Rays and Indians both win to maintain their respective leads in the AL Wild Card race

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The Rays defeated the Orioles 3-1 this afternoon behind a strong start from Enny Romero in his Major League debut. The left-hander, who spent most of the season with Double-A Montgomery, shut out the O’s in four and two-thirds innings, allowing just one hit while walking four and failing to record a strikeout. The Rays scored in the first on a David DeJesus solo home run and tacked on two more in the sixth. Fernando Rodney allowed a run in the ninth but was able to record his 36th save of the season.

Meanwhile, the Indians had an easy time against the Astros. After falling behind 2-0 in the fourth, the Indians put up a three-spot against Astros starter Erik Bedard. They added a four more in the sixth, three of which were charged to Bedard, who couldn’t record an out in the inning. Corey Kluber had a strong start, allowing just the two runs in five and one-third innings of work. Seven Indians relievers combined for three and two-thirds shutout innings behind Kluber.

The 86-69 Rays maintain a half-game lead over the Indians for the first AL Wild Card spot. The 86-70 Indians saw their lead over the Rangers grow to 1.5 games as Justin Maxwell hit a walk-off grand slam against Rangers reliever Joakim Soria.

The Rays will wrap up their series with the Orioles tomorrow afternoon before going on the road to finish the season against the Yankees and Blue Jays. The Indians will play the White Sox twice at home, then travel to Minnesota for four games before the end of the season.

Astros push ALCS to Game 7 with 7-1 stunner against Yankees

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There’s just something about playing in your home ballpark. The Astros decimated the Yankees at Minute Maid Park on Friday, riding seven scoreless innings from Justin Verlander and a pair of big runs from Jose Altuve to win 7-1 and force a Game 7 in the American League Championship Series.

Through the first four innings, however, the teams looked equally matched. Luis Severino no-hit the Astros through 3 2/3 innings, losing his bid on Carlos Correa‘s line drive single in the fourth. The Astros returned in the fifth to do some real damage, drawing two walks and plating the first run of the night with Brian McCann‘s ground-rule double off of the right field wall. Things didn’t get any easier for Severino. Jose Altuve lined a two-RBI base hit into left field, upping Houston’s advantage to three runs.

Verlander, meanwhile, muted the Yankees’ offense with seven innings of five-hit, eight-strikeout ball. While he didn’t come close to matching his complete game effort in Game 2, he was still plenty dominant against a struggling New York lineup. No player reached past first base until the sixth inning, when a pair of base hits from Chase Headley and Didi Gregorius gave the Yankees their first runner in scoring position. That didn’t last long, though, as Gary Sanchez grounded out on a 3-0 slider to end the inning.

In the seventh, Houston’s ace got into another spot of trouble. He walked Greg Bird on six pitches to start the inning, then plunked Starlin Castro on the wrist. Aaron Hicks struck out, in part thanks to a questionable call by home plate umpire Jim Reynolds, but it was Todd Frazier who presented the biggest threat after returning an 0-1 fastball for a 403-foot fly out to left field. Luckily for Verlander, George Springer was there to bail him out with a leaping catch at the wall.

The Yankees kept things exciting in the eighth, too. Aaron Judge ripped his third postseason home run off of Brad Peacock, taking a 425-footer out to the train in left field to spoil the Astros’ shutout. That was the only real break the Yankees got, however, as Altuve, Alex Bregman and Evan Gattis returned in the bottom of the inning to tack on another four runs, including Altuve’s solo shot off of David Robertson:

Ken Giles handled the ninth, expending 23 pitches and giving up a base hit and a walk before retiring Frazier and Headley to end the game. Thanks to Houston’s winning efforts, the two teams will compete in their first seven-game Championship Series since 2004 — and this time, at least one of them is guaranteed to come away with a win.

Game 7 of the ALCS is set for Saturday at 8:00 PM ET. Houston right-hander Charlie Morton (14-7, 3.62 ERA) is scheduled to face southpaw CC Sabathia (14-5, 3.69 ERA).