The Rangers and Rays entered today’s action — the final day of regular season action — tied for the second AL Wild Card spot and remained so at the end of the day. While the Indians secured themselves top billing in the AL Wild Card play-in game, the Rangers and Rays will have to play a 163rd game against each other to decide who gets the privilege of matching up against the Tribe in the Wild Card play-in game on Wednesday.
The Rays scored six times in the first inning against the Blue Jays in what looked like an easy victory, but the Jays stormed back late to make things interesting. Trailing 7-0 in the bottom of the sixth, the Jays scored three times against Rays starter Matt Moore. They added on in the seventh against Jake McGee and two in the eighth against Joel Peralta and closer Fernando Rodney to bring the game to 7-6. Rodney, however, was able to record the four-out save to keep the Rays’ post-season hopes alive.
Meanwhile, the Rangers wrapped up a four-game sweep of the Angels, winning their seventh consecutive game to force that Game 163. Starter Yu Darvish was solid, allowing only a home run to Mike Trout in five and two-thirds innings of work. With two outs in the sixth, lefty Neal Cotts entered the game and allowed an inherited runner to score, charged to Darvish, to tie the game at 2-2. In the bottom half of the inning, Geovany Soto hit an RBI double to put the Rangers up 3-2, a lead they wouldn’t relinquish. They would score again in the seventh and twice in the eighth to go up 6-2. Joe Nathan pitched a comfortable ninth to keep the Rangers one win away from the post-season.
Tomorrow, at 8:07 PM Eastern, the Rangers will host the Rays. Lefty Martin Perez will oppose Rays lefty David Price. The winner will face Indians starter Danny Salazar on Wednesday in the AL Wild Card game. The winner of the AL Wild Card game will play the AL East-leading Red Sox on Friday.
The Athletics and Royals swapped outfielders on Saturday. The Athletics sent Billy Burns to Kansas City and the Royals sent Brett Eibner to Oakland.
Burns, 26, doesn’t provide much in the way of offense, but he runs the bases well and plays solid defense. He was hitting .234/.270/.303 with 11 doubles, four triples, and 14 stolen bases in 274 plate appearances.
Eibner, 27, was batting .231/.286/.423 with three home runs and 10 RBI in 85 plate appearances. He has spent most of the season with Triple-A Omaha, where he’s put up a .902 OPS in 219 PA. Eibner played the outfield corners in the majors, but racked up a ton of time playing center in the minors, so his versatility will be valuable to the A’s.
Burns will become eligible for arbitration for the first time after the 2017 season while Eibner has hardly accrued any service time, which might explain part of the motivation behind the trade for the small-market Athletics.
The Nationals announced on Saturday afternoon that the club acquired closer Mark Melancon from the Pirates in exchange for reliever Felipe Rivero and minor league pitcher Taylor Hearn.
Melancon, 31, put together another solid season for the Pirates, leaving the club with 30 saves, a 1.51 ERA, and a 38/9 K/BB ratio in 41 2/3 innings. He led the majors last season with 51 saves and has a 1.80 ERA since joining the Pirates in 2013. Melancon is earning $9.65 million this season and can become eligible for free agency after the season.
With Melancon out of the picture, the Pirates intend to have Tony Watson take over the closer’s role.
Rivero, 25, has handled the seventh and eighth innings for the Nationals this season, compiling a 4.53 ERA and a 53/15 K/BB ratio in 49 2/3 innings. He’s just shy of one year of service time, so the Pirates will have control of him for a long time.
Hearn, 21, was rated the Nationals’ 27th-best prospect by MLB Pipeline. He was originally drafted by the Pirates in the 22nd round of the 2012 draft but he didn’t sign and ended up going back to college. The Nationals took him in the fifth round of last year’s draft. This season, between rookie ball and Single-A Hagerstown, Hearn put up a 2.79 ERA and a 39/13 K/BB ratio in 29 innings. He’s a long way away from the majors, so he’s essentially a lottery ticket for the Pirates.
The Nationals needed an upgrade at closer as Jonathan Papelbon has struggled this season. The right-hander has allowed runs in each of his last three appearances, ballooning his ERA up to 4.41 with a 30/13 K/BB ratio in 32 2/3 innings. It will be interesting to see how Papelbon, who has never made a habit of letting his feelings go unspoken, handles a demotion to the eighth inning.