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Yankees Rivalry Roundup: Mariners pull within half-game of Wild Card

There wasn’t much action on Thursday, but the Wild Card race tightened nonetheless.

Seattle Mariners v Kansas City Royals Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

There wasn’t much going on across MLB on Thursday — the Yankees thankfully had the day off, and most of the league was on the couch alongside them. There were just three games scheduled that had playoff significance for the AL, and that number dropped to two after the Tigers-Guardians game got rained out. So, let’s give some rare extended time to our friends the Mariners and our archrivals the Red Sox, starting with the latter.

Washington Nationals (55-67) 10, Boston Red Sox (63-58) 7

This game was a very standard affair for four innings, and then got really wacky for a couple of frames. Chris Sale was on the mound for the Sox, making his second start since early June after suffering a stress reaction in his shoulder, and he managed to make it into the fifth inning. He was not nearly as sharp as his prior start, allowing doubles in both of the first two innings, but the first run he allowed in the third was thanks to some sloppy execution by his catcher attempting to throw out a runner.

After a quiet fourth inning, the fifth rolled around and things got dicey quick. Sale allowed back-to-back walks and a sharp lineout before Alex Cora opted to pull his ace, putting in Josh Winckowski to face Joey Meneses. Meneses greeted him with a double that scored both of Sale’s runners, and from there a hit parade began — Keibert Ruiz singled, Stone Garrett doubled, and Riley Adams singled consecutively before Winckowski could record an out. Just like that it was 6-1 Washington, and the damage only continued in the sixth when Chris Murphy came in and allowed another double to Meneses and a sac fly to Garrett. In the course of two innings the Nationals exploded for eight runs and were firmly running away with it.

That is, until the Sox got up to bat in the seventh. Patrick Corbin had held Boston in check for six innings, but after 96 pitches he was lifted for Robert Garcia, who did not have as fortunate a time. Adam Duvall led off with a single, and after a strikeout, Pablo Reyes singled and Triston Casas walked. Another strikeout got the Nats within an out of escaping unharmed, but Luis Urías took Garcia deep to center for a grand slam. Rob Refsnyder walked right after, and then Rafael Devers went yard to suddenly make it a close affair at 9-7.

However, after the impromptu fireworks show, things settled back down. Washington pulled Garcia (whose ERA spiked from 2.08 to 7.71 after that disaster) and the rest of their bullpen preserved the lead, while the offense got an insurance run in the eighth when CJ Abrams stole two bases and scored on a single.

Seattle Mariners (66-55) 6, Kansas City Royals (39-84) 4

In their hunt for that elusive 40th win, the Royals actually briefly held the lead against Seattle. First, however, Seattle got a quick run in the second inning on a Julio Rodríguez single, but the Royals countered with a solo shot by Nelson Velazquez in the fourth.

Seattle inched ahead again in the sixth, once again thanks to Rodríguez slapping an RBI double to left, but the Royals countered with a big rally against George Kirby. Maikel Garcia got on board to start the inning thanks to a fielding error, and Bobby Witt Jr. gave him a chance to go home on a double to the wall in left — Garcia was thrown out at the plate however, thanks to a sharp throw from Cade Marlowe. The Royals didn’t relent after the mishap, singling home Witt immediately after and stringing two more hits to score another run. Finally, Freddy Fermin lifted a sacrifice fly to score a third run, but the runner at second was thrown out trying to tag and advance to third after the run came home.

So the Royals had the lead, but they fumbled their way out of an extended rally, and it cost them. Seattle stuck in the eighth inning, and it was thanks to none other than Rodríguez. Marlowe doubled and Dominic Canzone walked to put two on in front of him, and Rodriguez went deep off of the freshly summoned Carlos Hernández for a go-ahead three-run shot.

Seattle added some breathing room with a Cal Raleigh solo shot in the ninth, but it was hardly necessary. The Royals ran out of gas after their big sixth inning, and went down in order in their final two tries. The Mariners are now just a half-game back of the Blue Jays for the final Wild Card slot, fighting their way back into this race after trading their closer away at the deadline.