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.

Justin Turner is a postseason monster

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A not-insignificant amount of the Dodgers’ success in recent years has to do with the emergence of Justin Turner. In his first five seasons with the Orioles and Mets, he was a forgettable infielder who had versatility, but no power. The Mets non-tendered him after the 2013 season, a move they now really regret.

In four regular seasons since, as a Dodger, Turner has hit an aggregate .303/.378/.502. His 162-game averages over those four seasons: 23 home runs, 36 doubles, 83 RBI, 80 runs scored. And he’s also a pretty good third baseman, it turns out. The Dodgers have averaged 95 wins per season over the past four years.

Turner, 32, has gotten better and better with each passing year. This year, he drew more walks (59) than strikeouts (56), a club only five other players (min. 300 PA) belonged to, and he trailed only Joey Votto (1.61) in BB/K ratio (1.05). He zoomed past his previous career-high in OPS, finishing at .945. His .415 on-base percentage was fourth-best in baseball. His batting average was fifth-best and only nine points behind NL batting champion Charlie Blackmon.

It doesn’t seem possible, but Turner has been even better in the postseason. He exemplified that with his walk-off home run to win Game 2 of the NLCS against the Cubs. Overall, entering Wednesday night’s action, he was batting .363/.474/.613 in 97 postseason plate appearances. In Game 4, he went 2-for-2 with two walks, a single, and a solo home run. That increases his postseason slash line to .378/.495/.659, now across 101 plate appearances. That’s a 1.154 OPS. The career-high regular season OPS for future first-ballot Hall of Famer Albert Pujols was 1.114 in 2008, when he won his third career MVP Award. Statistically, in the postseason, Turner hits slightly better than Pujols did in the prime of his career. Of course, we should adjust for leagues and parks and all that, but to even be in that neighborhood is incredible.

In the age of stats, the concept of “clutch” has rightfully eroded. We don’t really allow players to ascend to godlike levels anymore like the way we did Derek Jeter, for instance. (Jeter’s career OPS in the playoffs, by the way, was a comparatively pitiful .838.) Turner isn’t clutch; he’s just a damn good hitter whose careful approach at the plate has allowed him to shine in the postseason and the Dodgers can’t imagine life without him.