Thursday was one of the last relatively quiet nights of the baseball season. Multiple top American League contenders were off, as the Astros, Mariners, Rangers, and Twins all rested up for weekend clashes. The Yankees did their part as spoiler by deploying Gerrit Cole on the Blue Jays to build his Cy Young case — which he very much did.
Two other AL East rivals were also in action, and while Baltimore has an edge, the division race looks like it might be a photo finish. Here’s how it went for them on Thursday.
Tampa Bay Rays (94-60) 5, Los Angeles Angels (69-84) 4
The Los Angeles Angels Had A Lead Against A Good Team And You’ll Never Guess What Happened Next!!!
Obvious headlines aside, the Angels lost another tough one in a second half (decade?) that’s been chock full of ‘em. Griffin Canning matched Zach Eflin with two runs allowed in five innings, even as the latter fanned 10 Halos. Forever prospect Jo Adell defied expectations and Shawn Armstrong’s home run rate to sock a two-run shot in the top of the sixth that gave Phil Nevin’s club the lead.
The Angels’ bullpen didn’t surrender the lead until the ball was handed to All-Star closer Carlos Estévez, whose second half has not been quite as sterling. Harold Ramírez and Yandy Díaz led off with singles, and after a fly ball from Curtis Mead (who had entered shortly after Brandon Lowe fouled a ball off his knee), Isaac Paredes tied it up with a hit to left. Estévez recovered to strike out the tenacious Randy Arozarena, but he walked Josh Lowe to load the bases. That set the stage for Manuel Margot to walk it off with a flare behind first.
The Rays also made headlines late last night when Jeff Passan reported that they’d be calling up Junior Caminero, one of the top prospects in the game. The 20-year-old is five months younger than even Jasson Domínguez, and he’s skipping Triple-A entirely.
BREAKING: The Tampa Bay Rays are calling up top infield prospect Junior Caminero, sources tell ESPN. Caminero, 20, will make the leap from AA, where he was hitting .309/.373/.548 with 20 HR in 314 ABs.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) September 22, 2023
News, free and unlocked, at ESPN: https://t.co/HcW0hWxrpJ
Cleveland Guardians (73-81) 5, Baltimore Orioles (95-58) 2
Since the Rays won, the O’s had to do so as well in Cleveland to keep their 2.5-game edge. That did not happen, and the AL East lead is separated by one win (though Baltimore leads by two in the loss column).
Rookie starter Grayson Rodriguez was brilliant his last time out, firing eight shutout innings against Tampa Bay. But the 23-year-old did not have the same stuff going on Thursday night. Although he wasn’t terrible by any means, Cleveland did break the scoreless tie off him in the fifth when Bo Naylor walked to lead it off, and after a K, back-to-back singles by Steven Kwan and José Ramírez put the Guardians ahead, 1-0. Josh Naylord plated Kwan to make it a two-run cushion.
Baltimore came back off Trevor Stephan in the eighth, though. One of their own rookies, Heston Kjerstad, led off with a single, and a batter later, Adley Rutschman doubled him to third. A groundball brought home one run, and Ryan O’Hearn tied it up with a two-bagger to the right-center-field wall.
The tie was brief. Baltimore’s Cionel Pérez plunked the first batter he faced and loaded the bases in short order. A walk to Ramón Laureano brought in the go-ahead run. Weak contact led to two more Guardians crossing the plate, and while the O’s put two runners on against Emmanuel Clase in the ninth, he held firm to win it for Cleveland.