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Yankees Rivalry Roundup: Franco walks off Guardians

Franco helps the Rays gain ground on Baltimore, the Astros win big in Houston, Jays falter to the Cubbies, and plenty more action around the American League.

Cleveland Guardians v Tampa Bay Rays Photo by Mark Taylor/Getty Images

After an offday, the Yankees headed down to Florida to start a three-game set against the Miami Marlins. With a 9-4 win in the books, the hope was that they would be able to gain some ground in the standings. However, most of the teams they’re chasing managed to keep a steady pace. Let’s take a look at what went on:

Seattle Mariners (63-52) 9, Baltimore Orioles (71-45) 2

The Orioles are the best team in the American League, but last night, the Mariners made sure to come ready to play, as they utterly dominated this matchup.

Things got started quickly in the bottom of the first inning, with Cal Raleigh mauling a ball at the top of the strike zone for a two-run homer. He’s the second catcher in Mariners history with back-to-back 20-homer seasons per (the first being Mike Zunino in the 2017-18 season). The next thing to happen at the plate didn’t happen until the top of the fourth inning when Anthony Santander hit a solo home run (his 21st of the season) to cut the Mariners’ lead in half.

But Seattle didn’t take it lightly. In the bottom of the fourth, things broke wide open. José Caballero brought in a runner on a sacrifice flyball, Josh Rojas hit an RBI single, and then the man himself, Julio Rodríguez, blasted a three-run homer to make the game 7-1.

In the bottom of the fifth, Ty France hit a solo home run (his ninth of the year) and in the bottom of the sixth inning, Rodríguez came through again, bringing home a runner on an RBI double.

From there, it was a clean game for Mariners pitching. Despite giving up a run in the bottom of the ninth, they allowed only four total hits from an offense that has been hard to stop this season, and they’ve won eight games in a row now and are just half a game back of Toronto in the Wild Card chase.

Chicago Cubs (60-56) 6, Toronto Blue Jays (65-53) 2

After taking on the Cleveland Guardians in a three-game series and losing the series two games to one, the Blue Jays were looking to bounce back from a rubber-match loss with a strong performance against an NL Central opponent. That did not go as planned, and it started in the first inning, as Nico Hoerner blasted a solo home run in the top of the first.

Then, more runs came in off the bat of Cody Bellinger, who hit his 18th of the season.

After Bellinger’s bash, the bats went silent for a few innings. There were some solid defensive plays, and the pitchers seemed to settle into their individual grooves, but nothing really popped until the top of the fourth inning, when Seiya Suzuki brought in two runners to make the Cubs lead 5-0.

Former Yankees outfielder Mike Tauchman also brought in a run in the top of the fourth inning with a nice single into shallow center field, increasing the Cubs' lead to 6-0. From there, the Jays didn’t have much else. Alejandro Kirk hit an RBI single in the bottom of the fourth, and Brandon Belt launched a solo shot in the bottom of the eighth, but ultimately the Cubbies walked out with a win, helping the two teams in the AL East who are currently chasing down the Jays.

Tampa Bay Rays (70-48) 9, Cleveland Guardians (56-61) 8

Now, this was an exciting one. The Guardians went from playing the Jays up north to the Rays down south, and the first game of this series did not disappoint.

The offense didn’t get started until the third inning when the Guardians put up one run thanks to an RBI single from erstwhile A’s outfielder Ramón Laureano. But in the bottom of the third inning, the Rays took the lead. First, Yandy Díaz drove a double to tie the game. Then, Wander Franco brought in two more runners to put the Rays up 3-1. The Guardians didn’t stop fighting back, though. With the help of a Steven Kwan RBI triple in the top of the fourth inning, and two RBI singles in the top of the sixth inning off the bats of Myles Straw and Andrés Giménez, the Guardians took the lead again at 4-3.

But wait, there’s more! The Rays offense didn’t let that slide, and Isaac Paredes hit a two-run bomb (his 23rd of the season) to take the lead back.

From there, it looked like the Rays had all but sealed the deal. Randy Arozarena brought in a runner off a fielder’s choice, and Manuel Margot managed to bring a run home after beating a throw to first on a double play opportunity to make the score 8-4. But those pesky Guardians fought all the way back again. In the top of the eighth inning, Straw hit his first home run of the season, a solo shot to left field that went 380 feet. Then, after loading the bases in the top of the ninth, the Guardians scored on three wild pitches, two of which came from Pete Fairbanks and the other came from Robert Stephenson. Heading into the last licks for Tampa Bay, this game was tied again.

Enter Franco, who stepped into the batter’s box and scorched a ball 411 feet to right field to win a huge back-and-forth ballgame for the Rays.

The victory helped Tampa Bay gain a game on Baltimore, as they’re now two back of the O’s.

Houston Astros (67-50) 11, Los Angeles Angels (58-59) 3

The Angels have been a huge talking point since the trade deadline ended, considering how their record has shaped up since they decided not to move out any significant pieces and instead moved to make the playoffs. In this game, they were shown what a World Series-caliber team can do. Despite taking a 1-0 lead in the top of the second inning thanks to a CJ Cron solo homer, the Astros came back strong, taking the lead by putting up five runs in the second inning. Jon Singleton hit his first home run since 2015 (a three-run shot), Alex Bregman brought Jeremy Peña across home plate, and Yordan Alvarez did his thing, bringing home Martín Maldonado.

The Angels were able to score another run in the top of the third inning, but after that it was smooth sailing for Houston. Singleton hit his second home run of the game (with a beauty of a pimp job) to bring the Astros to seven runs for the game.

In the bottom of the fourth, the Astros kept on chugging along. Peña brought in a runner on an RBI double, and Maldonado brought in two on a single to put the Astros in double digits. Brandon Drury hit an RBI single for the Angels in the top of the sixth, and Jose Altuve hit an RBI single in the bottom of the eighth, but those were just formalities at that point.

Texas Rangers (69-47) 2, San Francisco Giants (62-54) 1

While one of the teams contending for the top of the AL West was dominating their opponent and scoring double digit runs, the other was doing the opposite. The Rangers started their three-game series against the Giants tonight, and even though the offense was lacking, there were some excellent performances on the pitching end.

Jon Gray was the starter for the Rangers, and he pitched seven innings while only allowing two hits and no runs. Meanwhile, the Giants had a different approach, using an opener for one inning before Ross Stripling pitched five innings and giving up the only two runs the Rangers would score in the ballgame.

Those two runs came in the form of back-to-back homers by Nathaniel Lowe and Mitch Garver in the sixth.

The Giants didn’t put a run on the board until the bottom of the ninth, when Thairo Estrada brought a runner across home on a groundout to third base. But former Giants reliever Will Smith closed out the game for the Rangers despite the earned run.

Other Games:

Boston Red Sox (60-55) 5, Detroit Tigers (52-64) 2: Chris Sale returned to the mound from an injury today, and he made his presence felt early against the floundering Tigers. He retired the first 14 batters of his outing, and despite not hitting the 5.0 innings pitched mark, he finished with some excellent whiff numbers and earned seven strikeouts on the day. Triston Casas hit a three-run homer in the bottom of the fourth inning to put the Red Sox up 4-0, so despite Kerry Carpenter’s solo home run and Riley Greene’s RBI single in the top of the fifth, the Sox took home the win.

AL Central Rock Fight

Philadelphia Phillies (65-52) 13, Minnesota Twins (60-58) 2

Cleveland might have lost to the Rays, but the Phillies obliterated Dallas Keuchel for six runs in the second and ran away with this one to hand Minnesota its fourth consecutive loss. They still lead the division at just two games over .500, but their lead over the Guardians remains 3.5 games.