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Yankees Rivalry Roundup: Toronto takes Wild Card spot from Texas

Recapping how the Yankees’ top AL opponents fared on September 5th.

Toronto Blue Jays v Oakland Athletics Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Barring an absolute miracle, the Yankees’ game last night against the Tigers was entirely free of playoff implications, but that wasn’t the case in other cities around the American League. There were even some key head-to-head battles with the Astros and Rangers continuing their AL West rodeo, the Rays attempting to keep Red Sox hopes fading, and the Twins trying to fully bury the Guardians for the AL Central crown. Let’s check in on all of them.

Wild Card Mix

Toronto Blue Jays (77-62) 7, Oakland Athletics (42-97) 1

Baby Bomber alum Ken Waldichuk did his part, defying the odds somewhat in a disappointing rookie season to battle Blue Jays right-hander Chris Bassitt for six shutout innings. That kept one of the last games of the night scoreless into the seventh.

At that point, however, the Oakland bullpen took over, and it would have been a shock to see Toronto continue posting zeroes. They did not:

Somehow, Zach Neal and Sam Long are not exactly Grant Balfour and Sean Doolittle. Neal loaded the bases on walks and Long allowed back-to-back hits from Kevin Kiermaier and George Springer to put Toronto ahead. An RBI double by Davis Schneider and a sacrifice fly made it 5-0.

So after the quiet start, it was an easy win after all for Toronto. With the Rangers losing, the Jays jumped ahead of them to seize a Wild Card spot (by half a game) for the first time in weeks.

Division Contenders

Tampa Bay Rays (84-55) 8, Boston Red Sox (72-67) 6 (11 innings)

Speaking of that Wild Card hunt, I warned a few days ago when Boston somehow lost to Kansas City, 13-2, that they might finally be falling out of the race for the good. As if to prove why they are such a cockroach of a team, they promptly won three in a row to pull back to within 4.5 games since Texas and Seattle took multiple L’s.

Well, Tuesday night at the Trop was a game that Boston really should’ve won if they have any faint hope whatsoever. They took advantage of a Brandon Lowe error at second to tie the game at 5-5 in the seventh, and a strong throw home from Adam Duvall pushed the game to the 11th, where the Red Sox took a 6-5 lead on a bloop hit by Luis Urías. Regrettably for Beantown, Lowe atoned with a walk-off bomb:

Cincinnati Reds (73-68) 7, Seattle Mariners (77-61) 6

Much like Boston, Seattle really shouldn’t have lost this game, either. It’s even worse for them, as Nick Martini clobbered a three-run homer in the eighth inning to turn a 6-3 M’s lead into a 6-6 tie. Seattle stranded its runners in the ninth, and with Elly De La Cruz leading off for Cincinnati, that was a bad idea. The rookie is one of baseball’s premier talents right now for a reason, and when his pure speed is on display ... well, it’s really something.

Take it away, Elly:

Houston Astros (79-61) 14, Texas Rangers (76-62) 1

Yeah, so because of Martini, Elly, and those pesky Reds, the Astros are back in first place in the AL West. Great. Plenty of blame should also be directed at the Rangers, who have continued to fall apart. Nathan Eovaldi was bad in his first start since July 18th after an IL stint, as the red-hot Jose Altuve homered off him in each of his first two at-bats. Eovaldi was gone by the third, but since the lineup turned over once more, Altuve decided to go yard again.

The Rangers prevented Altuve from joining the Four-Homer Fraternity, but boy is that cold comfort when you’re getting humiliated in your own ballpark by your cross-state rival who you hoped to finally snatch the division from in 2023. I’ve always sort of suspected it, but now I fully think that the Astros are going to win the 2023 World Series despite that underwhelming first half. They’re just that annoying.

Baltimore Orioles (87-51) 5, Los Angeles Angels (64-75) 4 (10 innings)

The funniest part of the Angels’ Tuesday came well before first pitch, when a body double replaced Shohei Ohtani in the team photo. High comedy!

They actually dared to dream about actually beating the Orioles without Ohtani (or Mike Trout), too! Making his second appearance since rejoining the O’s 13 months after his controversial trade, Jorge López coughed up a 2-0 lead on RBI hits by Brandon Drury and Mike Moustakas. Jacob Webb wasn’t much better for B-more, and the Halos handed a 3-2 lead to Carlos Estévez for the save. It was his turn to give up RBI hits though, as Ryan O’Hearn and Ryan Mountcastle gave the one-run edge back to Baltimore. The Félix Bautista-sized hole in the O’s bullpen loomed large again. Mickey Moniak tied it up with a hit to center, though Randal Grichuk blew a chance to walk it off by popping up.

The O’s never got a hit in the 10th but took the lead on a pair of groundouts anyway because the zombie runner is stupid. A’s trade acquisition Shintaro Fujinami deserves credit for finally being the one to slam the door on the Angels, at least.

Minnesota Twins (73-66) 8, Cleveland Guardians (66-73) 3

Say, whatever happened after the Guardians’ Hail Mary waiver claims in wake of a key rivalry series against the AL Central-leading Twins? It can’t get much worse than a 20-6 loss on Monday, right?

Oh. Oh no. Twins are up seven now. This is over over.