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Yankees Rivalry Roundup: Rays and Jays falter, O’s survive

The rest of the AL East was in action on Thursday.

St. Louis Cardinals v Tampa Bay Rays Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

The Yankees were off last night, but the rest of the AL East (plus Houston and Minnesota) was active while New York was travelling south. That meant that there was an opportunity for them to gain some ground if the results went their way, a miniscule amount but progress nevertheless. Here’s what happened:

Baltimore Orioles (71-44) 5, Houston Astros (66-50) 4

Baltimore’s one deficiency this season has been starting pitching, and Dean Kremer’s had to hold down the spot up top in their rotation. He hasn’t done a bad job, and he turned in a strong start in this one, going seven innings and limiting Houston to just two runs. They both came via solo home runs, the first from Yainer Diaz in the second and the latter from Jose Altuve in the seventh.

Baltimore, however, built a steady lead to support their ace, beginning with an Adley Rutschman solo shot in the first inning. Singles from Rutschman and James McCann brought home two more runs, and then they expanded the lead once Kramer threw his last frame with a two-run Ryan Mountcastle homer.

Ever the pests, Houston didn’t go away after falling down 5-2. They rallied for a run in the eighth and ninth inning respectively, but this time O’s closer Felix Bautista was able to staunch the bleeding and strand the bases loaded for the save.

St. Louis Cardinals (51-65) 5, Tampa Bay Rays (69-48) 2

For eight innings, the Rays could muster nothing against Matthew Liberatore. The struggling second-year lefty for St. Louis had a career day, allowing just two hits as he cruised through Tampa Bay’s lineup and put zero after zero on the scoreboard. His offense had a better time against former Yankee farmhand Zack Littell, scoring two on an Andrew Knizner blast in the fourth and adding a run in the sixth and seventh innings.

Tommy Edman smacked a solo homer in the ninth to make it 5-0, which felt like an unnecessary add-on at the time, but the Rays rallied once Liberatore was lifted for JoJo Romero. Wander Franco slapped a two-out triple to break the shutout and scored on a wild pitch that made it 5-2, and Randy Arozarena walked to put the tying run on deck. However, Romero recovered and recorded the final out to seal it.

Cleveland Guardians (56-60) 4, Toronto Blue Jays (65-52) 3

Noah Syndergaard turned back the clocks for a day against the organization that drafted him, tossing 5.2 innings of one-run ball. Considering the year that he’s had (and in general the pitcher he’s been since leaving the Mets) this slots up there as easily one of his best starts of the year, and he did so outdueling Alek Manoah, who got rocked for four runs in four-plus innings.

Toronto still had a fighting chance though, and they made their push in the seventh. The first four Blue Jays got on base and two came around to score, but the rally fell flat after George Springer struck out for the first out and got ejected for arguing the call. Manager John Schneider went out to defend his outfielder, but all that did was earn him an ejection as well. Matt Chapman had a single that loaded the bases, but Alejandro Kirk and Davis Schneider couldn’t answer the call. From there, Toronto went down 1-2-3 in the eighth and the ninth innings.

Other Games:

Boston Red Sox (60-55) 2, Kansas City Royals (37-80) 0: It brings me mixed emotions to see James Paxton succeeding in Boston. On the one hand, he was an enjoyable Yankee who faced a tough road with injuries after his last year with the team ... but on the other hand, he’s playing for Boston now. Paxton delivered 5.1 shutout innings to bring the Royals their 80th loss of the year, and the rest of the Red Sox ‘pen preserved the shutout for him.

AL Central Rock Fight:

Detroit Tigers (52-63) 3, Minnesota Twins (60-57) 0

Just when you think Minnesota has some breathing room to finally pull away from the AL Central, they bomb out against Detroit. Reese Olson worked six scoreless while Kenta Maeda made one mistake for a solo shot and Dylan Floro allowed the deficit to triple as soon as he relieved Maeda.