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.

Pitch clock cut minor league games by 25 minutes to 2:38

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NEW YORK — Use of pitch clocks cut the average time of minor league games by 25 minutes this year, a reduction Major League Baseball hopes is replicated when the devices are installed in the big leagues next season.

The average time of minor league games dropped to 2 hours, 38 minutes in the season that ended Wednesday, according to the commissioner’s office. That was down from 3:03 during the 2021 season.

Clocks at Triple-A were set at 14 seconds with no runners on base and 19 with runners. At lower levels, the clocks were at 18 seconds with runners.

Big league nine-inning games are averaging 3:04 this season.

MLB announced on Sept. 9 that clocks will be introduced in the major leagues next year at 15 seconds with no runners and 20 seconds with runners, a decision opposed by the players’ association.

Pitchers are penalized a ball for violating the clock. In the minors, violations decreased from an average of 1.73 per game in the second week to 0.41 in week 24.

There will be a limit of two pickoff attempts or stepoffs per plate appearance, a rule that also was part of the minor league experiment this season. A third pickoff throw that is not successful would result in a balk.

Stolen bases increased to an average of 2.81 per game from 2.23 in the minors this year and the success rate rose to 78% from 68%.

Many offensive measurements were relatively stable: runs per team per game increased to 5.13 from 5.11 and batting average to .249 from .247.

Plate appearances resulting in home runs dropped to 2.7% from 2.8%, strikeouts declined to 24.4% from 25.4% and walks rose to 10.5% from 10.2%. Hit batters remained at 1.6%.