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

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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.

Report: Some MLB teams using outside labs for COVID-19 testing

MLB COVID-19 testing
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The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal and Zach Buchanan report that the Diamondbacks are one of several teams that have used labs other than the Sports Medicine Research and Testing Laboratory in Utah to process COVID-19 testing. MLB has encountered delays with its testing, despite promising 24-hour turnaround time, so teams have tried other avenues — with the league’s endorsement — in order to get faster results.

The SMRTL had processed performance-enhancing drug screenings for MLB. The league converted it to process COVID-19 tests amid concerns that having a season and all of the testing that would be required throughout would take away testing resources from the general public. That some teams are utilizing labs other than the SMRTL suggests the league, indeed, is usurping those resources.

In prospect Seth Beer’s case, he tested positive for COVID-19. He needed to test negative twice consecutively to be cleared to return to play. Beer went to a third-party site in the Phoenix area. He received his second negative test and was cleared to return on July 9.

The Diamondbacks said that the labs they have used have assured them that they are not taking away tests from the public. That seems like a claim MLB and the D-Backs should demonstrably prove. Per Rosenthal and Buchahan, the D-Backs have gone to an outside lab about 20 times, which accounts for less than one percent of COVID-19 tests taken by players and staff. Still, those are 20 tests that could have been used by the general public. And if the D-Backs and a handful of other teams already are using outside labs, then the rest of the league likely already is or soon will be doing the same. In the end, there will be a lot more than 20 tests taken at outside labs by MLB players and staff. Considering that “Tier 1” players will be tested every other day throughout the season, the total of third-party tests taken — if things continue the way they are now — could easily reach into the thousands by the end of October.

We all want baseball back, but the players, coaches, and all other staff are no more important than cashiers, teachers, and delivery drivers, so they shouldn’t have more access to COVID-19 testing simply by virtue of being associated with Major League Baseball and all of its influence and financial muscle. It would be unethical for MLB to be cutting in line ahead of other people who need testing just as much as if not more than the players.