Yankees, Orioles eek out one-run wins to preserve AL East tie

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The Orioles got a walkoff win over the Rays in the bottom of the ninth Wednesday, and the Yankees held on against the Red Sox to keep pace in the AL East.

Baltimore won 3-2 on a Nate McLouth “single” off the right field wall that scored Manny Machado with one out in the ninth, handing Kyle Farnsworth a loss.

Machado, a rookie still supposedly learning the ins and outs of third base after moving over from shortstop upon being promoted, made an outstanding heads-up play to help preserve the tie in the top of the ninth (video). With two outs and pinch-runner Rich Thompson on second, Evan Longoria hit a slow roller down the third-base line, one that was too slow for Machado to make a play on. However, shortstop J.J. Hardy followed the runner from second to third and was in the perfect spot when Machado whirled and fired to third, catching Thompson having rounded the bag.

The Yankees won their game 5-4 a bit later. Curtis Granderson homered twice and Robinson Cano went deep once, accounting for all five Yankees runs. The Red Sox rallied from 5-1 down with two runs in the seventh and then a Jarrod Saltalamacchia solo shot in the ninth. They weren’t far away from making it back-to-back homers off Rafael Soriano in the ninth, but Daniel Nava’s high fly to left was caught by Chris Dickerson at the wall.

New York’s win may have been costly, as Derek Jeter left with a bone bruise in his left ankle after coming down awkwardly on the first-base bag in the eighth. There was also a collision at first an inning later, with Alex Rodriguez running over James Loney after Andrew Miller’s wild throw pulled the first baseman into the baseline. Fortunately, both players were able to stay in, though Loney hurt his left shoulder on the play.

Boston’s Cody Ross was ejected from the game in the eighth for arguing a called third strike on a breaking ball that looked low and outside. Bobby Valentine backed his player and was tossed himself, giving himself a new Red Sox single-season record with six ejections in a season.

With the wins tonight, the Orioles and Yankees are both 80-62. The Rays have fallen three games back of both at 77-65.

J.D. Martinez tells teams he prefers an outfield role

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Free agent outfielder/slugger J.D. Martinez is reportedly seeking an outfield gig, says Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald. According to Silverman’s sources, Martinez’s suitors have been informed that the veteran slugger would give preference to teams that can offer a corner outfield spot, rather than a DH-only role.

That could spell trouble for the Red Sox, who appear to be Martinez’s biggest suitors so far this offseason. Outfielders Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi are firmly established at the corners, and prior reports from club president Dave Dombrowski suggest that center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. is not going anywhere anytime soon (thereby eliminating the possibility of reshuffling the outfield). The DH spot is still wide open for Martinez, who doesn’t seem to be totally closed off to the idea, but any full-time or part-time role on the field is likely off the table at this point.

Of course, the Red Sox aren’t the only ones pursuing Martinez’s services this winter. The 30-year-old slugger has been linked to both the Diamondbacks and Giants in weeks past, and while they have the roster flexibility to accommodate his preferences, they’ll need to clear another massive hurdle: the seven-year, $250 million contract he’s said to be seeking. Both clubs will need to get creative to make such a deal work. The Diamondbacks are rumored to be shopping right-hander Zack Greinke in an attempt to free up some room on their payroll for Martinez, while the Giants appear more inclined to scour the trade market for outfield help than shell out cash for another hefty contract in free agency.