Sunday was another fun day across the American League (if you ignore the Yankees) with a number of races taking wild turns. The focus is out west, where three teams are jockeying for position in a tight, wild race that’s already seen some shocking twists. We also had extra-inning affairs elsewhere, so let’s go through it all.
Wild Card Mix
Toronto Blue Jays (71-59) 8, Cleveland Guardians (61-69) 3
This was a tops-turvy contest, with the two sides trading punches and leads all afternoon. A couple stars, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and José Ramírez, traded two-run homers in the early innings. RBI singles from Tyler Freeman and Myles Straw had Cleveland up 4-2, but a solo homer from George Springer and two-run shot from David Schneider put Toronto ahead 5-4. Andrés Giménez singled home two off Tim Mayza in the eighth to put Cleveland in a strong position, but Daulton Varsho quickly tied things in the bottom half with an RBI single, and we eventually headed to extras.
The 10th inning passed scoreless, but the Guardians finally landed a kill-shot in the 11th. Kole Calhoun doubled off Jay Jackson to score two, and Ramón Laureano followed with a two-run dinger, putting Cleveland up 10-6 in the blink of an eye. Toronto scratched across a run off Emmanuel Clase but ultimately fell, yielding Cleveland a series win up north.
Los Angeles Dodgers (80-49) 7, Boston Red Sox (69-62) 4
The Dodgers pounded Boston pitching in this one, racking up 14 hits and 14 hard-hit balls to match. Red Sox starter Tanner Houck was able to dance around the hard contact thanks in part to some stellar defense, but exited after just four innings and one run. LA then went to work on reliever Chris Murphy, ultimately scoring in five consecutive frames across the middle of the game. James Outman and Mookie Betts each had homers and RBI singles, while Max Muncy and Amed Rosario also drove in runs. Triston Casas, Alex Verdugo, and Justin Turner all homered for the Red Sox, but it wasn’t enough as the Dodgers took the series.
Colorado Rockies (49-81) 4, Baltimore Orioles (81-49) 3
The Orioles were going for a sweep of the lowly Rockies, but this had been a surprisingly tight series, with Baltimore only prevailing by one run in each of the first two matchups. The finale was another close one, and Colorado eked it out thanks to a great outing by Ty Blach and a clutch showing by rookie Hunter Goodman. Blach pitched seven innings of one-run ball, striking out seven, the lone blemish a solo homer from Cedric Mullins. He outdueled Jack Flaherty, who departed after 5.2 innings, trailing 3-1. Ryan O’Hearn tied the game in the eighth with a two-run homer, but the Rockies retook the lead in the ninth on All-Star Game hero Elias Díaz’s RBI groundout. To close out the game, Goodman, who earlier had driven in a run on his first MLB hit, made a stellar diving stop at first:
Houston Astros (74-58) 17, Detroit Tigers (59-71) 4
The Astros absolutely demolished Detroit, with Justin Verlander picking up the win in his old home park with five shoutout innings. Kyle Tucker, Mauricio Dubón, Martín Maldonado, and Yainer Diaz all homered for Houston, while Jeremy Pena led the way with a five-hit day and three RBI. The 17 runs tied Houston’s season-high, while the Astros’ 25 hits also tied a franchise single-game record. Miguel Cabrera hit a three-run homer, just his third of 2023, and Zach McKinstry added a solo shot to ease the embarrassment a bit for Detroit.
Texas Rangers (73-56) 6, Minnesota Twins (67-63) 2
Where the Astros won a laugher, the Rangers were sweating all afternoon, blowing an early 5-0 before losing in crushing fashion at the end. In the second, J.P. Martínez hit his first career homer, a solo shot in the second off Bailey Ober, while Jonah Heim stretched the lead with a grand slam in the fourth. Jordan Montgomery cruised through the first five innings, but things came apart in the sixth. The Twins scratched together two singles and walk to chase Montgomery with the bases loaded and one down, and Chris Stratton let all those inherited runners score on a Royce Lewis grand slam:
Veteran Dallas Keuchel was shockingly good in relief, shutting out the Rangers over five innings. That gave the Twins time to finally tie things up, as Aroldis Chapman blew the save thanks in part to a disengagement violation. After two scoreless extra innings, the Rangers retook the lead in the 12th, only for Brock Burke to allow the zombie runner to score to tie things up. At last, in the 13th, Michael A. Taylor drew a two-out, bases-loaded walk to end the game. A heartbreaking finish for Texas left them out of first place in the AL West for the first time since early April.
Seattle Mariners (74-56) 3, Kansas City Royals (41-91) 2
The hottest team in the league stayed hot, and though it was a close one, they swept away the Royals to take hold of first place out west. Teoscar Hernández homered in the second to put Seattle up 1-0, and Julio Rodríguez smoked his 23rd of the year for 3-0 lead in the fifth. That looked to be plenty for staff ace Luis Castillo, who mowed down KC to the tune of one hit, one walk, and six strikeouts over seven innings.
But the bullpen made things interesting. Gabe Speier allowed a two-run homer in the eighth to bring the Royals within one, and a couple of singles put the tying run on third with two down, but Justin Topa came on to strike out Salvador Perez to end the inning. Andrés Muñoz struck out the side in the ninth, and when the dust settled, the M’s had passed the Rangers. It’s been over 20 years (August 24, 2003 to be exact) since Seattle had sole possession of first this deep into the season.