Red Sox fall to Rays, wild card lead down to two games

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The Red Sox were able to knock David Price out of Sunday’s game, but they dropped another one to the Rays anyway, leaving them just two games up in the wild card standings.

The Rays, who were nine games back on Sept. 3, beat the Red Sox for the sixth time in seven games this month.

Aiming for win No. 201, Tim Wakefield gave up three runs in the second and another in the fourth, putting Boston in a big hole.  Still, there was hope for the Red Sox.  After taking a Mike Aviles liner off his chest in the third, Price struggled in the fourth, giving up two runs, and then left as a precaution.

Unfortunately for Boston, the pitching staff wasn’t able to hold the Rays offense in check afterwards.  Wakefield allowed two more runs in the fifth and Andrew Miller gave up two in the seventh.  The Red Sox came back with three of their own in the seventh, making it 8-5, but that was the end of the scoring for the day.

In the end, the Red Sox lost despite outhitting the Rays 8-7 and collecting the game’s only homer, a three-run shot from Mike Aviles.  Aviles and Darnell McDonald actually drove in all of Boston’s runs, as the big bats came up empty.

The Rays got three hits and three RBI from Matt Joyce, plus two hits and a steal from Desmond Jennings.

Both the Red Sox and Rays have 10 games left.  Seven of Boston’s are against the Orioles, with a three-game series in Yankee Stadium sandwiched in between.  The Rays will play the Yankees seven times, with their weekend series coming against the Blue Jays.

Astros advance to the World Series with 4-0 finale against Yankees

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The Astros punched their ticket to the World Series on Saturday, shutting out the Yankees 4-0 to take their first Game 7 victory at home. Charlie Morton was nearly untouchable on the mound, holding the Yankees to two hits, a walk and five strikeouts en route to his first career postseason win.

Morton and Sabathia carried their duel through three solid innings. Morton struck out three batters and allowed just one baserunner. Sabathia worked in and out of jams in the second and third innings, supplying and stranding two runners in scoring position.

Evan Gattis was the first to strike. In the fourth inning, he punched a 2-2 slider from Sabathia into the left field wall, where it registered a projected 405 feet and broke a homer-less streak of 115 at-bats by designated hitters in the 2017 postseason. The home run signaled the beginning of the end for the Yankees’ starter. He induced a groundout from Marwin Gonzalez, then walked Brian McCann on six pitches and allowed Josh Reddick his first base hit of the playoffs. That was enough for Joe Girardi, who pulled Sabathia for righty Tommy Kahnle and an inning-ending double play to close out the fourth.

Even with Sabathia gone, there was still some hope that the middle of the order could bail the Yankees out. Greg Bird led off the fifth with a first pitch double and Aaron Hicks took a four-pitch walk. A wild pitch from Morton allowed Bird to reach third base, but Alex Bregman and Brian McCann weren’t about to let the Yankees spoil their starter’s shutout. Todd Frazier bounced a ball toward third base, where Bregman grabbed and fired it to home plate, catching Bird just as McCann put his glove down.

The bottom of the inning wasn’t any easier for Sabathia’s successors. Jose Altuve went oppo-taco on a 1-1 changeup from Kahnle, postmarking it 364 feet into the right field stands. Kahnle labored through the next four at-bats, handing out a pair of singles to Carlos Correa and Yuli Gurriel before sending Gattis down swinging. The next at-bat was even more troublesome. McCann roped a two-out, two-RBI double to the warning track in right field, clearing the bases and boosting the Astros’ to a cushy 4-0 lead.

The excitement fizzled a little over the next few innings. Brett Gardner muscled a leadoff single off of Lance McCullers, but was later caught at second on a force play to end the sixth. McCullers didn’t let go of the ball again. He was lights-out through the end of the game, scattering a walk and six strikeouts over four innings and clinching the pennant with a 1-2-3 performance in the ninth.

Whatever confidence the Astros had coming off of their three-game sweep in the Division Series was tested and tested again in their pennant run. They battled through three tough losses in Games 3 through 5, staved off elimination with a gem from Justin Verlander in Game 6, and finally emerged victorious tonight. Three days from now, when they enter Dodger Stadium for Game 1 of the World Series, they’ll have the chance to do it all again.