Yankees clinch wild card spot on walk-off win over Orioles

Didi Gregorius
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The Yankees are headed back to the postseason for the second year in a row after clinching another wild card berth. They cemented their place in the playoffs with a decisive 3-2 win over the Orioles on Saturday, courtesy of Aaron Hicks‘ walk-off double in the 11th inning.

Neither Yankees’ righty Lance Lynn nor Orioles’ rookie David Hess made it beyond the fifth inning. Hess gifted the Yankees with an early lead after giving up a pair of home runs to Aaron Hicks and Luke Voit, while Lynn managed to even things out after Cedric Mullins capitalized on a run-scoring error in the third and DJ Stewart tied it up on an RBI single in the fifth.

The AL East rivals remained locked in a bullpen battle for six long innings, allowing just eight total baserunners between them. Everything came to a head in the bottom of the 11th, however, when Didi Gregorius led off with a line drive to right field. Giancarlo Stanton struck out swinging for the first out of the inning, and the Yankees’ bad luck looked as though it was about to snowball after Hicks stepped up to the plate and fouled a ball off of his ankle. After taking a moment to recover, he was able to stand and finish out the at-bat — which ended when he roped the ball into the left field corner, giving Gregorius just enough time to beat the throw home and score the winning run.

The cherry on top? Thanks to the two home runs delivered by Hicks and Voit earlier in the game, the Yankees are now one of six teams to crush at least 250 home runs in a single season. They’ll need at least four more dingers to surpass the 253-homer record set by the 2016 Orioles, and another 15 to beat the all-time record held by the 1997 Mariners.

Royals fire manager Mike Matheny after 65-97 end to season

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Manager Mike Matheny and pitching coach Cal Eldred were fired by the Kansas Cty Royals on Wednesday night, shortly after the struggling franchise finished the season 65-97 with a listless 9-2 loss to the Cleveland Guardians.

The Royals had exercised their option on Matheny’s contract for 2023 during spring training, when the club hoped it was turning the corner from also-ran to contender again. But plagued by poor pitching, struggles from young position players and failed experiments with veterans, the Royals were largely out of playoff contention by the middle of summer.

The disappointing product led owner John Sherman last month to fire longtime front office executive Dayton Moore, the architect of back-to-back American League champions and the 2015 World Series title team. Moore was replaced by one of his longtime understudies, J.J. Picollo, who made the decision to fire Matheny hours after the season ended.

Matheny became the fifth big league manager to be fired this year.

Philadelphia’s Joe Girardi was replaced on June 3 by Rob Thomson, who engineered a miraculous turnaround to get the Phillies into the playoffs as a wild-card team. The Angels replaced Joe Maddon with Phil Nevin four days later, Toronto’s Charlie Montoyo was succeeded by John Schneider on July 13 and the Rangers’ Chris Woodward by Tony Beasley on Aug. 15.

In addition, Miami’s Don Mattingly said late last month that he will not return next season.