Orioles, Yankees drop one-run games

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A pair of lengthy winning streaks came to an end Sunday, as both the Yankees and Orioles lost one-run games to keep the status quo atop the AL East.

The Orioles saw their six-game streak conclude in losing 2-1 to Boston. Baltimore caught a very bad break in the top of the ninth, when Jim Thome’s hard shot to right skipped over the low right-field wall at Fenway for a ground-rule double, preventing Mark Reynolds from scoring from first and tying the game. The O’s went on to strand the bases loaded against Andrew Bailey.

Today’s game did mark the debut of the game’s top pitching prospect, 19-year-old right-hander Dylan Bundy. Bundy got flyouts from both batters he faced and showed a 92-94 mph fastball in his first appearance since starting for Double-A Bowie on Aug. 28.

The Yankees, who had won seven straight, fell a few minutes later, as the A’s salvaged one game in Yankee Stadium by prevailing 5-4.

The game featured more shaky umpiring, most of it coming from home-plate umpire Mike Estabrook. Complaining about the first of his three strikeouts on the day, Alex Rodriguez could be heard telling Estabrook that the called third strike was “on the ground.” It was a slight exaggeration, but it was definitely low. Later, Nick Swisher was rung up on a pair of curveballs that were clearly outside. Robinson Cano also had something to say about the called strike three that ended the game in the ninth, but that one seemed to have plenty of corner.

Also damaging: Larry Vanover missed on a bang-bang play at first base in the second inning, giving Josh Donaldson a single. Cliff Pennington later hit a two-run homer in the frame.

Oakland’s bullpen deserves much of the credit for the win. Jerry Blevins, Ryan Cook, Sean Doolittle and Grant Balfour combined to pitch 4 2/3 scoreless innings in relief of A.J. Griffin. Hiroki Kuroda took the loss for the Yankees after giving up five runs — four earned — in 5 2/3 innings.

Since both the Orioles and Yankees both ended up winning two out of three this weekend, the Yankees still have their one-game lead in the AL East. The A’s will have either a 2 1/2- or 3 1/2-game lead in the wild card, pending the Angels’ outcome today.

Hideki Matsui thinks Shohei Otani should pitch and hit in MLB

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Yankees’ special advisor and former outfielder Hideki Matsui expects to help the club “convince or recruit” Japanese two-way star Shohei Otani, according to a report from MLB.com’s Deesha Thosar. The Yankees are currently viewed as the favorites to sign Otani, though there still figures to be plenty of competition for his services when he finally becomes eligible to enter Major League Baseball.

Matsui also told Thosar that while he hasn’t seen a player find success as a hybrid pitcher/slugger in the majors, he’s taken notice of Otani’s success in both areas. “He’s done well in Japan, so as a baseball fan I’m looking forward to how he’s going to do here in the Majors and in the U.S.,” Matsui said, later adding, “If [pitching and hitting is] something he wants to do, and the team wants it, then why not?”

Neither the Yankees nor any other suitor should be too concerned with Otani’s ability to translate his .332 batting average and 3.20 ERA to MLB — at least, not just yet. There are still a few roadblocks in his path to the major leagues, most notably the lack of approval from the Players Association. Per FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman, the union doesn’t want to sign off on an agreement that would give the Nippon Ham Fighters a $20 million posting fee in exchange for Otani’s services. According to the posting system rules, Otani himself would be eligible to receive no more than a $4 million signing bonus.

The good news in all of this? The union agreed to reach a final decision by Monday, November 21, so there’s still a chance Major League Baseball will see the talented two-way player bring his unique skillset to the field in 2018.