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Yankees Rivalry Roundup: Rangers sweep Rays, O’s tie Tampa atop AL East

As the Yankees fade away at the bottom of the division, we have some jostling at the top of the AL East.

MLB: Los Angeles Dodgers at Baltimore Orioles Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

Things are just about as bad as they’ve been in Yankee land in nearly a decade, so come distract yourself with baseball being played by teams that are actually showing some life. Lots of good series wrapped up yesterday (Yankees-Angels not among those good series!), including the top two teams in the AL clashing in Texas, and a big win for an AL East rival against the Dodgers. Let’s take a look.

Baltimore Orioles (58-37) 8, Los Angeles Dodgers (55-40) 5

The Orioles got handled in the first two games of this set, and needed to salvage the finale, with a tough road trip to Tampa and Philly coming. Baltimore managed to win a slugfest, crushing Julio Urías en route to an 8-5 win.

It was a topsy-turvy first inning, with the Dodgers quickly jumping on Dean Kremer for two runs in the top half. But Baltimore wasted no time manhandling Urias, hanging an immediate four-spot on the lefty in the home half of the inning. The O’s scored two more in the third, and though the Dodgers fought back, scoring in the fourth and the fifth, Baltimore kept going at Urias, ultimately chasing him after five innings of work and eight runs allowed.

It was a fairly egalitarian effort from the Orioles, with five players driving in at least one run, including Aaron Hicks, who went 2-for-4 in his continued resurgence in a Baltimore uniform. Ramon Urias led the way with two doubles and three RBI, while Jordan Westburg had one of the better games of his young career with two hits and a run driven in.

The win pulled the O’s into a tie for first place in the AL East. That’s not a sentence I anticipated writing four months ago.

San Diego Padres (46-50) 2, Toronto Blue Jays (53-43) 0

There wasn’t much to separate these two, with Yu Darvish and José Berríos both turning in solid starts. Darvish shut out Toronto over six, allowing just four hits and striking out seven. Berrios managed six strong as part of his resurgent season, allowing two runs and striking out nine.

The only blemish for Berríos was a two-run single from Manny Machado in the fifth:

The Padres were otherwise quiet, but the Jays couldn’t get anything going against Darvish. They got as many as two men on base just once all game, putting two on with two out in the bottom of the fifth. Vlad Guerrero Jr. ground out to end the only rally that could be considered a threat from Toronto on the night.

Steven Wilson, Nick Martinez, and Josh Hader had little trouble in relief in Darvish, with Hader tossing a perfect ninth for his 23rd save. The Padres will go for the sweep in Toronto this afternoon.

Texas Rangers (58-39) 5, Tampa Bay Rays (60-39) 1

Sometimes, it’s better to be timely than good. Jon Gray allowed nine baserunners over the course of 4.1 innings, but scattered them all as Tampa Bay couldn’t quite find the big hit it needed. The Rays left multiple men on in three consecutive innings from the third to fifth, and had a runner thrown out at the plate in the second as they trafficked the bases but somehow couldn’t score.

Texas didn’t have much going early on against the Rays, who deployed a sort of bullpen game, with former Yankee prospect Zack Littell taking the ball to start and pitching the first 3.1 innings. Leody Taveras hit a solo homer off Littell, and that stood as the only scoring until the bottom of the seventh, where Taveras drove in another with an RBI single.

With the score 2-0 in the eighth, Jonah Heim came to the plate and provided Texas some insurance:

Heim’s 14th of the season was a laser, as he continues his surprising, stellar season. The Rangers have swept this series, and they are looking like the class of the AL, with their +166 run differential easily pacing the circuit.

Houston Astros (53-43) 4, Colorado Rockies (37-59) 1

The Astros used some dominating pitching and enough offense to earn a split of two games in Colorado. Brandon Bielak started for Houston, and allowed just one hit over 5.2 innings, striking out four. Four relievers behind him allowed just one more hit, with the Rockie offense struggling all afternoon.

The Astro lineup, still missing Yordan Álvarez and José Altuve, was able to make the work stand up. Mauricio Dubon and Jose Abreu each tallied RBI singles, while Chas McCormick provided the big fly, a two-run homer that put Houston up 4-0 in the sixth:

That was plenty for Bielak and Co., with Colorado’s only run coming via a C.J. Cron solo homer in the ninth. Crucially, for the Astros, they’ve continued to stay afloat without their biggest stars. For some time, the Yankees and Astros were on parallel tracks, both teams fighting to hang in there without their respective best hitters. But the Yankees have fallen off the last couple weeks, while the Astros have hung in there, and should see Álvarez back in the lineup in the coming days.

Other Games

Oakland Athletics (26-71) 3, Boston Red Sox (51-45) 0

It was a tough series for Boston, with the Red Sox dropping the rubber game of this three-game set with the catastrophic A’s. Oakland peppered Brayan Bello early on, with the young right-hander turning in a rare clunker. The A’s tallied three separate two-spots across the first three innings, with Cody Thomas, JJ Bleday, and Jace Peterson all homering off Bello. Oakland had to hold on, with the Red Sox rallying from 6-2 down to get to 6-5 in the ninth, but stranded the tying run at second in the final frame. You hate to see it.

AL Central Rock Fight

Pittsburgh Pirates (42-54) 7, Cleveland Guardians (47-49) 5

Minnesota Twins (50-47) 6, Seattle Mariners (47-48) 3

You can’t be giving away games to the Pirates if you want to survive the AL Central Rock Fight, but that’s just what Cleveland did yesterday. The Guardians built up a 4-0 lead against Rich Hill, but fumbled it all away, in particular due to a five-run seventh from Pittsburgh. Meanwhile, the Twins barely squeaked by in Seattle. Minnesota blew a 3-0 lead, with a Eugenio Suarez’s two-run homer in the seventh tying the game, but the Twins scored a run on a passed ball the next inning to retake the lead. They’re now 2.5 games clear in the AL Central.