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Yankees Rivalry Roundup: Blue Jays, Astros squeak by

There were some tight contests played across the American League on Sunday afternoon.

MLB: Atlanta Braves at Toronto Blue Jays John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees and Rays put on a show this weekend, playing three consecutive barnburners, though the Yankees unfortunately dropped the finale to split the four-game series. There were some other great games in the AL on Sunday, with a couple games settled by one run, and one featuring a walk-off.

Toronto Blue Jays (24-16) 6, Atlanta Braves (25-15) 5

Just as a thriller went down in the Bronx, so too did the Braves and Jays play a great contest in Toronto. There were a number of punches and counterpunches thrown early, with Atlanta taking a quick lead on Ronald Acuña Jr.’s solo homer in the first, and adding to it with Michael Harris II’s RBI single in the second off of Yusei Kikuchi.

The Jays responded forcefully, loading the bases in the bottom of the second against Collin McHugh. Santiago Espinal tallied a run on an RBI infield single, but George Springer grounded into a double play that included a force at the plate, giving McHugh a chance to escape. But a walk and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. single plated two more and gave the Blue Jays a 3-2 lead.

Right back came the Braves, retaking the lead on a two-run Ozzie Albies dinger in the third, his tenth of 2023:

Kevin Pillar extended the lead with a solo homer in the fourth, while Springer countered with a solo shot of his own in the home half. The score settled at 5-4, and stayed there until the ninth, with both teams missing opportunities to seize the momentum.

Guerrero led off the bottom of the ninth with a long single off the wall, and Matt Chapman walked to put the winning run on against Raisel Iglesias. With two down, Brandon Belt singled to load the bases, and Danny Jansen grounded one through the infield to score two and win the game:

Pittsburgh Pirates (22-19) 4, Baltimore Orioles (26-14) 0

It was a career day in what’s looking like a career year for Mitch Keller. The former top prospect appears to have finally put it together, following up the first complete-game shutout with seven shutout innings in a 4-0 win over the Orioles.

Keller struck out 13, walked none, and gave up just four hits. He was in total command, painting the corners against an Oriole lineup that had few answers:

The Pirates gave Keller all the support he’d need with a three-run third, thanks to Ke’Bryan Hayes’ RBI single and Ji Hwan Bae’s two-run knock. That was enough to slow Baltimore, which had been riding a four-game winning streak.

Houston Astros (21-19) 4, Chicago White Sox (14-28) 3

Chicago played the Astros tight in the series, with the defending champs still searching for their real groove. Unfortunately for those pulling against Houston, the Sox couldn’t quite wrest the series from the Astros, rallying from an early deficit but failing to get all the way across the line.

Houston was all over Lucas Giolito from the jump, with two singles and a Yordan Alvarez double scoring two before an out was recorded:

Kyle Tucker drove home another with a sac fly to give the Astros a 3-0 first-inning advantage.

Giolito settled down after those disastrous first four batters, allowing just one more run across six innings. Down 4-0, the White Sox set about getting back in the game, starting with a Luis Robert solo homer in the fourth, his 11th of the season.

Chicago crept closer in the sixth, with Jake Burger cutting the lead to 4-3 with a two-run homer off of top prospect Hunter Brown. Dusty Baker smartly pulled his rookie starter there and trusted his bullpen to secure the win, and they delivered. The White Sox would not score again, with Seth Martinez, Hector Neris, Bryan Abreu, and Ryan Pressly combining for 3.1 no-hit innings.

Other Matchups

Detroit Tigers (18-21) 5, Seattle Mariners (20-20) 3

Again, a step forward and a step back for Seattle. The Mariners followed up Bryce Miller’s initialing Saturday performance with a deflating gloss to the Tigers. Seattle spotted Logan Gilbert a 3-1 lead by the third, but Gilbert couldn’t hold, surrendering a game-tying RBI double to Akil Baddoo in the sixth. Gabe Speier gave up two in the seventh, and Detroit's bullpen shut down the M’s lineup to avoid a sweep.

Minnesota Twins (23-18) 16, Chicago Cubs (19-21) 3

It looked the Twins (Vikings?) were scoring touchdowns on Sunday, putting up a pair of seven spots, one in the third and one in the seventh, en route to their second straight absolute demolition of the Cubs (Bears?). Carlos Correa, Alex Kirilloff, Jorge Polanco, and Trevor Larnach all homered, while Nick Gordon went deep twice. The main victim was Marcus Stroman, who allowed six runs in 2.2 innings, before departing and watching his bullpen give up ten more.

Texas Rangers (25-15) 11, Oakland Athletics (9-33) 3

A nail-biter turned into a laugher, Texas pulled away in this one with a massive eighth inning. JP Sears turned in a rare solid start for Oakland, keeping the A’s in the game with 5.1 innings of three-run (two-earned) ball, and the game was tied at 3-3 through seven. There, the Oakland bullpen imploded, with Texas’ eight-run eighth punctuated by an Adolis García grand slam.

St. Louis Cardinals (16-25) 9, Boston Red Sox (22-19) 1

It’s looking like the end is near for Corey Kluber, as the right-hander allowed ten baserunners and four runs across five innings against the Cardinals last night, raising his ERA to 6.41. Miles Mikolas was effective opposite of Kluber, holding the Red Sox to one run over six innings, albeit with zero (0!) strikeouts. Lars Nootbaar led the way with three hits, while Nolan Arenado, Andrew Kinzer, and Paul DeJong went deep as St. Louis cruised to a sweep in Boston, putting the Red Sox half a game behind the Yankees for last place in the AL East.

Cleveland Guardians (19-21) 4, Los Angeles Angels (21-20) 3

Patrick Sandoval was the tough luck loser, holding Cleveland to three runs, two earned, over 7.2 innings, with the Angels offense failing to crack Tanner Bibee, who allowed just one run over 7.2 frames of his own. The Guardians went to the ninth ahead 4-1 thanks to Josh Naylor’s go-ahead three-run dinger in the eighth, and though Emmanuel Clase made things interesting by surrendering two runs in the ninth, he ultimately secured the save to deliver the win to Cleveland.