It was a busy day in a hazy New York City, though it was a lighter day across the AL. That said, the Yankees’ most direct competitors, the AL East rival Orioles, Rays, and Blue Jays, were all in action, and they all played some mostly compelling games. Let’s go over what you may have missed from Thursday.
Tampa Bay Rays (46-19) 4, Minnesota Twins (31-32) 2
Don’t look now, but the Rays are hot again. For the second straight game, Tampa did just enough to get by the Twins, this time securing a sweep of Minnesota and their sixth straight victory.
Yonny Chirinos was very solid starting for the Rays, with the only blemish on his line over 5.2 innings a fourth-inning solo shot from Carlos Correa. He struck out four and walked none, lowering his ERA to 2.60 in the process.
Tampa struck back immediately in the bottom of the fourth. Luke Raley tripled home a run, continuing his surprising season, and Harold Ramírez followed with a missile to dead center:
Just like that, it was 3-1 Rays, and they wouldn’t look back from there. Tampa added an insurance run in the seventh when Wander Franco stole third, his 22nd steal of the year, and scored on a throwing error. The Twins got one back in the eighth thanks to a Michael A. Taylor solo homer, but that was all they could muster against the Rays bullpen. Jake Diekman, Colin Poche, and Jason Adam combined to cover the final innings and deliver finish off the sweep.
As for Minnesota, they remain on top of the AL Central ... with a sub-.500 record. 1994 AL West reprise, anyone?
Toronto Blue Jays (36-28) 3, Houston Astros (36-27) 2
With the struggles of Alek Manoah leaving the right-hander sent down to the minors, the Blue Jays have desperately needed a starter to step up behind ace Kevin Gausman. One of the most important developments of their season has been the resurgence of Jose Berríos, who, after a rough start of the season, has been looking like the pitcher Toronto traded for. Berríos tossed another quality start on Thursday, leading the Jays to a 3-2 win and a series victory over Houston.
It didn’t look like it’d be a strong outing for Berríos from the outset, as the Astros took a 2-0 lead in the second, with Alex Bregman taking Berríos deep and a run scoring on a double play. But Berríos locked in from there, and Houston didn’t score again.
Toronto’s lineup hasn’t been lighting the world on fire even as the club has played well of late, and they didn’t break out last night, but they did enough. All their production came in the bottom of the fifth, as the Jays rushed back with an RBI groundout from Matt Chapman, an RBI double from Alejandro Kirk, and a go-ahead RBI single from Brandon Belt.
Berríos, along with Yimi García, Erik Swanson, and Jordan Romano behind him, made that rally stand up. Berríos has now allowed three runs or fewer in nine of his last 10 starts. He could at last be forming a formidable 1-2 with Gausman at the front of the Toronto rotation.
Also of concern for Houston: masher Yordan Alvarez had to leave the game after just one at-bat due to oblique discomfort. There’s no word yet on whether he’ll have to miss any time, but obviously any absence from Alvarez will be sorely missed in the Astros lineup.
Baltimore Orioles (38-24) 6, Milwaukee Brewers (34-29) 3
For most of this game, the Orioles were quiet, doing little to bother journeyman starter Colin Rea. The right-hander shut out Baltimore over five innings, striking out eight and allowing just three hits. A three-run outburst against Kyle Bradish in the first was all the Milwaukee lineup could muster, but it looked as though it’d be enough, with the Brewers carrying a 3-0 lead into the seventh.
That’s when the Orioles came alive, first with Ramon Urias’ solo homer that put Baltimore on the board. In the eighth, Anthony Santander doubled home a run to pull the Orioles to within one, and a batter later, Gunnar Henderson came to the plate. The top prospect in baseball entering the year, Henderson started slow but has started to come on over the last month, and facing Peter Strzelecki, he authored the highlight of his 2023 season so far:
Henderon’s oppo blast put Baltimore in front for good, with Adam Frazier tacking on a pair of insurance runs in the ninth to give the Orioles some breathing room. Félix Bautista nailed down his 16th save with a scoreless ninth, putting a punctuation mark on a what was a pretty stellar day for the Orioles staff. Bradish settled down after the awful opening inning, and after the first, the Brewers managed just two hits and one walk, ultimately totaling 14 strikeouts on the day.
Cleveland Guardians (29-33) 10, Boston Red Sox (31-32) 3: The Red Sox have converted Corey Kluber to a reliever, and the experiment hasn’t been going well. Cleveland battered Kluber for 11 hits and seven runs over 3.1 innings of relief, with José Ramírez and Will Brennan going deep. Ramírez was the star, going deep three times in one game for the first time his career while also reaching the 200-homer milestone. For at least a moment, a team in the AL East is now below .500.