Rays fall into tie with Indians for wild card spots, Rangers one back

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The AL wild card battle tightened up Friday, with the Rays losing in Toronto and both the Indians and Rangers gaining a game.

The current standings:

Rays: 90-70 (two in Toronto)
Indians: 90-70 (two in Minnesota)
Rangers: 89-71 (two vs. Angels)

The Rays, who had won seven straight, were undone by some sloppy defense in the third and fourth innings, when they gave up all of their runs in the 6-3 loss to the Blue Jays. Evan Longoria committed two of the team’s three errors. Jeremy Hellickson, who was picked earlier this week to make the start, was charged with thel six runs — three of them earned — in his 4 2/3 innings.

Hellickson fell to 12-10 with a 5.17 ERA for the season, and he’s nearly certain to be left out of the rotation should the Rays advance to the ALDS. David Price, Alex Cobb, Matt Moore and Chris Archer are their top four now.

The Indians jumped out to an early 7-0 lead over the Twins and held on to win 12-6. Pedro Hernandez was brutal once again for the Twins, with his ERA jumping to 6.83. He lasted six innings in just one of his 12 starts this year. The Indians got a surprisingly disappointing performance from Corey Kluber after all of the early support. He ended up allowing six runs in 5 1/3 innings, yet he got the win anyway.

Jason Kipnis and Asdrubal Cabrera both had three hits for the Indians, while Carlos Santana went 2-for-3 with two walks and three runs scored.

The Rangers prevailed in another tight one against the Angels, winning 5-3. With the score tied 3-3 in the seventh, Alex Rios singled in Ian Kinsler. Rios went on to steal second and then came around to score on A.J. Pierzynski’s grounder up the middle after Erick Aybar made a nice play to snare the ball, then pulled Mark Trumbo off the bag with his throw. Rios never stopped running on the play and beat Trumbo’s relay home.

Saturday’s action will see all three contenders playing simultaneously in the afternoon after the Angels-Rangers tilt was moved up due to the expectation of some evening storms. The Rangers will throw Derek Holland in their 11 a.m. local-time start, while the Angels will counter with Garrett Richards. Holland, coming off a shutout of the Astros, is 7-6 with a 5.81 ERA lifetime versus the Halos. He gave up eight runs in a loss in Anaheim three weeks ago.

The Indians get to face another pushover in the form of Cole De Vries. He has an 11.70 ERA in his three starts for Minnesota. The Twins lost those three games by a combined score of 41-11. The Indians will use Scott Kazmir.

The Rays-Jays game will feature a Chris Archer-J.A. Happ matchup. Archer is coming off one of his worst starts of the season, but he’s 1-0 with a 1.29 ERA in two starts against Toronto.

And That Happened: Thursday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Indians 9, Twins 3; Twins 4, Indians 2: Yan Gomes and Jason Kipnis each had three hits and a homer in the first game, helping the Indians win their sixth straight. That streak ended in the second game, however, as Aaron Slegers, making his big league debut, allowed only two runs while pitching into the seventh and Max Kepler hit a go-ahead homer that inning. Eduardo Escobar knocked in two on a 3-for-5 evening.

Diamondbacks 4, Astros 0: Patrick Corbin fell one out short of a shutout, allowing only four hits in eight and two-thirds, and Archie Bradley retired the final batter to make it a team effort. Jake Lamb homered. Daniel Delscalso hit an inside-the-park homer. Lamb called that weirdness and raised by striking out on a wild pitch that allowed David Peralta to scores from third.

Reds 13, Cubs 10: The Reds scored nine runs in the second inning. Normally that’d be enough to ensure a win, but this one was wild, with the Cubs coming back to tie it in the fifth. The Reds kept scoring, however, winning it going away. Lots of crooked numbers in this box score, with Reds outfielder Phillip Ervin driving in four, including the two-run homer which broke the 9-9 ties, and Jose Peraza and Joey Votto each driving in three for Cincinnati. The Cubs hit six homers: Ian Happ had two and Kris Bryant, Alex Avila, Javier Baez and Kyle Schwarber each hitting one. Jon Lester gave up nine runs — seven earned — and left before he could finish two innings. Scott Feldman allowed six in less than four.

Braves 10, Rockies 4Ender Inciarte hit two of Atlanta’s four homers as the Braves bounced back from Wednesday’s rout. Freddie Freeman and Tyler Flowers also homered as Colorado and Atlanta split their four-game set. A scare for the Rockies: Nolan Arenado had a ball smack his hand as he tried to field it at third, forcing him out of the game. X-rays came back negative, however, which is positive.

Blue Jays 5, Rays 3: It was tied 3-3 in the eighth, thanks in part to two solo homers from Josh Donaldson, when Justin Smoak hit a two-run homer. Donaldson is on fire, having hit 11 home runs over his past 19 games, including four times in this series. He’s batting .400 (20 for 50) with 21 RBI in the month of August. There are nine teams in the AL realistically competing for two Wild Card spots, with the Blue Jays — previously written off for dead — among them, three games out of the second spot. September is gonna be nuts.

Cardinals 11, Pirates 7: Dexter Fowler drove in three, two of which coming on a triple, as the Cardinals come back after being down 5-0. Game highlight, though, was Josh Harrison dancing.

Yankees 7, Mets 5Gary Sanchez homered and drove in five runs as the Yankees sweep the Mets in the Subway Series. Which is misnamed, as I figure that few if any of the players involved actually take the subway to the games anymore, what with the subway being an absolute disaster these days.

Rangers 9, White Sox 8: Nomar Mazara homered in drove in five too, hitting a tie-breaking three-run homer in the fifth. The Rangers have won four straight and seven of eight, climbing back to .500. Mazara has 25 RBI in his past 19 games and is on a pace for 111.

Nationals 2, Padres 1: The Nats only had four hits in the game, but one of them was a Ryan Zimmerman homer to break a 1-1 tie in the eighth. Edwin Jackson — who, at this point, we must refer to as “Edwin Jackson of all people” every time he’s mentioned — allowed one run over seven, scattering eight hits.

Giants 5, Phillies 4Jeff Samardzija was solid, winning for the fourth time in his last five starts and Jarrett Parker hit a two-run double in the fifth that led to Denard Span and Hunter Pence scoring within seconds of each other after Pence almost caught up with Span on the base paths:

Don’t look back, somethin’ might be gainin’ on ya.

Kris Bryant on Joey Votto: “He’s the best player ever … He’s a future Hall of Famer, that’s for sure.”

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The Cubs wrapped up a four-game series against the Reds at Wrigley Field on Thursday afternoon, suffering a 13-10 loss to split the set. They’ll match up again against the Reds next week for a three-game series in Cincinnati. That’s good news for Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant, because that means he’ll get to see Reds first baseman Joey Votto some more.

As CSN Chicago’s Patrick Mooney reports, Bryant has grown quite fond of Votto. Bryant has already won a World Series ring, a Rookie of the Year Award, and an MVP Award, but he still looks up to Votto. According to Bryant, Votto is “the best player ever.” He added, ““He’s my favorite player. I love watching him. I love talking to him, just picking his brain. He gets a lot of (heat) about his walks and working at-bats and some people want him to swing at more pitches. But, gosh, I mean, he does an unbelievable job. You know that he’s going to give you a great at-bat every time he goes up there. It’s definitely a guy that I look up to and I can learn from.”

Bryant said that Votto is “a future Hall of Famer, that’s for sure.”

Bryant also explained how his approach changed by watching Votto. He said that in his rookie season, he was “swinging at everything.” Votto, however, is “aggressive, but he’s not going to swing at a pitch until he wants it.”

Indeed, in Bryant’s rookie season, he struck out in nearly 31 percent of his 650 plate appearances. This season, he has struck out in only 19 percent of his PA. His walk rate has also increased by more than 2.5 percent since his rookie campaign. Compared to last year, Bryant is down in HR and RBI, but his average is the same, his on-base percentage is markedly better, and his slugging percentage is only down by a minute amount.