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

Kershaw-Sale anything but a pitcher’s duel

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World Series Game 1 was billed as a battle of aces, the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw against Chris Sale of the Red Sox. Between them, they have 14 All-Star Game nominations. Kershaw has won three Cy Young Awards. Sale could his first Cy Young Award this year. Among his 10 seasons with at least 110 innings pitched, Kershaw has never posted a sub-2.92 ERA. Sale has been at 2.90 or below in each of the last two seasons. The two have combined for over 4,000 career strikeouts and both have averaged better than a strikeout per inning over their careers.

And yet Tuesday’s Game 1 was anything but a pitcher’s duel between Kershaw and Sale. Though a couple of fielding mistakes weren’t of any help to Kershaw in the first inning, Red Sox batters were squaring him up good. Of the five balls put in play in the first inning, three had exit velocities of 100 MPH or higher. Of the 12 total balls put in play against him overall, five reached triple digits in exit velo.

Kershaw gave up a pair of runs in the first, another run in the third on a J.D. Martinez double to straightaway center field, and another two in the fifth. Kershaw led off the fifth by walking Mookie Betts, then giving up a single to Andrew Benintendi, ending his night. Ryan Madson relieved Kershaw and proceeded to allow both inherited runners to score. All told, Kershaw yielded five runs on seven hits and three walks with five strikeouts on 79 pitches in four-plus innings.

Sale, meanwhile, was on the hook for individual runs in the second, third, and fifth. Dodger hitters weren’t squaring him up quite as well as the Red Sox batters squared up Kershaw, but Sale was still more hittable than usual. Of the eight balls put in play against him, four were at least 90 MPH in exit velo. One of the runs was a no-doubt solo home run to Matt Kemp in the second. The Dodgers chased Sale in the fifth when he issued a leadoff walk to Brian Dozier. Matt Barnes relieved him allowed the inherited runner to score. Overall, Sale threw 91 pitches in four-plus innings, serving up three runs on five hits and two walks with seven strikeouts.

The game is now, as has been generally the case throughout this postseason, a battle of the bullpens.