The Yankees beat the Rays, clinch a playoff spot

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For the Yankees, it’s 16 playoff appearances in 17 years. For the Rays: missed opportunities. For the Red Sox: some breathing room, at least for a bit.  The Yankees beat the Rays 4-2 in the front end of a double header today.

The game was decided in the eighth when James Shields allowed a homer to Eduardo Nunez to tie it up.  Joe Maddon left Shields in the game and he struck out Eric Chavez before allowing Brett Gardner to single and then reach second on a stolen base. Derek Jeter then walked, bringing up Robinson Cano.

Shields was at 120 pitches at this point.  He was likely gassed, and it was a totally defensible call to bring in a reliever. Whether he brought in the correct one, however, in J.P. Howell is something Rays fans are likely still asking themselves. Howell has been the worst guy in that Rays pen all year. Yes, he’s a left and you want a lefty to face Cano in that situation, but Howell? That’s a major “hurm” moment if I’ve ever seen one. Cano doubled off Howell, scoring Gardner and Jeter. Which was basically the ballgame.

For the Yankees, the playoffs await again. For the Rays, another missed opportunity to put pressure on the Red Sox.  A Red Sox team which, even if it keeps losing games, won’t lose any ground if the Rays do the same.

Oh, and the Yankees did not have the champagne shower after this game. It would have made the nightcap a bit too difficult to get through, I would reckon.

Report: Steven Matz has been pitching through pain, may need elbow surgery

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Newsday’s Marc Carig reports that Mets starter Steven Matz has been pitching through pain for most of the season. He may need surgery to fix a nerve issue in his elbow. Matz was sidelined in spring training with an elbow injury and made his regular season debut on June 10.

Matz, 26, has struggled over 13 starts, posting a 6.08 ERA with a 48/19 K/BB ratio in 66 2/3 innings. Many were scrambling for explanations for his pitching woes and now they have it.

According to Carig, the Mets let Matz skip his bullpen sessions to help him pitch through the pain. Given the Mets’ shoddy history of dealing with injuries, that’s not a good look for the club.

Carig noted on Twitter that Jacob deGrom offers some optimism for Matz’s case. deGrom underwent right elbow surgery to repair ulnar nerve damage last September and bounced back to have a great season this year.

Clayton Kershaw’s simulated game went so well he threw an extra inning

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Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw was scheduled to throw three innings in a simulated game on Monday. That simulated game went so well, he threw an extra inning, MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick reports. Kershaw will make a minor league rehab start next and could be activated towards the end of next week.

Kershaw, 29, has been on the disabled list since July 24 with a lower back strain. That put the pause button on another outstanding season. He’s carrying a 15-2 record with a 2.04 ERA and a 168/24 K/BB ratio in 141 1/3 innings.

The 87-35 Dodgers have run away with the NL West, needing some combination of 20 wins and 20 Rockies losses (19 for the third-place Diamondbacks) to officially clinch the division. While the Dodgers are all but mathematically assured of reaching postseason baseball, the club would still like to get Kershaw as ready as possible over the next month-plus.