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Yankees Rivalry Roundup: Shane McClanahan wins his 10th, Gunnar Henderson looks like a star

It was quite the day for the AL East, as all of the Yankees’ rivals finished their week with wins.

MLB: Kansas City Royals at Baltimore Orioles Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees played a weekend’s worth of tight games against the archrivals, and frustratingly came out on the wrong end, with the offense looking like it desperately needed its captain back. They would look to the scoreboard to see it they’d get any help, as the rest of their rivals were also busy Sunday. We had a clash of the AL’s best, the O’s looking for a sweep against the Royals, and the Jays trying to avoid a sweep at home. Here’s what went down:

Tampa Bay Rays (48-20) 7, Texas Rangers (41-23) 3

The Rays had the man they wanted on the mound yesterday, with Shane McClanahan going in the rubber match between the top two teams in the league right now. The lefty did enough, working around a three-run Rangers outburst in the third to secure his tenth win of the season and to get the Rays right back to their winning ways.

Tampa quickly spotted their ace a big lead, working against Martin Perez. Randy Arozarena singled home a run in the first, putting Tampa up 1-0 with the bases loaded and none still out. Perez did well to limit the Rays to a run-scoring groundout, but Tampa added two more in the second, on a Taylor Walls RBI double and an RBI single from Harold Ramírez. Up 4-0 with McClanahan on the mound, you’d be forgiven for thinking Tampa would have little to worry about from there.

But McClanahan faltered briefly in the third. Robbie Grossman led off with a homer, and after a walk and a Marcus Semien RBI double, suddenly the lead was halved and the Rangers were threatening for more. Corey Seager singled home Semien, putting the tying run on with still none out.

McClanahan then showed his mettle. He retired the next three hitters to at least escape the third with the lead, and ultimately was perfect over the next four frames, finishing a strong seven-inning outing by setting down the last 15 batters he faced. He’s a sparkling 10-1 on the year, with a 2.18 ERA to his name.

Not content to let McClanahan do all the heavy lifting, though, Wander Franco ensured that his pitcher would have some breathing room after all, putting the Rays four runs clear with a three-run dinger in the fourth:

The Rangers gave the Rays a test this weekend, and unfortunately for us among the Yankee faithful, the Rays passed. They look as impressive as ever, continuing to lead the AL East.

Cleveland Guardians (31-34) 5, Houston Astros (37-29) 0

Two takeaways emerged from this rubber match. For one, Cleveland ace Shane Bieber, who could plausibly be on the trade market next month if the Guardians scuffle, looked as good as he had all year, shutting out Houston over seven innings to lower his ERA to 3.29. On the other hand, many of the criticisms we’ve posed regarding the Yankee lineup over the last year could be said about this Astros card. Houston’s lineup is mighty top-heavy these days, and with Yordan Álvarez injured, the Astros seem like they’re going to struggle to score runs unless remaining stars Alex Bregman and Kyle Tucker break out.

Case in point, the middle of Houston’s order today, Bregman, Tucker, and Jose Abreu, batting 3-through-5, went 1-for-12 with six strikeouts. The Astros could manage just four hits and a walk against Bieber and the Cleveland bullpen, with Houston rarely putting anything resembling a threat together.

Bieber was in full command from the word go, using every part of his true five-pitch mix. He got five whiffs on his slider and cutter, with that combo in particular working well. He struck out nine and walked one.

It wouldn’t take much offense to win this one for the Guardians, but Cleveland’s lineup had a productive day, gashing Brandon Bielak for nine hits and five runs over five innings. Andrés Giménez and Josh Bell both went deep to pace Cleveland, which still sits two games back of first in the moribund AL Central.

Baltimore Orioles (41-24) 11, Kansas City Royals 3 (18-47)

Faced with a weekend date with the lowly Royals, the Orioles did what good teams are supposed to; they thrashed the cellar-dwellers. Baltimore followed up an easy win on Saturday afternoon with an even more comfortable victory on Sunday, scoring early and often to sweep away Kansas City.

The Royals tried something of an opener strategy, pitching Carlos Hernández for the first inning before following with Mike Mayers. Unfortunately for them, such a strategy (most strategies, really) don’t work if the personnel utilizing it is awful. Hernández quickly got tagged for three runs in the first, with Austin Hays notching a sac fly and Ramon Urías doubling home two, putting the O’s up 3-1.

KC did answer back, tying the game at three with two runs off Kyle Gibson in the third, but the Orioles hounded Mayers relentlessly. They opened the bottom of the third with two singles and walk to immediately load the bases with none out. Josh Lester singled home two, and James McCann’s sac fly had Baltimore up 6-3.

Gibson settled down, tossing 6.1 innings of three-run ball for the win. Ultimately, the exclamation point for Baltimore came in the bottom of the seventh, with the lead now 7-3 and rookie Gunnar Henderson at the plate with two on. Henderson launched a majestic fly, 462 feet onto Eutaw Street in Baltimore:

Despite sky-high expectations, Henderson struggled in the season’s opening weeks. He’s found his stroke now, with a .973 OPS over his last 25 games. The Orioles impressed even with Henderson clicking; it’s a little scary to contemplate what this team could accomplish if their phenom stays hot.

Toronto Blue Jays (37-30) 7, Minnesota Twins (33-33) 6

For those hoping to come to this space and read about AL East rivals losing, I’m sorry to disappoint you. Toronto salvaged the last game of this three-game set, avoiding a sweep and ensuring that all the division rivals the Yankees weren’t playing yesterday secured a win.

If you only saw the early portion of this game, though, you’d be shocked to see that it concluded in a Jays victory. Minnesota pounded Toronto ace Kevin Gausman, a rare poor outing for the right-hander. Just in the first inning, Gausman yielded four hits, two of them for extra-bases, along with two walks. The result was a 4-0 Twins lead after half an inning.

Toronto got one back in the bottom of the first, and Gausman managed to throw up zeroes until the fifth, when the Twins got to him again. Donovan Solano hit his first homer of the year, a solo shot, and Royce Lewis singled in a run to put the Twins up 6-1. Gausman departed having allowed six runs over 4.2 innings.

In the home half of the fifth, the Jays finally got to Twins starter Louie Varland. They scratched across a run on a groundball fielder’s choice from Vlad Guerrero Jr., and Matt Chapman stepped to the plate with one on and two out. The third baseman has been ice-cold lately, but managed to find his ninth homer of the year to get Toronto back in the game.

The score would sit at 6-4 until the bottom of the eighth, when Emilio Pagan entered for Minnesota. Things quickly went awry, with the first two batters reaching on singles to bring up Cavan Biggio. The infielder put the Jays in front with one dramatic swing:

Jordan Romano made sure the one-run lead would stand up with his 18th save of the year. What could have been a tough loss, one that would have seen the Jays swept at home, instead turned into a big win for the club.

Other Games:

Los Angeles Angels (36-31) 9, Seattle Mariners (31-33) 4: The Angels put a thumping on talented starter Logan Gilbert, taking a series win as they continue to hang in the AL Wild Card race. Zach Neto and Taylor Ward each went deep as Gilbert got touched for eight hits and seven runs in three innings. Matt Thais drove in three and Shohei Ohtani recorded a 3-for-5 day in support of Griffin Canning, who wasn’t sharp but outdid Gilbert with five innings and four runs (three earned) allowed.