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The Thursday Takeaway

The AL West is far out of reach for the Mariners and Angels, that much is obvious. However, that doesn’t mean that these two teams can’t come together to make things interesting in the Wild Card race. Seattle went into Thursday’s action holding on to the second Wild Card spot, while the Angels were part of that current logjam in the race—they were two games back, but also had three teams separating them from the Mariners. Simply put, a win would be gold for either team, so what we got on Thursday night was two divisional rivals who fought tooth and nail for that victory.

The Angels had a three-run lead going into the eighth inning, but that changed in a big way by the time the bottom half of that frame rolled around. Jean Segura hit a homer with one out to put Seattle on the board, and then with two outs Robinson Cano extended the inning by hitting a double. That was the opportunity that Nelson Cruz needed to make things even more interesting, and he took that opportunity in a big way.

Cruz’s dinger tied it at three, and it seemed like we were going to be in for one of those infamous long nights at the ballpark between two teams who were close to each other in the standings. However, the Angels have a Trout card in their deck that no other team has, and they pulled that card at the best possible moment.

Edwin Diaz managed to get two outs against the Angels in the ninth inning, but he also gave up three walks. That meant he was put into the extremely unenviable position of having to face Mike Trout with the bases loaded and the game on the line. Yeah, good luck with all of that, Edwin.

Trout’s big double cleared the bases and put the Angels ahead for good. As a result of the win, the Angels are now at .500 but right in the thick of the Wild Card race, and now the Mariners have been dragged into the muck with the rest of the contending teams. It may not stay this crowded for long, but it sure would be fun if the Wild Card race stayed this crazy going into September, right?

Meanwhile, as long as Trout continues his run as the best baseball player in the world, the Angels are going to be in with a fighting chance. Business is about to pick up out West.

Quick Hits

Not long ago, I used this space to point out how the Cardinals were losing games in uncharacteristic ways and I even said that, at this point of the season, they “were who they were.” Well, it’s August and St. Louis has clawed its way back into relevance in the NL Central. They’ve now won six straight games, and a second grand slam in as many days (though no cat was involved this time) helped push the Cardinals to victory in this one.

The Royals did make things close by scoring three runs in the eighth inning, but St. Louis responded with Paul DeJong hitting a double to bring in Tommy Pham in the bottom of the eighth, and that was enough for them to shut the door and stake their claim as the hottest team in the NL. Maybe they aren’t who we thought they were.

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The Astros and White Sox are going in completely different directions, but if you were to judge them by the past three games, you’d think that the Astros were the ones scuffling like crazy while the White Sox were marching on to October. For eight innings it sure seemed like the Astros were on their way to restoring order in this series—especially after they snuffed out a scoring opportunity for the White Sox.

However, a one-run lead ended up being too precarious for Houston to hold, as Yoan Moncada decided that the late innings of this game would be his personal playground. First, he hit a homer to tie the game in the bottom of the ninth.

Then in extras, he delivered his first career walk-off hit to ensure that the AL’s worst team would sweep the AL’s best team out of Chicago.

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Here’s your visual reminder that the Dodgers (or at least Justin Turner, to be specific) aren’t simply a sentient baseball juggernaut machine and are actually human beings just like you and me.

Now, here’s the counterpoint that they are indeed baseball robots. Yu Darvish struck out 10 Diamondbacks over five innings of work, and the double-digit strikeouts for Darvish meant that Los Angeles’ deadline acquisition had reached an extremely esoteric milestone.

Of course the Dodgers won that game, and now they’ve guaranteed that they’ll at least finish .500 this season. That was a close one, and I’m sure they were really sweating it there.

Defensive Play of the Day

It’s a good thing that Washington decided to put Andrew Stevenson in their game against Miami as a defensive substitute, because it ended up paying dividends for the Nats. The Marlins had a runner on third with two outs and Dee Gordon at bat. Gordon hit a liner to left and Stevenson made an amazing play to get the 27th out of the game for the Nationals.

What to Watch on Friday

I hate to be a small part of the national baseball media who tells you that you should watch the Yankees and Red Sox play each other, but you should watch the Yankees and Red Sox play each other. They’re currently the top two teams in the AL East, and the Red Sox have gone on a tear as of late. They’ll be going into Friday’s action on an eight-game winning streak and they’ll be sending Eduardo Rodriguez (3.35 DRA, 88 cFIP) to the mound following their 8-2 win over the Rays back on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the Yankees will be heading into this game having lost four of their last six after getting blanked by the Blue Jays on Thursday. They will be giving the ball to Jaime Garcia (4.90 DRA, 100 cFIP), who is surely glad to be throwing two consecutive games for one team instead of bouncing around with three teams over his past three starts.