Red Sox, Rays both win, head into finale tied atop wild card

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Powered by yet another Jacoby Ellsbury blast and Ryan Lavarnway’s first two career homers, the Red Sox beat the Orioles 8-7 to remain in a tie with the Rays in the AL wild card standings.

The Rays topped the Yankees 5-3 thanks to homers from Ben Zobrist and Matt Joyce.  Joyce’s homer was a three-run shot off former Rays closer Rafael Soriano in the seventh inning.

Both clubs won for the 90th time this season.

The Yankees went with their regular lineup, minus only Derek Jeter, and all of their best relievers in this one, but they couldn’t best Jeremy Hellickson and the Rays relief corps.  They had their big chance in the sixth when Russell Martin, who hit a solo homer earlier, hit into a 5-4-3 triple play with the bases loaded, killing the rally.  That was the end of the night for Hellickson, and the bullpen put up three zeroes from there.

Like the Rays, the Red Sox did all of their damage on homers.  Ellsbury hit the first, a two-run shot off Zach Britton in the third.  Lavarnway followed with a three-run blast off Britton in the fourth.  Marco Scutaro made it 7-3 Boston with a two-run shot of his own in the sixth, and Lavarnway hit his second, a solo shot, in the eighth.

Less encouraging for Boston was Erik Bedard’s shaky outing.  He lasted just 3 1/3 innings and gave up three runs.  Fortunately, the invaluable Alfredo Aceves picked the Red Sox up with 3 2/3 innings of one-run ball.

The eighth and ninth brought more trouble.  Daniel Bard gave up two runs in the former, and Jonathan Papelbon, who seemed less than overpowering in this one after throwing 2 1/3 innings Sunday, allowed a run in the ninth before getting Adam Jones to ground out to end it.

The Red Sox and Rays are now set for a one-game playoff on Thursday if they both post the same result in Wednesday’s finales.  Boston will send Jon Lester to the mound on short rest.  He’ll be opposed by Baltimore’s Alfredo Simon. The Yankees are expected to throw a variety of relievers against the Rays, while Tampa Bay will have David Price on the mound.

Robinson Cano hit his 300th home run last night

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Last night Robinson Cano hit a solo homer in the ninth inning of the Mariners’ loss to the Texas Rangers. It was his 22nd on the season. Though it was insignificant to the outcome of that game, it was significant to Cano: it was his 300th career homer.

While we’ve become accustomed to not caring much about home run milestones south of, say, 500, 300 homers for Cano is a big deal, as he’s only the third second baseman to cross that threshold in baseball history. The other two: Jeff Kent, at 377, and Rogers Hornsby at 301.

Cano, who turns 35 next month, has a career line of .305/.354/.495 and 1,179 RBI, 512 doubles and 33 triples to go with those bombs. He’s in his 13th big league season and still has six more years left on his deal with the Mariners. He’s averaged 24 homers a year since coming to the Mariners. While he’ll obviously trail off at some point — and while great second baseman’s have this weird habit of just suddenly falling off a cliff — it’s highly likely that he’ll finish his career as the all-time home run leader among second baseman. If he remains healthy he should also get over 3,000 hits in his career.

Cooperstown, here he comes.

Reds sign catcher Tucker Barnhart to a four-year deal

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Mark Sheldon of MLB.com reports that the Reds have signed catcher Tucker Barnhart to a four-year contract extension. The terms: $16 million total, with a $7.5 million club option for the 2022 season that has a $500,000 buyout. He also received a $1.75 million signing bonus.

The deal buys out all three of his arbitration years — he was going to be eligible for the first time this offseason — and the first year of his potential free agency. The club option buys a second. Barnhart made $575,000 this season.

Barnhart, 26, is finishing his second season as the Reds primary catcher. This year he’s hitting .272/.349/.399 with six homers and 42 RBI in 113 games. For his career he has a line of .257/.328/.366 in 330 major league games. His real value is defensive, however. He leads the National League in caught stealing percentage and number of base stealers caught (31-for-70, 44%) and leads all players at any position in the league in defensive WAR according to Baseball-Reference.com.