There’s no playoff race quite as tight as the one in the American League East right now. The Orioles and Blue Jays are two games back of the division lead, with a three-game gap between their wild card spots and second-tier contenders like the Mariners and Tigers. The Yankees, while not completely out of the playoff hunt, sit six games back after dropping Game 2 of a four-game set against the Red Sox on Friday night.
The Red Sox had no problem defending their spot atop the division, utilizing a pair of blasts from Hanley Ramirez and Jackie Bradley Jr. and a smattering of smaller contributions in their 7-4 win. Clay Buchholz took the mound for the Sox, allowing two runs and two walks and striking out two batters over a six-inning spread.
Elsewhere in the division, the Orioles mounted a two-run comeback in the eighth inning to preserve their spot in second place. They clinched the game in the ninth when Tampa Bay outfielder Mikie Mahtook made a gutsy sprint from first base and was tagged out at the plate on Manny Machado‘s perfect throw from the left field corner. Naturally, the Rays challenged the call, but home plate umpire Adrian Johnson upheld the initial ruling and sent the Orioles home with their 81st win of the year.
In Anaheim, where the Angels are currently riding a five-game losing streak, the Blue Jays fought for their place behind the Red Sox with a strong outing from knuckleballer R.A. Dickey and a pair of home runs by Troy Tulowitzki and Edwin Encarnacion. Encarnacion, who lifted his 40th home run of the season on a 440-ft. moonshot in the ninth inning, joined Jose Bautista and Carlos Delgado as one of just three Blue Jays to hit 40+ homers in multiple seasons.
Things aren’t about to get easier for the AL East rivals, who will play almost exclusively within the division over the last weeks of the season. The Orioles will get the only reprieve from division match-ups when they host the Diamondbacks next weekend to cap their final homestand of the year.
Here are the rest of the scores for Friday’s games. Keep an eye out for Albert Pujols‘ 600th career double, Bartolo Colon‘s smooth double play, and Ryan Braun‘s 450-foot, 106 m.p.h. home run.
Cubs 5, Brewers 4 (10 innings)
Phillies 4, Marlins 3 (13 innings)
Orioles 5, Rays 4
Indians 11, Tigers 4
Mets 3, Twins 0
Red Sox 7, Yankees 4
Pirates 9, Reds 7
Nationals 7, Braves 2
Rangers 7, Athletics 6
White Sox 7, Royals 4
Rockies 8, Padres 7
Dodgers 3, Diamondbacks 2
Blue Jays 5, Angels 0
Astros 6, Mariners 0
Giants 8, Cardinals 2