Indians, Rangers survive: wild card standings stay unchanged

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After the Rays made a sweep in Yankee Stadium look as easy as can be, the Indians and Rangers injected some drama into the AL wild card race before eking out one-run victories.

The Indians seemed to have things well in hand against the Twins after scoring three runs in fourth and taking a 6-1 lead into the ninth. That’s when struggling closer Chris Perez intervened. Perez, fresh off his vote of confidence from Terry Francona, gave up four runs while getting two outs in the ninth before being replaced. A Josmil Pinto two-run homer was the final blow. That brought in Joe Smith, who allowed a single and a walk before striking out Oswaldo Arcia for his third save.

Perez has now given up six runs and three homers in two appearances and 10 runs in 9 1/3 innings for the month of September. It’s hard to imagine that Francona will give him any additional save chances this weekend, which will force him to rely even more on Smith and Cody Allen.

The Rangers were never so in control as the Indians. They scored three runs in the bottom of the first against the Angels, but fell behind 4-3 in the top of the second. Matt Garza was able to rebound from there, and the game was tied 5-5 entering the bottom of the ninth, when Jurickson Profar, taking his first at-bat of the night, hit a walkoff homer off Michael Kohn.

To his credit, Ron Washington actually used Joe Nathan in a tie game in this one after keeping him in reserve in a tie game in Kansas City last weekend. Nathan got the win for his scoreless top of the ninth. Garza allowed 11 hits in all while working 5 1/3 innings, but just one of the four runs he allowed was earned. Mitch Moreland, Ian Kinsler and Adrian Beltre all committed errors in the three-run second inning.

The current wild card standings:

Rays: 90-69 (3 at Blue Jays)
Indians: 89-70 (3 at Twins)
Rangers: 88-71 (3 vs. Angels)

The Rays beat the Yankees 4-0 on Thursday and outscored the Bombers 17-3 in their three-game sweep. They’ll start Jeremy Hellickson against R.A. Dickey as they look to maintain their lead Friday. Considering that the Blue Jays had Munenori Kawasaki DHing, Ryan Langerhans playing first base and Moises Sierra batting cleanup in Thursday’s loss to the Orioles, they don’t seem poised to present that much of a challenge.

The Indians will throw Corey Kluber against Pedro Hernandez in Minnesota. Hernandez has a 6.05 ERA, and has given the Twins one quality start (against Houston) in 12 tries this year. The Rangers will pitch Alexi Ogando against 17-game winner C.J. Wilson. Working in the Rangers’ favor: Wilson is just 1-2 with a 7.92 ERA in seven starts against his old team since signing with the Angels prior to last season.

Watch: Mike Trout ties MLB record with his 25th home run

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It was only a matter of time before Mike Trout courted another all-time record, and on Saturday, he found himself in elite company with his 25th and 26th home runs of the season. He put the Angels on the board with a 429-foot blast in the first inning, depositing an 0-1 fastball from the Orioles’ Kevin Gausman into the left field bleachers:

In the third inning, with the Angels up 2-1, Trout returned to tack on another insurance run. He targeted Gausman’s slider for his second solo shot of the evening and cleared the center field fence with a 418-footer to bring his total to 26 home runs on the year.

Trout has mashed at a staggering .339/.471/.596 clip since his return from the disabled list last month, and Saturday’s totals helped mark his sixth consecutive season with at least 25 home runs. That’s a record few have matched before their age-26 season; in fact, only Hall of Fame sluggers Eddie Mathews and Frank Robinson have ever pulled it off.

Assuming he continues to rake in hits and plate appearances over the last six weeks of the regular season — and there’s nothing to indicate that he won’t — Trout is in line to join elite company of a different kind. The 26-year-old entered Saturday’s game with a 206 OPS+ (park-adjusted on-base plus slugging). According to MLB.com’s Matt Kelly, that means Trout’s hitting at a better clip than the average Major League player by a full 106 percent. Should he finish the year with a 200 OPS+ and 502 plate appearances or better, he’ll be the first player to do so since Barry Bonds obliterated the competition with his 263 OPS+ in 2004.

Blue Jays acquire Tom Koehler from Marlins

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The Blue Jays acquired right-hander Tom Koehler from the Marlins in exchange for minor league right-hander Osman Gutierrez and cash considerations, the clubs announced Saturday. Koehler is in his sixth year with the Marlins and stands to make $5.75 million in 2017. He’ll be arbitration eligible in 2018 and is set to enter free agency by 2019.

The 31-year-old right-hander struggled to a 7.92 ERA, 4.7 BB/9 and 7.1 SO/9 over 55 2/3 innings with Miami in 2017. He was optioned to Triple-A New Orleans in late July, where he rebounded with a 1-1 record in seven starts and whittled his ERA down to a 1.67 mark. The Blue Jays have yet to establish Koehler’s role within their organization, but are hoping to see a turnaround from the righty when he breaks back into the big leagues.

Gutierrez, 22, was assigned to Single-A Greensboro on Saturday. He has yet to find his footing in the minors, and exited a 78-inning stint with Single-A Lansing after racking up a career-worst 7.85 ERA and 8.2 SO/9. His lack of control is particularly alarming, with a 6.2 BB/9 that dwarfs the 2.0+ BB/9 of seasons past, but he still has plenty of time to figure out his mechanics before reaching the Show.