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Yankees Rivalry Roundup: Orioles down Jays, Red Sox absolutely obliterate Astros

As the Yankees melted down again in the Bronx, there were fireworks elsewhere across the AL playoff race.

Toronto Blue Jays v. Baltimore Orioles

The Yankees at least made things interesting on Thursday, but things ended as they usually do around these parts, in a frustrating loss. In any event, the Yankees’ games aren’t the most important when it comes to the playoff races, which saw more action yesterday with a number of contenders in play. Let’s take a look:

Wild Card Mix

Baltimore Orioles (79-48) 5, Toronto Blue Jays (70-58) 3

The oft-mentioned weakness of this Orioles squad is starting pitching, and yesterday’s starter, Kyle Gibson, has been rather emblematic of that weakness. The team knew it was thin in the rotation entering the season, but the big move they made to address it was to bring in the veteran backend starter Gibson, who entered last night with a 4.97 ERA. But in a big rubber game against a division rival, Gibson made good with eight strong innings, leading Baltimore to a series win.

Toronto didn’t have many chances against Gibson, with their one big opportunity coming in the fourth. Two walks and a single loaded the bases with none out, and the Jays did tally two on a run-scoring groundout and a sac fly, but they failed to break the game open.

Down 2-0, Anthony Santander tied things right back up in the fourth:

And in the next inning, the Orioles quickly surged in front, thanks to Cedric Mullins’ two-run dinger:

Gunnar Henderson added an RBI single later in the inning to put the O’s up 5-2.

Meanwhile, Gibson was mostly cruising. Brandon Belt cut into the lead with a solo homer in the sixth, but otherwise, Toronto didn’t threaten. Gibson struck out Belt looking to end the eighth and his night, and he was pumped up:

Félix Bautista closed things out for his 33rd save of the year. It was a quality game played between two fun teams in front of an enthusiastic crowd. I can only imagine.

Boston Red Sox (68-60) 17, Houston Astros (72-57) 1

J.P. France had had a nice rookie season coming into yesterday, carrying a 2.75 ERA across 18 appearances. But Boston led off the game with a homer against France, and the Red Sox did not look back from there. France got trounced for 10 runs over 2.1 innings as the Red Sox blew out the Astros to split the four-game series.

France only allowed the Verdugo dinger in the first, but Boston attacked in the second. Wilyer Abreu went deep for a two-run homer, the first of his career, while Connor Wong and Rafael Devers each drove in runs to make it 5-0 after two. Then, the dam broke.

After a walk and strikeout to begin the third, the Red Sox went double, single, single, walk before France was removed with the bases loaded, one out, and two already in. Brandon Bielak would plunk and walk the next two hitters, before a Masataka Yoshida single made it 10-0, still with the bases loaded. Mercifully, after a run-scoring groundout from Pablo Reyes, Bielak retired Luis Urias to close the frame with Houston down 11-0.

Young Brayan Bello was the beneficiary of all the offense, and though he wasn’t at his best, yielding nine hits and three walks, he scattered most of them and held the Astros to one run over seven innings. Boston would manage one more crooked number in the ninth, when catcher Martin Maldonado came on to pitch and allowed four more runs. Abreu finished the day 4-for-5 with four RBI, while Wong and Verdugo also notched four hits themselves.

Division Contenders

Milwaukee Brewers (70-57) 8, Minnesota Twins (65-62) 7 (10 innings)

It was a total slugfest in Minnesota, with each team trading haymakers in the form of home runs all evening. Corey Seager and Marcus Semien slugged solo homers in the early innings for Texas, while Kyle Farmer responded with a solo shot of his own for the Twins. Travis Jankowski’s two-run single in the third had Texas up 4-1, and the Rangers still led by three after another exchange of solo shots, this time by Leody Tavares and Michael A. Taylor. But the Twins eventually pushed forward, with Taylor hitting another solo shot in the fifth, and Royce Lewis getting the Twins within one with yet another solo homer in the sixth. Carlos Correa tied the game with an RBI double in the eighth, and a few batters later, Ryan Jeffers untied it with a go-ahead two-run dinger. The Rangers wasted a crucial chance to put a couple games of space between them and the Mariners and Astros, with Texas still just a game clear in the AL West.

Tampa Bay Rays (78-51) 5, Colorado Rockies (48-79) 3

Sometimes, baseball can be a simple game. Peter Lambert had a solid start for Colorado, and the Rays overall didn't have a whole lot going on on offense for the day. But Tampa smashed three homers, and the Rockies didn’t, giving the Rays enough to get by. Trailing 3-2 in the sixth, Isaac Paredes sent a solo shot to left-center to tie the game. The next inning smashed his 17th of the year, a two-run go-ahead dinger that provided the difference in the game:

The Rays used a bullpen game to quell the Rockies, with Shawn Armstrong opening with two scoreless innings before being followed by four relievers. Pete Fairbanks struck out three in the ninth to record his 16th save.