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Yankees Rivalry Roundup: Jack Flaherty, Max Scherzer shine in debuts

A couple of deadline headliners made their debuts with new teams and acquitted themselves well.

MLB: Chicago White Sox at Texas Rangers Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees did what they needed to do, picking up the series-opening win over the Astros, at last stringing together a couple wins together. These games will have ramifications up and down the AL standings, with tight races abound. Let’s go through yesterday’s matchups, with featured a couple of anticipated pitching debuts.

Baltimore Orioles (67-42) 6, Toronto Blue Jays (60-50) 1

With the series on the line, Jack Flaherty did what Baltimore hopes he’ll do for them come playoff time, pitching the Orioles to a win as they took three of four from the Jays in Toronto.

The Blue Jays put the first two batters on against Flaherty, and then were hardly heard from again. Flaherty tallied up a couple of K’s against the heart of the Toronto lineup to escape the jam, and didn’t allow another Blue Jay to reach base until the sixth. The Jays scratched a run off Flaherty there on a Vlad Guerrero Jr. single, but the O’s already had three on the board by then, thanks to RBI singles in the second from Austin Hays and Adley Rutschman, and a sac fly by Ryan Mountcastle in the fifth.

Flaherty finished with six strong, striking out eight and walking two, outdueling Toronto ace Kevin Gausman, who could only last 4.1 innings. After the starters departed, the Orioles tacked on a few insurance runs off reliever Thomas Hatch to ease to the finish. Hays finished 4-for-5 with two RBI on the day, while Mountcastle went 4-for-4.

Texas Rangers (62-46) 5, Chicago White Sox (43-66) 3

For as breezy as Flaherty’s debut for Baltimore was, Max Scherzer’s debut for Texas started off real bumpy. A couple of bloop singles and a walk loaded the bases with one out in the first, and Scherzer walked in a run, then allowed a two-run groundball single to Yasmani Grandal. The White Sox didn’t hit the ball hard off Scherzer, yet the veteran found himself down 3-0 before his new team had had a chance to go to bat for him.

But Scherzer, ever the competitor, dug deep and kept moving, shaking off the hellish 37-pitch first inning to mow the White Sox down from there. He allowed just three singles over his last five innings, and finished with six solid, striking out nine.

And give the Texas lineup time to get back into the game, and they’ll typically reward you. The Rangers got one off Touki Touissant in the second and third innings to make it 3-2. In the fourth, the Rangers brought the thump, with Mitch Garver launching a mammoth shot:

And Marcus Semien notching his 17th a few batters later to put Texas up 4-3:

Given the lead, the Texas bullpen did their job, with Josh Sborz, Aroldis Chapman, and Will Smith each handling an inning in that order. Combined with the Yankees’ win over the Astros, the Rangers nudged in front in the AL West, ahead by one game.

Other Games:

Seattle Mariners (57-52) 5, Los Angeles Angels (56-54) 3

This one came to a crazy conclusion, and a back-breaking one for Anaheim. Leading 3-1 heading to the ninth, the Angels turned to Carlos Estevez to close things out. Estevez promptly walked the first two batters, and allowed a single to load the bases. Cade Marlow unloaded them with a grand slam to put Seattle ahead for good, 5-3.

Earlier, Shohei Ohtani had started and pitched four shutout innings, but was pulled with cramping in his right hand. He did reach base in all four of his plate appearances, and roped his 40th homer of the year, a bullet that got out quick to right:

That dinger seemingly had the Angels in a safe position, but it all came crashing down in the ninth.

AL Central Rock Fight

Minnesota Twins (56-54) 5, St. Louis Cardinals (48-62) 3

The Twins jumped out to an early lead with a big four-run second, powered by two-run homers from both Eduoard Julien and Michael A. Taylor. That was more than enough for Sonny Gray, who pitched seven strong innings, allowing two runs while striking out eight against two walks. The Cards tried to make it close by pushing a run across closer Jhoan Durán but could go no further. Minnesota expands their lead to a commanding 2.5 games over the 53-56 Guardians, idle on Thursday.