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.

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.

Orioles acquire Alec Asher from the Phillies

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The Phillies announced on Tuesday that the club traded pitcher Alec Asher to the Orioles for a player to be named later.

Asher, 25, was the victim of a roster crunch. He was not going to make the 25-man roster and the starting rotation at Triple-A Lehigh Valley was already full. The Phillies acquired him from the Rangers in the July 2015 Cole Hamels trade.

Asher had good results in 27 2/3 innings in the big leagues last year, posting a 2.28 ERA with a 13/4 K/BB ratio. While it didn’t show in those stats, the right-hander sometimes struggles with command and he doesn’t miss bats often enough to make up for it. The Orioles, however, are happy to add some pitching depth.