Rays and Indians both win to maintain their respective leads in the AL Wild Card race

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The Rays defeated the Orioles 3-1 this afternoon behind a strong start from Enny Romero in his Major League debut. The left-hander, who spent most of the season with Double-A Montgomery, shut out the O’s in four and two-thirds innings, allowing just one hit while walking four and failing to record a strikeout. The Rays scored in the first on a David DeJesus solo home run and tacked on two more in the sixth. Fernando Rodney allowed a run in the ninth but was able to record his 36th save of the season.

Meanwhile, the Indians had an easy time against the Astros. After falling behind 2-0 in the fourth, the Indians put up a three-spot against Astros starter Erik Bedard. They added a four more in the sixth, three of which were charged to Bedard, who couldn’t record an out in the inning. Corey Kluber had a strong start, allowing just the two runs in five and one-third innings of work. Seven Indians relievers combined for three and two-thirds shutout innings behind Kluber.

The 86-69 Rays maintain a half-game lead over the Indians for the first AL Wild Card spot. The 86-70 Indians saw their lead over the Rangers grow to 1.5 games as Justin Maxwell hit a walk-off grand slam against Rangers reliever Joakim Soria.

The Rays will wrap up their series with the Orioles tomorrow afternoon before going on the road to finish the season against the Yankees and Blue Jays. The Indians will play the White Sox twice at home, then travel to Minnesota for four games before the end of the season.

Umpire Cory Blaser made two atrocious calls in the top of the 11th inning

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The Astros walked off 3-2 winners in the bottom of the 11th inning of ALCS Game 2 against the Yankees. Carlos Correa struck the winning blow, sending a first-pitch fastball from J.A. Happ over the fence in right field at Minute Maid Park, ending nearly five hours of baseball on Sunday night.

Correa’s heroics were precipitated by two highly questionable calls by home plate umpire Cory Blaser in the top half of the 11th.

Astros reliever Joe Smith walked Edwin Encarnación with two outs, prompting manager A.J. Hinch to bring in Ryan Pressly. Pressly, however, served up a single to left field to Brett Gardner, putting runners on first and second with two outs. Hinch again came out to the mound, this time bringing Josh James to face power-hitting catcher Gary Sánchez.

James and Sánchez had an epic battle. Sánchez fell behind 0-2 on a couple of foul balls, proceeded to foul off five of the next six pitches. On the ninth pitch of the at-bat, Sánchez appeared to swing and miss at an 87 MPH slider in the dirt for strike three and the final out of the inning. However, Blaser ruled that Sánchez tipped the ball, extending the at-bat. Replays showed clearly that Sánchez did not make contact at all with the pitch. James then threw a 99 MPH fastball several inches off the plate outside that Blaser called for strike three. Sánchez, who shouldn’t have seen a 10th pitch, was upset at what appeared to be a make-up call.

The rest, as they say, is history. One pitch later, the Astros evened up the ALCS at one game apiece. Obviously, Blaser’s mistakes in a way cancel each other out, and neither of them caused Happ to throw a poorly located fastball to Correa. It is postseason baseball, however, and umpires are as much under the microscope as the players and managers. Those were two particularly atrocious judgments by Blaser.