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Yankees Rivalry Roundup: Rays pull even with O’s

Recapping how the Yankees’ top AL opponents fared on September 15th.

Tampa Bay Rays v Baltimore Orioles Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

The Yankees played a very weird game on Friday night in Pittsburgh featuring a mid-but-palatable Gerrit Cole, a frightening injury to Anthony Misiewicz, shoddy defense on both sides, and a ninth-inning comeback aided by item No. 3. They’re also not in last place anymore, so that’s... nice, we’ll say. Look, the 2023 season doesn’t have much more to offer in terms of even low-bar positives, so we’ll roll with it.

Aside from Rays/O’s, all the top American League teams in playoff position had their own separate games, so this morning will be a little rapid-fire. Let’s get to it.

Tampa Bay Rays (92-57) 7, Baltimore Orioles (91-56) 1

The pregame festivities celebrated the career of longtime Baltimore fan favorite Adam Jones, who signed a one-day contract to officially retire as a member of the Orioles. Perhaps they should have activated him as well because they only mustered two hits against Rays pitching, while Tampa Bay’s hitters were hardly fooled by Jack Flaherty and the bullpen. Former No. 2 overall draft pick Heston Kjerstad broke up Zach Eflin’s no-hitter in the sixth with his first career homer, and that was the only non-Jones O’s highlight on the night.

For the first time since July 21st, there is a tie atop the AL East thanks to the O’s losing five of their last six games. They technically still have a mathematical lead but that can be erased by the surging Rays as soon as tonight.

Toronto Blue Jays (81-67) 3, Boston Red Sox (74-74) 0

A pitchers’ duel between Toronto’s José Berríos and Boston’s Brayan Bello came down to one fastball to Vladimir Guerrero Jr. that caught too much plate. Berríos threw seven scoreless innings while Bello fanned 10. He actually allowed one less hit than Berríos, but the problem was that one of the four he allowed was Vladito’s rocket:

That’s a much-needed W for the Jays after a brutal four-game home sweep at the hands of the Rangers. With Texas getting blown out yesterday, that’s at least a full step back in the right direction.

Cleveland Guardians (70-78) 12, Texas Rangers (82-65) 3

All it took for Cleveland’s waiver claims to work out was for their games to become meaningless! Lucas Giolito struck out a dozen Rangers in seven brilliant shutout innings, and the Guardians actually scored a dozen for the first time since June. Jon Gray put Texas in an early hole by giving up a two-run shot to Andrés Giménez and Andrew Heaney looked like 2021 Yankees version of Andrew Heaney in some disastrous relief.

The toughest part of this for Texas was that if they had actually a pitched a little, they could have taken advantage of a rare upset in Kansas City. As it stands, they remain half a game back of Houston.

Kansas City Royals (47-101) 4, Houston Astros (83-65) 2

Your eyes do not deceive you! A Royals team that has already eclipsed 100 losses still took care of business against the Astros. This wasn’t Cole Ragans’ work either, as the quintet of Zack Greinke, Angel Zerpa, Collin Snider, Carlos Hernández, and Taylor Clarke combined to hold them to just an RBI double by Yordan Alvarez and a ninth-inning solo shot from José Abreu. On the other side, Nelson Velázquez and the more familiar Bobby Witt Jr. both went yard off Cristian Javier to lead the KC offense.

Los Angeles Dodgers (89-57) 6, Seattle Mariners (81-66) 3

The M’s had their hands full with the mighty Dodgers lineup, but it was LA’s No. 9 hitter who crushed the biggest blow on Friday. Miguel Rojas turned a 1-0 deficit in the fifth into a 2-1 lead, and though the sides traded two-spots in the sixth, the Dodgers’ bullpen hung tough. Seattle never scored over the final three innings and the Dodgers tacked on insurance. It was enough.

Minnesota Twins (78-70) 10, Chicago White Sox (56-92) 2

Royce Lewis tied a rookie record with his fourth grand slam of the season, which is an even more remarkable feat given that he’s only played 53 games and all four have come since August 27th. For a former No. 1 overall pick who has had to rehab for so much of the past several years, this stretch has to be satisfying. Also, the Twins’ magic number to clinch the AL Central now sits at seven.