Going into this week's opening series, the Orioles were a game back of the Yankees in the AL East, and the Rays were just one game behind the Orioles. Things have taken an interesting turn. The Yankees beat the Red Sox 2-0, and the Orioles swept the Rays after a 4-3 win in 14 innings. Now, the Yankees and Orioles remain deadlocked at the top of the AL East standings (for the third straight night), and the Rays have been pushed to four games back in both the division and the wild card race. All three teams play in key series matchups this weekend too. The Orioles will travel to Oakland to take on the wild card leading A's, who actually have a better record than anyone in the American League aside from the Rangers. As for the Yankees and Rays? Well, Tampa Bay is staying north, and heading to the Bronx for three. The Yankees have the ability to drive a stake in the Rays' collective hearts…or, the AL playoff race could turn into even more of a jumbled mess.
Game of the Night: Twins 4, Royals 3 (ten innings). I was actually debating between this game and the Indians' 5-4 comeback victory over the Rangers…but I went with this mess in Minnesota. The Twins are going to get eliminated from the playoff picture this weekend (along with Cleveland), but they staved off elimination for one more night. Trailing 3-1 in the eighth, Kansas City reliever Kelvin Herrera fell apart. He hit a batter, allowed a single, and walked a batter, with a pair of outs mixed in there. Royals manager Ned Yost actually made a good move and went with closer Greg Holland…who walked Josh WIllingham to make it a 3-2 game. But he then struck Justin Morneau out, and Kansas City still leading. In the ninth, Holland remained on the mound…and promptly allowed a game-tying solo homer to Trevor Plouffe. Sigh. Holland got the next three batters out, and the damage was done. He was replaced by Francisley Bueno in the tenth, and Frank Good's outing lasted just two batters and five pitches. Alexi Casilla doubled, and then Denard Span followed with a double of his own to score Casilla and end the game. It might not have happened that way had center fielder Lorenzo Cain not gotten hurt during Casilla's double. First baseman Eric Hosmer moved to right field after that at bat, and the game-winning double went over his head, while Jeff Francoeur was in center. Sometimes, it just works like that in baseball.
Pitching Lines of the Night: Jered Weaver led the Angels to a 6-0 win over the A's, allowing just two hits in seven shutout innings, walking one and striking out nine. Phil Hughes was very good during the Yankees' win in Boston, throwing 7 1/3 scoreless frames on five hits, one walk, and seven K's. Despite their loss to the Twins, Royals starter Luis Mendoza was very good, allowing one run on two hits over six, walking two and striking out five.
Hitting Lines of the Night: Torii Hunter gave Weaver his offense, going 3/4 with two RBI and a homer. Matt LaPorta gave the Indians some solid offense (finally), going 3/5 with a two-run homer, his first of the year. Jeff Mathis and Adam Lind propelled the Blue Jays to a 9-3 win over Felix Hernandez and the Mariners, with Lind going 2/4 with a double and a two-run homer, and Mathis going 4/4 with a double, a run, and a RBI. Matt Dominguez continued his power surge for the Astros in a 6-4 win over the Phillies, going 1/3 with a walk, two runs, and a three-run homer. Yadier Molina went 3/4 with a run scored (and a key caught stealing) in the Cardinals big 2-1 win over the Dodgers.
Other Games: I touched on everything except the White Sox-Tigers game, which was rained out and will be made up this coming Monday.
Today's Games: Anibal Sanchez starts for the Tigers in Cleveland. James McDonald starts in Chicago for the Pirates. David Price and CC Sabathia will duel in New York. Braves de facto ace Kris Medlen will start at home against Ross Detwiler and the Nationals. Hisashi Iwakuma and Yu Darvish will duel in Texas. Cole Hamels starts for the Phillies in Houston. CJ Wilson starts for the Angels in Kansas CIty. Jon Niese and the Mets will take on Mike Fiers and the Brewers. Matt Cain and Tyler Skaggs will duel in Arizona. Joe Saunders takes on Tom Milone in Oakland. Joe Kelly and the Cardinals will look to distance themselves from the Dodgers, sending Chris Capuano to the hill, in the wild card race.
Enjoy your day of baseball, everyone.