Orioles blank Rays, but Yankees come back against Red Sox to maintain lead in AL East

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Rays righty James Shields racked up a franchise-high 15 strikeouts in a complete-game effort Tuesday night at Tropicana Field, but the Orioles were able to squeeze out a 1-0 victory thanks to a fourth-inning Chris Davis home run. It was one of only two hits that the Baltimore offense was able to muster in the game, but it provided all the scoring they would need.

The O’s Miguel Gonzalez was ace-like in his own right, punching out seven batters in 6 1/3 scoreless frames. And Jim Johnson closed it out with an easy ninth inning to earn his league-leading 51st save.

In New York, the Yankees trailed the Red Sox 3-1 entering the bottom of the ninth inning. But pinch-hitter Raul Ibanez hit a two-run homer to tie things up and then drove in Francisco Cervelli in the bottom of the 12th as the Bombers survived a minor scare and maintained their one-game lead in the AL East.

The race comes down to Wednesday. Game 162. In this wacky baseball season, it only seems right.

The Mets expect Tim Tebow to come back next year

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Mets assistant general manager John Ricco told Newsday today that he expects minor league outfielder Tim Tebow to return for a third season in professional baseball.

Tebow, 31, broke the hamate bone in his right hand while swinging a bat in late July, ending his season. It was a fairly successful season for him all things considered. After being promoted to Double-A Binghamton to start the year he hit .273/.336/.399 with six home runs, a stolen base and a .734 OPS in 298 plate appearances and made the Double-A All-Star team. That’s not the stuff of a top prospect — he strikes out far too much and the power numbers aren’t fantastic given that power would figure to be his strongest tool — but it’s pretty respectable for a guy his age and with his relative lack of baseball experience. As I said back in July, you can believe the Mets’ interest in Tebow is more marketing than baseball, but that does not preclude you from giving the guy a deserved tip of the cap for working hard and sticking it out in the bush leagues.

Assuming he does come back, the Mets are likely to start him at Triple-A Syracuse in the hopes that he’d eventually get to the bigs as a late season callup if the Mets aren’t in contention. Indeed, many believed that was the plan for him this year had he not been injured.