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Yankees Rivalry Roundup: Ragans’ bizarre meltdown helps Toronto to key win

A crazy sequence led to a big Toronto win, while the Rays, Astros, and Rangers all captured key series victories.

Kansas City Royals v Toronto Blue Jays Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

One of the fun things about baseball, and sports in general, is that they can generate wonderful pieces of theater and skill even devoid of stakes. That’s what the Yankees did yesterday, avoiding the ignominy of getting no-hit while staging multiple extra-inning comebacks and securing a wild win. It all ended up getting overshadowed by the Jasson Domínguez news, but so it goes.

But there’s also a lot of high-stakes baseball going on, and that’s what we’re here to discuss. Let’s go through what happened as a number of big series wrapped up on Sunday.

Wild Card Mix

Toronto Blue Jays (80-63) 5, Kansas City Royals (44-100) 2

The Blue Jays entered this set with the lowly Royals badly wanting a sweep, and they were in position on Sunday. Thanks to an unfathomable sixth inning, they brought the brooms out ahead of a key series this week with the Rangers.

Breakout pitcher Cole Ragans dominated Toronto over the first five innings, allowing just one hit and striking out five. KC put two runs on the board against José Berríos in the top of the sixth, and Ragans came out for the bottom half and retired the first two batters. Then all hell broke loose.

Ragans walked two straight batters, and then uncorked three wild pitches in one of the most bizarre stretches you’ll ever see. The righty airmailed three pitches in a row, losing his footing on two of them:

The Jays had suddenly tied the game, all thanks to a cruising pitcher suddenly and completely losing his grip on his profession. An inning later, Kevin Kiermaier untied it, with a go-ahead homer to put Toronto up 3-2:

The Jays tacked on two more for insurance in the fifth as they finished off a key win. This sweep has them in a solid position headed into the final three weeks. They’re in the second Wild Card spot, one game up on Seattle and 1.5 ahead of Texas.

Division Contenders

Tampa Bay Rays (88-56) 6, Seattle Mariners (79-64) 3

The Rays built an early lead in this one, making it look as though it might be a laugher. The Mariners did fight back against Tampa starter Zach Eflin, but their comeback fell well short and the Rays captured a pivotal four-game series.

Tampa Bay was all over talented young starter Bryce Miller. Harold Ramírez scored two in the first with a double, and Josh Lowe brought Ramírez home with a double of his own to put the Rays quickly up 3-0. A couple innings later, it was Luke Raley who chipped in a two-run double, and it was 5-0 Rays after three.

Eflin had a shaky fourth, with the Mariners stringing together a few singles to put two on the board, and Seattle pulled to within 5-3 with a sac fly in the fifth. But the Rays went to the bullpen from there, and four relievers dominated the Mariners as Tampa took it. The Rays picked up three key wins in this series, solidifying their grip on a playoff spot and continuing to put the pressure on the Orioles at the top of the AL East (three games back).

Boston Red Sox (73-70) 7, Baltimore Orioles (90-52) 3

It looked like we might have a redux of Saturday’s offensive explosion, with Baltimore quickly jumping on talented young starter Brayan Bello. Highlighted by a two-run triple from Adam Frazier, the Orioles hung a three-spot in the second for an early lead.

But the Red Sox went to work in the third. They scored two thanks to a fielding error by Ramon Urias, then took the lead with two more in the fourth on Reese McGuire’s RBI triple and Rafael Devers’ RBI single.

In the sixth, Triston Casas delivered the dagger. The 23-year-old smashed his 24th homer of the year with two on, giving Boston a 7-3 lead:

With that, Boston avoided getting swept at home, and the Orioles saw their division lead shrink a bit.

Texas Rangers (78-64) 9, Oakland Athletics (44-99) 4

Texas’ playoff odds have taken a huge hit the last month or so, and after dropping the series opener here, they absolutely couldn’t afford to drop another game at home to the dreadful A’s. Luckily for them, star shortstop Marcus Semien was up to the task, as the Rangers survived a rocky first few innings to cruise past Oakland.

Semien got started right away, leading off the home half of the first with a homer off of former Yankee farmhand Luis Medina. Robbie Grossman doubled home two later in the inning to put Texas up 3-0.

Jon Gray fumbled the lead, though, yielding four runs in the third inning before being pulled after just 2.2 frames. Medina had settled in, and after shutting the Rangers out in innings two through four, things started to look a little dire.

In the fifth, however, Nathaniel Lowe came to the rescue, doubling home a pair and knocking out Medina. The Rangers added some real cushion in the sixth, putting up four more including Semien’s second homer of the game. Andrew Heaney was excellent long relieving Gray, shutting out Oakland for 3.2 innings, and the Rangers came away with a key win.

Houston Astros (82-62) 12, San Diego Padres (67-77) 2

Houston put the hurt on San Diego in this one as they took two of three from the disappointing Padres. Already leading 4-1, the Astros hung an eight-spot in sixth inning to blow things open.

Poor Tim Hill took the brunt of it, starting the inning but allowing six runs without recording an out. José Altuve had a homer, and Kyle Tucker hit two triples in a single frame (there sure were a lot of triples on Sunday) to lead the way. JP France was the grateful recipient of the outburst, as the rookie walked the bases loaded in the first but escaped unscathed, ultimately managing six innings of one-run ball. Houston now leads Seattle by 2.5 games in the AL West.

Minnesota Twins (75-68) 0, New York Mets (65-77) 2

After this one, Pablo López has every right to be peeved. Minnesota’s top arm quietly turned in one of the best performances from any pitcher this year, flattening the Mets for eight shutout innings. López struck out 14, walked none, and allowed two hits, both singles. He generated 25 whiffs, and 42 combined whiffs and called strikes, each figure among the 15 best produced by a pitcher in a single start per Statcast.

And the Twins wasted it. Tylor Megill and four relievers combined to shut out Minnesota, and after Lopez departed in the ninth, Griffin Jax coughed up a double to Francisco Lindor, hit Pete Alonso with a pitch, and allowed a two-run double to DJ Stewart. Jax must be thankful that the Twins have built a comfortable lead over Cleveland in the Central, or else a loss like this would have really stung.