The Wednesday Takeaway
The four-way cage match in the AL East is starting to settle, and it appears that the Red Sox are the ones who are going to escape the cage with the divisional title championship belt. Meanwhile, this leaves their opponents in another fierce scrap for one of the two Wild Card spots, along with a trio of non-East teams. Wednesday afternoon saw two of those teams–the Blue Jays and the Mariners–gnawing at each other.
Nori Aoki hit an RBI single in the third inning to bring in Jesus Sucre for Seattle’s first run of the day, and for a while it seemed as if that one run was going to be enough for the Mariners to win. Felix Hernandez was reaching back into his bag of tricks and pulling out a vintage performance from the good ol' days of his reign as King.
Hernandez lasted seven innings, struck out four, walked three, and gave up two hits. Plus, after he got Michael Saunders to ground out to end what was a clean and efficient top of the seventh, Felix let everybody know exactly who this baseball stadium belonged to. To be quite honest, if you throw seven scoreless innings against an offense like the Blue Jays, it’s not like anybody can argue with you for the time being.
However, once Felix left the game, the house was up for grabs and the Blue Jays tried to take it back in the ninth inning. After Edwin Diaz struck out Edwin Encarnacion with a filthy breaking ball to start the ninth, it appeared that Jose Bautista was determined to avoid the same fate. Not only did he avoid it, but he absolutely clobbered a 98 mph two-seamer and sent it 424 feet into the seats in left field.
Just like that, Felix Hernandez’s solid seven innings were moot, and Bautista could’ve made an argument that King Felix’s house actually belonged to Toronto for a moment, there.
The Mariners ended up benefiting greatly from a defensive substitution in extra innings, as Mike Freeman entered the game to make a spectacular and game-saving catch on a liner up the middle.
That ended up being a crucial play, and held Seattle in it util the 12th inning, when newly minted reliever R.A. Dickey entered for his first relief appearance in five years. Josh Donaldson helped to make it a forgettable one, making two crucial mistakes in the field that resulted in Guillermo Heredia reaching third base with just one out.
This led to Robinson Cano eventually bringing Heredia in with a sacrifice fly that sent just over half of the crowd at Safeco Field home in a happy mood, as their team avoided what would’ve been a back-breaking sweep at home.
Meanwhile, the large contingent of fans wearing royal blue had to have left the ballpark feeling a little bummed. The Blue Jays lost by allowing a winning run without a hit to help it. They're now five back in the division, and their odds of making the playoffs dropped 7 percentage points in a day. They're 7-12 in September.
The Yankees beat the Rays 11-5, as Gary Sanchez was at it again. He hit two dingers on Wednesday night, and he’s now homered in four consecutive.
The second of his two homers was his 19th overall this season. That’s 19 homers, in just 45 games, the quickest any player has reached that mark in history. I think that this guy just may have a future in this baseball business, but it's getting to where he's got a heck of a past regardless.
Evan Gattis also delivered a couple of dingers Wednesday, and Houston ended up needing both of them as it picked up a narrow victory in Oakland.
This game had an interesting ending: Arismendy Alcantara attempted to steal second with two out in the bottom of the ninth, and Jason Castro proceeded to shoot a laser to Jose Altuve to nab Alcantara and end the game on a caught stealing.
The win put Houston within a game of the second Wild Card spot in the AL, and they’re in a virtual tie with the Tigers for third in the Wild Card race. They’ve also got a crucial series against the Mariners coming up next week, so things are about to get especially intriguing for those two teams.
Meanwhile in the National League, each of the three main contenders for the Wild Card spots lost. The Giants dropped their series against the Dodgers, the Mets got swept against the Braves (more on that later), and the Cardinals got walloped by 10 runs against the Rockies. The Giants, Cardinals, and Mets have all caught Wild Card fever, but they’re suffering from it.
Defensive Play of the Day
The Mets lost to the Braves 4-3 last night, and that completed an extremely painful sweep for the defending NL Champions. If these three straight losses to the NL East’s cellar dwellers end up costing New York dearly by the end of the season, then Yoenis Cespedes and the Mets will probably have nightmares of Ender Inciarte literally snatching away a three-run dinger that could’ve given them a dramatic walk-off victory.
What to Watch on Thursday
While the rest of the AL East is slumping at an inopportune time, the Red Sox appear poised to deliver the finishing move on their opponents in the aforementioned divisional cage match. They’ve been dominant in their current four-game series with the Orioles—they won the first two games by the score of 5-2, and then beat the O’s 5-1 last night. Obviously, we should all be watching this game to see if the Red Sox can pick up the 5-0 victory to complete the almost-symmetrical sweep.
The pitching matchup for this game isn’t bad either—David Price (2.65 DRA, 80 cFIP) will be taking the mound for Boston, while Chris Tillman (4.41 DRA, 106 cFIP) will be trying to help make sure that Baltimore can avoid a loss that would probably be the nail in the coffin when it comes to their hopes in the division.