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.

Battle of the Aces: Max Scherzer takes on Clayton Kershaw tonight

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I hope you don’t have any plans tonight at around 10PM Eastern time, because that’s when we get a pitching matchup for the ages as Max Scherzer will take on Clayton Kershaw at Dodger Stadium. When they meet tonight it will be the first time two pitchers with three or more Cy Young Awards have matched up since 2006. That year, and in 2005 and 2000, Roger Clemens faced Greg Maddux. In 2001 Clemens faced Pedro Martinez.

Kershaw won his hardware in 2011, 2013 and 2014, with an MVP award in 2014 to boot. Scherzer collected trophies in 2013, 2016 and 2017. Each has started the 2018 season in Cy Young form. Kershaw is 1-2, but that record is due to poor run support. He has a 1.73 ERA and has struck out 31 batters and has walked only three in 26 innings. Scherzer is 3-1 with a 1.33 ERA and a whopping 38 strikeouts to only 4 walks in 27 innings.

This will be the third time that Kershaw and Scherzer faced each other if you include the playoffs. The first meeting was a decade ago when both were rookies. They most recently faced off in Game 1 of the 2016 NLDS, way back when Scherzer only had one Cy Young Award to his credit. Kershaw beat Scherzer in that playoff game and the Dodgers beat Scherzer’s teams in the two regular season matchups, with neither guy setting the world on fire. As so often happens in baseball, the hype hasn’t been matched by reality.

Still, there’s always a chance it will. And even if, in the end, this turns into a slugfest, the first couple of innings should at least give us some hope of something good. I’ll be watching.