Indians win, Rangers win, Rays lose as AL Wild Card intrigue grows

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The Indians won their ninth consecutive game this afternoon against the Twins, moving into the first of two AL Wild Card slots. They have now won 19 of 24 games since September 3, doing anything and everything necessary to secure themselves the opportunity to advance from the Wild Card play-in game.

Starter Scott Kazmir was solid, striking out 11 over six innings. He allowed just one run on six hits and two walks. The Indians provided more than enough offense, scoring twice on Carlos Santana’s two-run home run in the fourth, and three in the fifth on a two-run triple by Michael Bourn and an RBI single from Yan Gomes. Mark Rzepczynski, Cody Allen, and Joe Smith combined for three shutout innings to wrap up the 5-1 victory, which pushes the Tribe to 91-71.

The Rays, who entered this afternoon’s game tied with the Indians and a game ahead of the Rangers, lost to the Blue Jays 7-2. Archer got into some trouble in the third inning and manager Joe Maddon wasn’t willing to take risks. Archer allowed three consecutive singles to start off the frame, the last of which tied the game at 1-1. After Archer struck out Moises Sierra, Maddon brought in reliever Alex Torres, who exited the inning without any further damage. But the Jays were ready to pile on, scoring twice in the fourth on an Adam Lind two-run single, and four times in the fifth on two two-run home runs by Ryan Goins and Kevin Pillar. Jays starter J.A. Happ was solid, holding the Rays to one run in seven and one-third innings of work. The Rays attempted a rally in the ninth, scoring once, but lost 7-2 to drop a game behind the Indians.

Looking to pick up ground, the Rangers battled it out against Angels starter Garrett Richards. Every batter in the lineup logged a hit as the Rangers staked themselves to a 5-1 lead after two innings thanks to a four-spot in the second on some poorly-executed baseball by the Angels. Rangers starter Derek Holland nearly coughed up the lead in the fifth as the Angels brought it to 5-4, but reliever Joakim Soria came in to put out the fire and get the final out of the inning. The Rangers got two back in the next inning on two RBI singles and from there, the bullpen was able to hold the Angels at bay. The 7-4 victory moves the Rangers into a 90-71 tie with the Rays for the second Wild Card slot.

The standings:

  • AL WC 1: Indians (91-70)
  • AL WC2: Rays (90-71) and Rangers (90-71), 1 GB

It all comes down to tomorrow’s action. If the Indians lose and the Rays and Rangers win, we could have a three-way tie. Tomorrow’s scheduled starting pitching match-ups:

  • Rays (Matt Moore) at Blue Jays (Todd Redmond), 1:07 PM EDT
  • Indians (Ubaldo Jimenez) at Twins (Scott Diamond), 2:10 PM EDT
  • Angels (Jason Vargas) at Rangers (Yu Darvish), 3:05 PM EDT

Bud Norris exits outing with right knee soreness

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Angels’ right-handed reliever Bud Norris made his 23rd appearance of the season on Friday, and after just three pitches, he was done for the night. He worked a 2-1 count to Marlins’ Dee Gordon in the eighth inning, then promptly exited the field after experiencing some tightness in his right knee. Neither Norris nor manager Mike Scioscia believe the injury is cause for major concern, and the 32-year-old right-hander admitted that it may have had something to do with his lack of stretching before he took the mound. For now, he’s day-to-day with right knee soreness, with the hope that the issue doesn’t escalate over the next few days.

While the Angels are lucky to have avoided serious injury, they’ll need Norris to pitch at 100% if they want to stay competitive within the AL West. They currently sit a full nine games behind the league-leading Astros, and haven’t been helping their cause after taking five losses in their last eight games. Friday’s 8-5 finale marked their third consecutive loss of the week.

 

When healthy, Norris has been one of the better arms in the Angels’ bullpen. Through 23 2/3 innings, he’s pitched to a 2.66 ERA, 3.4 BB/9 and an outstanding 11.8 SO/9 in 23 outings. The righty hasn’t allowed a single run in four straight appearances, recording three saves and helping the club clinch four wins in that span. This is his second setback of the year after sustaining a partial fingernail tear on his pitching hand during spring training.

Video: Max Scherzer sets record with 13-strikeout outing

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Max Scherzer is a force to be reckoned with. The Nationals’ right-hander delivered a season-high 13 strikeouts against the Padres on Friday, locking down his fifth win and his fourth double-digit strikeout performance of the year.

More remarkably, it was also the 53rd double-digit strikeout performance of Scherzer’s career, tying Clayton Kershaw for the most 10+ strikeout appearances by an active major league pitcher. Chris Sale is a distant third, with 43 to his name, though he’s been making considerable strides to catch up so far this spring.

Scherzer took the Padres to task on Friday night, whiffing 13 of 31 batters during his 108-pitch outing. He started strong, catching Allen Cordoba swinging on a 1-2 count to start the game and keeping the game scoreless until Ryan Schimpf unleashed a home run in the fourth inning. That was the first and final run the Padres managed off of Scherzer, who retired 14 consecutive batters following the blast and came one out shy of a complete game in the ninth inning. (Fittingly, Koda Glover polished off the win with a final strikeout, bringing the total to 14 on the night.)

It’ll take more than one stellar start to advance Scherzer and Kershaw on the all-time list, however. Their 53-game record ranks 13th, about 159 games behind second-place Hall of Fame hurler Randy Johnson and a full 162 games shy of the inimitable Nolan Ryan.