Time is running out for the pursuers in the AL Wild Card race. But it’s geting awfully tight now and we could have quite a finish.
Game 1: Orioles 4, Blue Jays 1
Game 2: Blue Jays 9, Orioles 5
The Orioles played a doubleheader versus the last-place Blue Jays on Monday with a chance to start pulling away in the Wild Card standings and start making a move in the AL East. They failed to do that, winning the first game, but losing the second.
In Game 1, Steve Johnson gave the Orioles 5 shutout innings, allowing just 3 hits and 3 walks while striking out 6, and the star of the game was the player who has been the star of the Orioles’ season, Adam Jones. Jones went 4 for 4 with his 32nd homer, his 15th stolen base, 2 RBI, and a 2 runs scored, playing a part in 3 of the Orioles 4 runs as his incredible season continues. It was actually just Jones’ second 4-hit game of the season, with the other coming on June 12th, and the 9th of his career. Ryan Flaherty also homered for Baltimore, his 5th of the season, against Blue Jays starter Henderson Alvarez. Game 1 was a breeze for the Orioles and they felt good about themselves going into Game 2.
The Orioles’ offense actually did better in Game 2 than Game 1, but the team’s weakness, starting pitching, was exploited, and their middle relief failed to do the job as the Blue Jays scored 9 runs on their way to victory. Ricky Romero started for the Blue Jays, which has been a losing formula as he had lost his last 13 decisions, but the Jays lessened the blow by scoring 2 runs each in the first and second innings against Orioles starter Wei-Yin Chen, including a 2-run homer by Edwin Encarnacion, his 41st of the season, in the first inning. Robert Andino had a 2-run single off of Romero as the Orioles closed within 4-2 in the bottom of the 2nd. After both pitchers recovered to toss scoreless ball in the 3rd and 4th, Nate McLouth brought the Orioles with 4-3 with a solo home run in the 5th. But the Blue Jays came back with a solo shot of their own, a Moises Sierra solo shot before knocking out Chen after 5+ innings. However, the Orioles knocked out Romero with the bases loaded and nobody out in the bottom of the 6th and eventually got a J.J. Hardy RBI single to make it 5-4 Toronto. Both Romero and Chen lasted 5+ innings, with Romero allowing 4 runs on 8 while Chen allowed 5 runs on 9 hits. Romero struck out just 3 while walking 4 while Chen’s strikeout to walk ratio was a more reasonable 3-1. Jake Arrieta worked out of the 6th for Baltimore, but then he got into a jam of his own in the 7th and it did not end well- J.P. Arencibia came up with a 2-out grand slam to put the game away at 9-4, and 9-5 with the final as the Blue Jays played the role of spoiler. 32 of the Orioles’ 66 losses have now come by 4 runs or more. The Blue Jays, who have 20 more losses, have the same number.
Rangers 5, Athletics 4
The A’s got Texas starter Derek Holland out of the game after just 3 innings and got an outstanding start from Dan Straily, but their bullpen collapsed as they blew a 4-2 lead after 6.5 innings on their way to a back-breaking loss. Josh Donaldson had a 2-run homer off of Holland in the 2nd and Yoennis Cespedes had a solo shot in the 3rd before he departed with the Rangers trailing 3-1. Josh Hamilton‘s 43rd homer, a solo shot, off of Straily made it 3-2 Oakland, but the A’s restored their 2-run cushion on a Cliff Pennington RBI single off of Robbie Ross in the 6th. Straily departed with 2 outs and nobody on in the 7th having delivered to the A’s everything they could have asked from them, going 6.2 innings allowing just 2 runs, 1 earned, on 5 hits, striking out 8 while walking 2. But Jerry Blevins walked Josh Hamilton before Pat Neshek allowed a 2-run homer to Adrian Beltre, his 35th, to tie the game at 4. And it was Beltre who was the hero again in the 9th as the A’s decided to bring in former starter Tyson Ross to pitch and he could not do the job, recording just 1 out before the Rangers walked off on a Beltre RBI single as the Rangers won 5-4. The A’s are now just 9-42 when their opponent scores 5 runs or more. The Rangers are 13-47. That’s basically the difference in the AL West right now.
Tigers 6, Royals 2
The Tigers have to feel good when Justin Verlander is on the mound. Verlander gave Detroit another great outing, going 8 innings allowing just 2 runs on 9 hits, striking out 8 while walking none, and the Tigers came up with some good offense on their way to a 6-2 win. Prince Fielder homered, his 28th, in a 2-run second inning for the Tigers, and an Austin Jackson RBI double combined with a Jeff Francoeur error in the 5th led to 2 more runs as the Tigers never trailed in the game. Luke Hochevar actually struck out 5 while walking none in 7.1 innings for Kansas City, but he also allowed 6 runs, 5 earned, on 12 hits. Jackson, Fielder, Delmon Young, and Andy Dirks- and surprisingly not Miguel Cabrera- had multi-hit games for the Tigers. The White Sox also won, so the Tigers remain 1 game back in the AL Central. The Tigers are now 16-8 in Verlander’s starts, which is good, but they were 24-5 in his starts in 2011.
Let’s check out the latest AL Wild Card standings.
1. Orioles +1.5
2. Athletics –
3. Angels 2 GB
4. Rays 3 GB
5. Tigers 5 GB
The Rays need to gain 1.5 more games over the next 6 days to make their end-of-the-year series with the Orioles mean something. The way Oakland is playing (4-6 in their last 10) it could very well mean something even if they don’t.