Settling the Score: Friday’s results

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Red Sox fans can breathe a little bit easier this morning.

Josh Beckett was solid in his return from a sprained ankle last night, allowing three runs (two earned) over six innings as the Red Sox defeated the Rays 4-3 to extend their lead in the AL Wild Card race to four games with 12 games remaining.

Beckett, who hadn’t pitched since September 5, threw the first quality start by a Red Sox pitcher since September 6. Mike Aviles, who played third base in place of the injured Kevin Youkilis, hit the decisive go-ahead solo homer off James Shields in the bottom of the fourth inning. The Rays stole a season-high seven bases in the loss.

The two teams will continue their four-game series later this afternoon when Jon Lester takes on Jeff Niemann.

Your Friday box scores:

Rays 3, Red Sox 4

Cardinals 4, Phillies 2 (11 innings)

Mets 12, Braves 2

Angels 3, Orioles 8

Astros 3, Cubs 4 (12 innings)

Marlins 3, Nationals 0

Yankees 4, Blue Jays 5

Brewers 6, Reds 3 

White Sox 6, Royals 7

Indians 7, Twins 6

Tigers 3, Athletics 1

Giants 9, Rockies 1

Diamondbacks 0, Padres 2

Rangers 0, Mariners 4

Pirates 2, Dodgers 7

Brandon McCarthy wins final spot in Dodgers’ rotation

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We learned on Monday that Hyun-Jin Ryu won one of the final two spots in the Dodgers’ starting rotation. Brandon McCarthy has won the other, Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register reports. Alex Wood was McCarthy’s competitor for the spot.

McCarthy, 33, posted a 4.85 ERA across four appearances spanning 13 innings this spring, yielding seven earned runs on 14 hits and a walk with seven strikeouts. Wood, a southpaw, gave up five earned runs in six innings against the Reds on Tuesday, which might have factored into the decision.

Last season, McCarthy made nine starts and one relief appearance, posting a 4.95 ERA with a 44/26 K/BB ratio in 40 innings. In the event McCarthy falters, the club has Wood as well as Julio Urias and the injured Scott Kazmir as potential replacements.

Yankees re-sign Jon Niese to a minor league deal

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The Yankees have re-signed pitcher Jon Niese to a minor league contract, George A. King III of the New York Post reports. Niese was released on Sunday, but he’ll stick around and provide rotation depth for the Yankees.

Niese had knee surgery last August and got a late start to spring training as a result. In six spring appearances lasting an inning each, the lefty gave up three earned runs on five hits and a walk with five strikeouts.

Niese, a veteran of nine seasons, put up an aggregate 5.50 ERA with an 88/47 K/BB ratio in 121 innings last season between the Pirates and Mets.