Red Sox fall, Rays climb to within a half-game

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The Red Sox dropped yet another game in the first of two against the Yankees on Sunday, falling 6-2 despite a pair of homers from Jacoby Ellsbury.  Meanwhile, the Rays beat the Blue Jays 5-2 and are now just a half-game out in the wild card chase.

If the Red Sox falter again tonight, they’ll enter the final three games of the series tied with Tampa Bay.

The Red Sox fell behind early yet again, as their opponents scored first for the ninth time in 10 games.  The Yankees took a 2-0 lead in the first after both Brett Gardner and Derek Jeter dropped down bunt singles to start a rally.  The Bombers added a two-run homer from Jorge Posada in the third, and in spite of Ellsbury’s best efforts, the Red Sox never threatened from there, as A.J. Burnett pitched into the eighth inning for the first time since July 29 and won for just the third time in the second half.

The Rays’ game played out similarly, as Tampa Bay scored two in the first and two in the third to take an early 4-1 lead.  Wade Davis allowed just three hits over eight innings for his victory.  B.J. Upton, Ben Zobrist, Evan Longoria and Kelly Shoppach all homered for the Rays.  Zobrist’s was an inside-the-park homer on which Jose Bautista was injured crashing into the wall in right field.

Tampa Bay will finish off the regular season with a three-game series at home against the Yankees.  The Red Sox will play Baltimore three times after finishing the series in New York tonight.

Watch: Ryan Goins tags Todd Frazier with the hidden ball trick

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The Yankees are facing a convoluted path to the postseason, and they didn’t do themselves any favors after Todd Frazier fell for Ryan Goins‘ hidden ball trick in the third inning of Friday’s series opener. With one out and Frazier on second base, Jacoby Ellsbury skied a deep fly ball to right field, where it was caught by Jose Bautista just shy of the warning track and tossed back to Goins at second. Goins faked the throw to Marco Estrada, then sneakily (or not so sneakily, depending on your vantage point) gloved the ball and caught Frazier off the bag for the third out.

Of course, it helped that Frazier’s back was turned during the throw, so Goins’ fake-out may not have been as obvious as it was when the Yankees reviewed the tape several minutes later.

Goins earned another spot on the highlight reel in the sixth inning, mashing his second grand slam of the season while Frazier — and the rest of the Yankees’ offense, sans one home-run-record-slaying Aaron Judge — scrambled to catch up. The Yankees currently trail the Blue Jays 8-1 in the bottom of the eighth inning, and will need to pull off a comeback (and hope the Astros and Athletics clinch their respective games) before they can lay claim to a playoff spot.

Blue Jays shut down Steve Pearce for the rest of 2017

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The Blue Jays have shut down left fielder Steve Pearce for the remainder of the season following a lingering case of lower back stiffness. Pearce has not appeared in a game since September 8, when he was forced to exit in the first inning after experiencing back pain during his at-bat. Per Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca, he’s scheduled to return to Florida next week, where he’ll receive epidural injections to address the pain.

Pearce, 34, impressed in his first season with Toronto. He battled through a calf injury during the first half of the season and finished the year with a modest .252/.319/.438 batting line, 13 home runs and a .757 OPS through 348 PA. By September, the Blue Jays started testing the waters with outfield prospect Teoscar Hernandez, who shouldered the bulk of the starts in left field after Pearce was sidelined with back issues.

With the Blue Jays all but eliminated from playoff contention, however, there’s no rush to get Pearce back to the outfield. He should be in fine shape to compete for another starting role in spring, and could face stiff competition from Hernandez if the rookie continues building on his .278 average and three home runs this month. The veteran outfielder is slated to receive the remaining $6.25 million on his contract in 2018 and will be eligible for free agency in 2019.