Ellsbury of the Red Sox falls to the ground after slamming into the fence on a ball hit by Andino of the Orioles in Baltimore

AL Wild Card all tied up after Red Sox lose, Rays win

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Let chaos reign.

The Rays beat the Yankees 5-2 tonight while the Red Sox fell to the Orioles 6-3. And so, after 160 games, we have a flat-footed tie in the American League Wild Card race.

The Red Sox had their best starter on the mound tonight in the form of Josh Beckett, but he was chased after allowing six runs over six innings. He actually had a 2-1 lead until giving up an RBI single to Chris Davis in the bottom of the fifth and then four in the sixth, including a three-run inside-the-park home run by Robert Andino. Jacoby Ellsbury nearly made a fantastic catch on the fly ball, but lost the handle after running into the center field wall. Symbolic much?

The Red Sox managed to load the bases with one out in the of the top of the eighth inning, but they came up empty-handed after Jarrod Saltalamacchia struck out swinging and Marco Scutaro grounded out. They had a chance to tie the game in the top of the ninth inning, but Orioles’ right-hander Jim Johnson was able to get Adrian Gonzalez to fly out to left field and Jed Lowrie to strike out to end it.

Meanwhile, in Tampa, James Shields came up big yet again. He limited the Yankees to two runs over 8 2/3 innings in the victory, falling one out short of his 12th complete game. Johnny Damon drove in the go-ahead run with a single in a three-run third inning and later added a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the seventh for some insurance.

The Red Sox are now 6-19 in September. They entered play on September 4 with a nine-game lead in the Wild Card race, but we’re all back at zero now.

The Red Sox will send Erik Bedard to the hill tomorrow night against Zach Britton and Jon Lester (on three days’ rest) against Alfredo Simon in the season finale. As for the Rays, they’ll pitch Jeremy Hellickson tomorrow night against Bartolo Colon and David Price on Wednesday in what will likely be a bullpen game for the Bombers. This probably goes without saying, but I’d rather be the Rays right now.

Mets owners get some breathing room on their Bernie Madoff settlement payments

New York Mets owner Fred Wilpon stands on the field before baseball's Game 3 of the National League Division Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Monday, Oct. 12, 2015, in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
Associated Press
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For years the central fact of life of the New York Mets has been that their owners, the Wilpon family and Saul Katz, lost a ton of money after investing it with friend and business partner Bernard Madoff, perpetrator of the biggest Ponzi scheme in history. It has hampered their payroll and led to huge amounts of borrowing and restructuring that, before last year’s pennant run, seemed like it’d be a millstone on the Mets competitive prospects for years to come.

In addition to losing money, it was later determined that Katz and the Wilpons unfairly gained in some other respects and thus they ended up having their phony earnings clawed back via a settlement with the trustee managing the fallout of the Madoff scandal.  The upshot: the Wilpons and Katz, in addition to their losses, were ordered to pay nearly $60 million dollars back, half payable this week, half payable next year. That’s a lot of money for anyone to fork over and this week’s payment loomed large.

Now, however, Adam Rubin of ESPN New York reports that the Wilpons and Katz will get some breathing room. Specifically, they have modified their agreement with the trustee and some of the owed money has been deferred. Instead of some $29 million payable this week, they will only have to pay $16 million. The remainder will be paid in four installments — from 2017 through 2020 — with an interest rate of 3.5 percent on the unpaid balance, Rubin says.

Now, there obviously was no promise that the $13 million saved this week be invested in the baseball team, but it’s probably a good thing overall for the Mets if their owners’ debt payments are reduced a bit.

Mike Napoli hit a homer for a fan with cancer

CLEVELAND, OH -  MAY 30: Mike Napoli #26 of the Cleveland Indians rounds the bases after hitting a solo home run during the sixth inning against the Texas Rangers at Progressive Field on May 30, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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Last night a fan named Kathi Heintzelman showed up at Progressive Field in Cleveland with a sign asking Indians first baseman Mike Napoli to hit a home run for her and to give her a hug. But there was a reason beyond her love for Mike Napoli. She’s starting chemotherapy today and the hug and homer would be a nice thing.  Hard to disagree with that, even if everyone knows that ballplayers can’t hit homers on demand.

Well, most players can’t. Mike Napoli did the easy part before the game, giving her a hug. Then in the sixth inning, he went yard:

 

Whether you believe that such things can be fated or if you merely acknowledge that Heintzelman asked Napoli for a homer at a good time — he’s on a hot streak right now and has hit bombs in four of his last 11 games — it’s a great story.

 

The Twins recall Byron Buxton

Byron Buxton
Getty Images
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Byron Buxton has been recalled from Triple-A Rochester by the Twins.

Buxton will replace Danny Santana, who was placed on the disabled list following a hamstring injury. But the bigger picture here is that Buxton will get a fresh go-around to show that he is the future of the Twins like so many assume he will be. The 22-year-old hasn’t hit so far in the majors, but he batted .336/.403/.603 with six homers, four steals, and a 26/11 K/BB ratio over 129 plate appearances after his demotion to Triple-A last month.

At this point the Twins, who stink on ice, need to just put their top young player in the game and let him learn to swim at the big league level rather than try to squeak out a few extra relatively meaningless wins with guys who won’t be part of the next contending Twins team.

92-year-old World War II vet throws a nifty ceremonial first pitch

Screen Shot 2016-05-31 at 9.04.09 AM
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Think of how many bad ceremonial first pitches you’ve seen. From the worm burners from local business owners and pillars of the community at minor league games to ex-big leaguers who obviously haven’t picked up a ball since they retired to the famous celebrity ones that go viral the next day, there are probably a lot more bad first pitches out there than good ones.

But when the good ones come, they’re really enjoyable. And few are more enjoyable than the one which preceded yesterday’s Padres-Mariners game in Seattle. The pitcher: Burke Waldron, a 92-year-old veteran of World War II. He did it in his dress whites. He ran out onto the field beforehand. And though his catcher didn’t set up the full 60 feet, six inches away from where Waldron threw it, it was still a spiffy pitch. Way better than most: