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Yankees Rivalry Roundup: Neck-stepping continues

Recapping how the Yankees’ top AL opponents fared on August 15th.

Toronto Blue Jays beat the Philadelphia Phillies 2-1 Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images

The Yankees sent Luis Severino to the wolves face the Braves last night. It went about as well as you could possibly expect, with requisite absent offense, too. Sometimes, you can predict baseball Suzyn.

That’s what happened in Atlanta. Here’s a peek around what else went on, though be forewarned that it’s essentially nothing good for the 2023 Bombers.

Toronto Blue Jays (67-54) 2, Philadelphia Phillies (65-55) 1

It was a pitchers’ duel at Rogers Centre, as Zack Wheeler and Yusei Kikuchi battled for five scoreless innings apiece before each giving up one run apiece in the sixth on RBI hits by George Springer and Johan Rojas, respectively. That was Kikuchi’s final frame, but Wheeler tossed one more zero on the board in extending his pitch count to 107. Across seven innings, he surrendered just three hits to the powerful Jays — only one outside the sixth.

Sadly for the Phils, Seranthony Domínguez brought very little to the table in relief of Wheeler. He loaded the bases on a single and two walks, and though he flirted with escaping the inning on a fielder’s choice, he plunked Cavan Biggio on the foot with his very next pitch.

That turned out to be Toronto’s only run from the gift rally, but Jordan Romano made it stand up with a perfect ninth. The closer fanned Bryce Harper and Nick Castellanos back-to-back to end it. They’re 6.5 games ahead of New York.

Houston Astros (69-52) 6, Miami Marlins (63-58) 5

Cristian Javier played a key role in two combined no-hitters last year while looking like one of the faces of Houston’s future in the rotation, but he continued his middling-at-best 2023 by getting beat up by the Marlins. A two-run bomb by Jorge Soler in the third made it 3-0, Miami, and though Yainer Díaz countered with one of his own, Jesús Sánchez punched right back off Javier with an RBI single in the bottom of the fourth.

Sloppy defense from both Miami and Houston led to an exchange of generous runs in the fifth, but unfortunately for the Fish, that was the end of their offense for the night. They mustered just two hits and a walk against a quartet of Astros relievers in 4.1 shutout frames. Houston rode the long ball to take the lead, as Chas McCormick went yard off veteran Johnny Cueto to tie it and a solo shot from Kyle Tucker put Dusty Baker’s club on top.

The victory helped Houston keep pace with Toronto and they maintained their hold on the second Wild Card spot, two games up on the Jays.

Texas Rangers (72-48) 7, Los Angeles Angels (59-62) 3

Much like the Yankees, the Angels continue to emphasize that they are a deeply unserious team who will not be contending, thank you very much. At least the Yankees didn’t use any prospects to bolster their sad bunch; that’s the kindest thing I can say in comparison.

In a battle of Trade Deadline acquisitions, former Yankees southpaw Jordan Montgomery thrived while erstwhile White Sox ace Lucas Giolito faltered. Corey Seager followed an RBI triple by Marcus Semien in the third with a two-run homer to make it 3-0, Texas. After the teams traded runs, Seager went yard again in the seventh for his 22nd of 2023.

Oh, and just to further emphasize his excellence, Seager pushed his RBI total up to five on the night with a two-run single in the eighth. Too bad that the Yankees showed no interest whatsoever in his free agency a couple years ago. That lefty bat would sure look nice, no?

Speaking of lefties, Montgomery went six innings of one-run ball for the victory, his second with Texas. Since Houston beat Miami, the Rangers successfully held serve on their 3.5-game edge in the AL West.

Out of Reach

San Diego Padres (57-63) 10, Baltimore Orioles (74-46) 3: Good news, Yankees fans! The AL East teams that are impossibly far away were the only rivals who lost! Congratulations to them. Anyway, old friend Gary Sánchez wrecked O’s Trade Deadline addition Jack Flaherty with a grand slam, and Baltimore suffered a rare blowout.

San Francisco Giants (64-56) 7, Tampa Bay Rays (72-50) 0: The Rays also got smoked, though it was scoreless through five. Then, Thairo Estrada and Wilmer Flores went yard in the sixth off Zack Littell and Kevin Kelly, respectively, and on a bad night for the Tampa Bay bullpen, the Giants pulled away. It was ugly for the Rays on another front too, as it was revealed that ace Shane McClanahan needs Tommy John surgery. Yikes.

Other Games

Boston Red Sox (63-56) 5, Washington Nationals (53-67) 4: Even the Red Sox are pulling away from the Yankees. Alex Verdugo led off the game with a homer off Nats All-Star Josiah Gray, and while DC showed fight to take a 4-3 lead against Nick Pivetta, Boston loaded the bases in the fourth. They tied it on a sacrifice fly before a wild pitch put them in front. They’re 3.5 up on the last-place Yankees.

Seattle Mariners (64-55) 10, Kansas City Royals (39-82) 8 (10 innings): Seattle sure does know how to keep things interesting. Four M’s homered in the fourth to make it 7-0, but they blew it all on a grand slam by Bobby Witt Jr. and a three-run ninth that tied it at 8-8. Threatened with another embarrassing loss to KC, Ty France came up big with a two-run single in the 10th and this time, the M’s closed the door.

AL Central Rock Fight

Minnesota Twins (63-58) 5, Detroit Tigers (53-66) 3
Cleveland Guardians (58-62) 3, Cincinnati Reds (62-59) 0

Miguel Cabrera belted just his second homer of the season for Detroit, and at his 2023 pace, No. 509 could be the final one of his Hall of Fame career. Alex Faedo did his job for the Tigers, but Matt Wallner’s game-breaking grand slam in the sixth was the difference in this one. Since Logan Allen and the Guardians’ bullpen blanked the Reds, Minnesota merely maintained its 4.5-game division lead.