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

Skaggs Case: Federal Agents have interviewed at least six current or former Angels players

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The Los Angeles Times reports that federal agents have interviewed at least six current and former Angels players as part of their investigation into the death of Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs.

Among the players questioned: Andrew Heaney, Noé Ramirez, Trevor Cahill, and Matt Harvey. An industry source tells NBC Sports that the interviews by federal agents are part of simultaneous investigations into Skaggs’ death by United States Attorneys in both Texas and California.

There has been no suggestion that the players are under criminal scrutiny or are suspected of using opioids. Rather, they are witnesses to the ongoing investigation and their statements have been sought to shed light on drug use by Skaggs and the procurement of illegal drugs by him and others in and around the club.

Skaggs asphyxiated while under the influence of fentanyl, oxycodone, and alcohol in his Texas hotel room on July 1. This past weekend, ESPN reported that Eric Kay, the Los Angeles Angels’ Director of Communications, knew that Skaggs was an Oxycontin addict, is an addict himself, and purchased opioids for Skaggs and used them with him on multiple occasions. Kay has told DEA agents that, apart from Skaggs, at least five other Angels players are opioid users and that other Angels officials knew of Skaggs’ use. The Angels have denied Kay’s allegations.

In some ways this all resembles what happened in Pittsburgh in the 1980s, when multiple players were interviewed and subsequently called as witnesses in prosecutions that came to be known as the Pittsburgh Drug Trials. There, no baseball players were charged with crimes in connection with what was found to be a cocaine epidemic inside Major League clubhouses, but their presence as witnesses caused the prosecutions to be national news for weeks and months on end.