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Yankees Rivalry Roundup: Rangers pick up huge win, Twins clinch AL Central

There was loads of action across the AL yesterday as the playoff picture continued to sharpen.

MLB: Seattle Mariners at Texas Rangers Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

What a Friday it was in MLB yesterday. Aaron Judge stole the show for a time, smashing three homers and becoming the first Yankee ever to have two three-homer games in one season. Later in the night, there was loads of other exciting action, featuring a massive series kicking off between Seattle and Texas, a walk-off win, and a division clincher in Minnesota.

Toronto Blue Jays 6 (86-68), Tampa Bay Rays (94-61) 2

The Jays did not look like they had a chance early on against Tyler Glasnow in this one. The 6-foot-8 righty seemed to be in total command, grooving 97 mph fastballs and carrying a one-hitter through five.

But the Rays led just 1-0 to that point, and in the sixth Glasnow cracked. George Springer and Bo Bichette went single-steal-single to tie the game at one, and then the walks started. Glasnow issued three consecutive free passes before Kevin Cash finally came and got his man, putting Toronto up 2-1. Kevin Kelly came in and let up two more as the Blue Jays exited the inning with a 4-1 advantage.

That was enough for Chris Bassitt, who with the exception of a disastrous debut start with Toronto way back in April has otherwise been Mr. Steady in their rotation. He struck out eight and walked none across 6.2 innings of two-run ball. He’d earn his 15th win, as the Jays consolidated their lead over the AL West Wild Card contenders.

Cleveland Guardians (74-81) 9, Baltimore Orioles (95-59) 8

An absolutely wild one this was. Neither starter was sharp, with both Shane Bieber and Dean Kremer getting knocked around early. Trailing 3-2 in the top of the third, Baltimore delivered a blow with a three-spot to take the lead. Cleveland came back with a three-spot of their own in the fourth to go back up 6-5.

Anthony Santander scored Gunnar Henderson with a single in the seventh to tie the game up. In the bottom half, Will Brennan delivered an RBI single of his own to go back up one. The teams went scoreless in the eighth, setting up a dramatic ninth inning.

Emmanuel Clase came on for the save and quickly retired the first two batters. But he hit Santander, and Ryan O’Hearn singled to put the go-ahead run on. Then, with two strikes and two down, everybody’s favorite Aaron Hicks grounded one down the left-field line, with José Ramírez misreading the ball and seeing it go beneath his glove, scoring both runners and putting the O’s in front:

It’s been that kind of charmed season in Baltimore.

But just as Clase couldn’t close it out, neither could Yennier Cano. Andrés Giménez doubled, and Baltimore decided to intentionally walk Brennan to get to light-hitting catcher David Fry. Fry responded with a booming double off the left field wall that scored both runners and ended the game:

That’s not exactly a devastating loss for the Orioles, but it certainly does keep the division crown in play for Tampa Bay.

Texas Rangers (85-68) 8, Seattle Mariners (84-69) 5

This the first of two bouts between these two teams over the next week, and these might be the biggest series remaining on the league schedule. The Rangers came out swinging in this one, building a big lead before holding on at the end.

Poor Bryce Miller got the brunt of it. Corey Seager got it started with a solo homer in the first, his 32nd of the year. In the bottom of the second, it was Evan Carter’s turn as he smoked a three-run shot to make it 4-0:

Miller would last until the fifth, but he put two one with one out in that inning before getting pulled. Reliever Tyler Saucedo came on and allowed the two inherited runners to score before letting two more of his own to come home. By the inning’s end, the Rangers led 8-0.

The Mariners did strike back, hanging a four-spot on Dane Dunning in the sixth, thanks largely to Cal Raleigh’s three-run homer, his 30th of the year. But they trailed 8-4 going into the ninth, and though they did put a run across they never quite got into a threatening position. Aroldis Chapman navigated things to a close as the Rangers secured a crucial win in this series opener.

Kansas City Royals (52-102) 7, Houston Astros (85-69) 5

There’s a chance that in a few years, we look back on the Cole Ragans trade (also known as the Aroldis Chapman trade between KC and Texas back in June) goes down as one of the best trades of recent memory. Although he wasn’t at his best last night, the lefty continued to look like one of the most promising young starters in the league.

Ragans didn’t have his finest control, but he held the defending champs to three hits and two runs over six innings in Houston. He’ll add that to a sterling resume since coming over to the Royals, one that included a 2.28 ERA and 2.15 FIP entering the game.

The Kansas City offense hung a couple crooked numbers on Framber Valdez, who ended with a strange line: 5.1 innings and just four hits, but seven runs, three walks, and ten strikeouts. The Royals put up four in the first off Valdez, then knocked him out in the sixth with three more.

Ragans departed with a 7-2 lead, and though Houston made it interesting thanks to Chas McCormick’s three-run dinger in the eighth, the Royals held on to win 7-5. Remarkably, it’s the third victory in their last three tries against Houston dating back to last week. The loss, combined with Texas’ win, pushes the Astros down to second in the AL West. The Rangers now lead.

Minnesota Twins (82-72) 8, Los Angeles Angels (69-85) 6

It was a foregone conclusion, but the Twins held on in this one to put away the AL Central. What was a rock-fight for much of the season had clearly swung in Minnesota’s favor the last couple months, as they pulled away from the fading Guardians.

Pablo López started for the Twins and was solid, striking out seven across six innings of three-run ball. The Angels countered with an opener, as Jose Suarez started and Davis Daniel followed after 1.2 innings. The pair combined to allow four runs, and the Twins led 4-3 heading into the seventh. There, Minnesota hung four on Jhonathan Diaz to really strengthen their grip on the division title.

Things did get interesting in the ninth, as Jhoan Durán entered with an 8-5 lead but allowed a run to score and then loaded the bases with two outs. But finally, Durán induced a groundout from Brandon Drury, and the celebration was on in Minnesota.