It was a tough day for the Rays on multiple fronts. First, they lost starter Drew Rasmussen to the 60-day IL due to a flexor strain. That was a bit of a shock since he had just blanked the Yankees in seven excellent innings on Thursday night. Then, they squandered multiple leads in Bronx to miss out on an opportunity to keep the Yankees entrenched in the AL East cellar.
To be clear, the Yankees are still last in the East, but after a big win last night against a serious opponent, maybe things are looking up? I’ll take the optimism anyway. Here’s what went on elsewhere around the league.
Baltimore Orioles (25-13) 6, Pittsburgh Pirates (21-18) 3
Through six frames in Baltimore, the only two runs that had scored in this 1970s World Series rematch came on a throwing error by the Orioles’ Jorge Mateo and a wild pitch from the Pirates’ Dauri Moreta. Pittsburgh briefly took a 2-1 lead on Connor Joe’s seventh-inning blast to left, but Baltimore was quick to demonstrate which of these two rebuilding teams was much further along in the process.
Adley Rutschman got the party started by following Cedric Mullins’ two-bagger with a game-tying RBI double in the home half of the seventh:
Ryan Mountcastle brought the new heart of the franchise in with a single to center, giving the O’s a 3-2 lead. But that wasn’t all that they had in store.
Let’s rewind a bit. Prior to doubling in that seventh-inning rally, Mullins had singled in the third and tripled in the fifth. With two men on in the eighth, the 2021 All-Star had an opportunity to not only make history for himself, but also to give Baltimore a bit more insurance. The man obliged:
Oh, and pour one out for the darlings of April, the Pirates. With this loss, they fell to 1-9 in May and out of first place behind the more familiar NL Central-leading Brewers. The Cubs, Reds, and Cardinals all won, too, so the clock may well be ticking already on their Cinderella story.
Toronto Blue Jays (22-16) 3, Atlanta Braves (25-13) 0
The always-dangerous Braves had only been blanked once so far this year, but despite carrying middling numbers into his start last night, Toronto’s Chris Bassitt had the secret sauce. The first 13 Atlanta batters went down in order and they mustered just two hits and two walks across the right-hander’s 103 pitches in nine masterful innings, completing his second career shutout. Bassitt ended things in a similar manner to how they began by retiring the last 11 Braves in a row.
Atlanta’s Spencer Strider fanned at least 10 batters for the third time in four starts, punching out 12 Blue Jays in 6.2 innings. Undeterred, the Jays got to Strider in the fifth on an RBI single by George Springer and they lucked into an extra run in the seventh on a rare bases-loaded passed ball by the normally steady Sean Murphy. Daulton Varsho tacked on a third run with a solo blast off certified Yankees legend Kirby Yates in the eighth.
Houston Astros (20-18) 5, Chicago White Sox (13-27) 1
The most I can say is that the White Sox didn’t utterly embarrass themselves, which is a step up from what they’ve typically done on most days in 2023. I guess there’s something to be said about letting a 28-year-old in his second career start (J.P. France) roll over you for one run allowed in 6.1 innings of three-hit ball, but then again, even with a so-so start to this season, this is the Astros we’re talking about. Much like the Rays, they excel out churning out great nights from random pitchers.
Although a homer from Luis Robert Jr. had put Chicago ahead, 1-0, that wasn’t going to be enough to keep Houston at bay. Within a few innings, Kyle Tucker had doubled to give the Astros the lead, and RBI doubles from Martín Maldonado and Mauricio Dubón off Gregory Santos made it a 4-1 ballgame in the sixth. Oh, and Yordan Alvarez hit an absolute moonshot in the ninth.
Matthew Boyd was part of the Mariners’ bullpen late last year after just over seven years in the Tigers rotation. He returned to Detroit in the offseason, however, and became a starter again — one who hasn’t seen much success in 2023, to boot. His old teammates in Seattle faced him last night for the first time this year, and they brought the lumber. The M’s clobbered Boyd for six runs on five hits and four walks in 1.1 innings. Julio Rodríguez delivered the knockout blow with a two-run single in the second and also homered in the ninth. Marco Gonzales tossed six innings of two-run ball for a workmanlike win.
Outside of an injury-shortened 1.1-inning start for Seattle in 2021, James Paxton hadn’t been on a big league mound since his Yankees swan song on August 20, 2020. But after a long, long time rehabbing from Tommy John surgery and other ailments, Paxton toed the rubber for the Red Sox at Fenway Park and exceeded expectations with nine strikeouts in five innings, with Nolan Arenado’s two-run homer being the lone blemish on his record.
A back-and-forth affair rolled into the bottom of the eighth, when Boston tied it on a double from Rafael Devers and took the lead on an RBI groundout. But Kenley Jansen’s bid for his 401st career save came up short, as Paul DeJong walked, stole second, and scored on Lars Nootbaar’s single to center. Pinch-hitter Nolan Gorman soon dropped the hammer with a two-run blast to put St. Louis ahead. Ryan Helsley held the lead and Boston dropped back into fourth, half a game behind Toronto and half a game ahead of New York.
Through seven innings, the Guardians had scratched out three runs in a very Guardians fashion: a pair of sacrifice flies and and an RBI force out in the fifth. The Angels plated their own trio of runs in the fourth on RBI hits from Brandon Drury, Gio Urshela, and Zach Neto. The two sides battled until Cleveland’s Josh Naylor decided to divert from the typical punchless Guardians strategy by belting only the team’s 20th homer of 2023, a solo shot to make it 4-3.
In 2022, that would have probably been all she wrote, as Emmanuel Clase was nails in a year that won him the Mariano Rivera Award as the AL’s top reliever. But he blew his fourth save of 2023 already, allowing a leadoff double to Mike Trout and single to Anthony Rendon before an Andrés Giménez error scored the tying run. Drury put LA in front with a sacrifice fly, and Carlos Estevez worked around back-to-back singles with two outs to fan Will Brennan. Mark that as another crushing loss for Cleveland, who might not remain in our Rivalry Roundup for much longer at this pace.
Although the Twins got an early 2-0 lead on Drew Smyly, they mustered just two hits and no runs from the third inning onward, opening the door for a Cubbie comeback. Sonny Gray pitched well again for Minnesota, so Chicago had their eyes on the Twins ‘pen while down 2-1 in the seventh. Rookie Matt Mervis tied the score with an RBI double off Griffin Jax to dead center, and Yan Gomes gave the Cubs a 3-2 lead with a single. A two-run blast in the ninth from the recently-recalled Christopher Morel added insurance and David Ross’ ballclub had a win.
The A’s put up a fight! They really did! I did not expect them to hang around in this one, but they did and got a well-earned W for it. Rookie Esteury Ruiz led off with his first career homer, and randoms like Kevin Smith and Carlos Pérez went deep as well for Oakland. The Rangers countered with a picket fence from the second through the sixth to build up a 5-4 lead, but a game-tying single from Ruiz in the eighth off Jonathan Hernández ultimately sent this to extras when both teams came up empty in the ninth.
Order was seemingly restored in the 10th. Oakland’s Zach Jackson walked Josh H. Smith to begin bonus baseball, and Adolis García delivered a pinch-hit single. Marcus Semien dropped in a hit of his own, and Texas had a 7-5 lead. Southpaw Brock Burke tried to close it out for the Rangers, but he never recorded an out in extras. Once again, Ruiz part of the action with an RBI single. After a JJ Bleday single, improbable leading slugger Brent Rooker continued his All-Star bid with a walk-off, three-run bomb to stun the Rangers.