

Other Contenders

  • Minnesota Twins 5 (68-64), Chicago White Sox 1 (67-67): A day after nearly getting no-hit, the Twins bounced back nicely, roping 12 hits against Lucas Giolito and the Chicago staff. Carlos Correa picked up two hits and a solo homer to back up Dylan Bundy’s five shutout innings. With Cleveland’s loss to Seattle, the Twins are now tied with the Guardians atop the AL Central; they’re also two games up on the White Sox.
  • Oakland Athletics 5 (50-85), Baltimore Orioles 0 (71-62): Right-hander Adrian Martinez, fresh off shoving against the Yankees last weekend, kept up his hot streak, firing six shutout against Baltimore. Seth Brown paced the offense, smashing two solo homers and scoring three times.