What is the definition of a collapse? In recent baseball history, it has been a bad couple of weeks to fall out of a playoff spot or an utter implosion after jumping out to a lead in a playoff series. Neither of those definitions exactly fits the Rays or Rangers right now, but both have been dealing with disastrously-timed poor play in the season’s final month. Which one will go down as a collapse? We’ll find out tomorrow as the riveting AL Wild Card race draws to a close.
Blue Jays 7, Rays 2
It looked like the Rays had turned themselves around as they won 6 games in a row to return to first place in the AL Wild Card standings. When they lost to the Blue Jays on Friday, it seemed like it had more to do with an ill-fated decision to start the struggling Jeremy Hellickson than anything severely wrong with the team. But after a second straight letdown, it is time to get seriously concerned about the Tampa Bay Rays.
On Sunday, Joe Maddon had a quick hook for starter Chris Archer, taking him out after just 2.1 innings with two runners on in a 1-1 game. The Rays bullpen provided no relief, with Alex Torres, Jamey Wright, and Brandon Gomes allowing 6 runs between the third and fifth innings to put this game out of reach. Cesar Ramos did finish the game in superb fashion, tossing three perfect innings with five strikeouts, but he was one of the few bright spots in a game of nightmares for the Rays. For the Blue Jays, Ryan Goins and Kevin Pillar drilled two-run home runs to support J.A. Happ, who tossed 7.1 innings of one-run ball. The Blue Jays looked like the team on the mission while the Rays looked hopelessly lost. Whether from pressure or simply bad luck, the Rays have not come to play their last two games. Will Sunday be that third strike that ends their season or the foul tip that keeps them alive?
Rangers 7, Angels 4
Derek Holland had a rough outing, but Texas took advantage of five Angels errors to make sure this game did not slip away. The Rangers jumped out to a 5-2 lead with a four-run second inning, getting help from errors by Garrett Richards and Erick Aybar, but the Angels closed within 5-4 against Holland in the 5th on a Collin Cowgill RBI groundout and a Howie Kendrick RBI double. However, the Rangers came back in the bottom of the fifth with RBI hits from A.J. Pierzynski and Craig Gentry, and their bullpen did the rest. In sharp contrast to what happened in the Rays game, Texas relievers Joakim Soria, Robbie Ross, Tanner Scheppers, and Joe Nathan went 4.1 shutout innings to finish off the game. They did allow four walks, not succeeding it in the prettiest fashion, but they kept the Angels off the board and that’s all the Rangers could ask for. The Rangers offense did not have their flashiest game either, not hitting a single home run, but each member of the lineup had a hit and they refused to let the Angels’ miscues go to waste. Between the opportunities afforded to them by the Angels and the Rays, the Rangers moved themselves into a tie for second place in the Wild Card.
Indians 5, Twins 1
The Rays’ struggles could have been of slightly less consequence had their former ace Scott Kazmir come out flat for the Indians in their game against the Twins. Instead, Kazmir was in vintage form to put his team into the Wild Card lead. Kazmir went 6 innings allowing 1 run on 6 hits, striking out 11 while walking just 2 as he put an exclamation point on what has been a tremendous bounce-back season. Cole De Vries matched Kazmir zero for zero for the first three innings, but Carlos Santana got him for a two-run homer in the fourth inning before Cleveland received a Michael Bourn two-run triple on a Jason Kipnis RBI single to take a 5-1 lead. Marc Rzepczynski, Cody Allen, and Joe Smith pitched no-hit ball for the last three innings to finish off the Indians win. The Indians took care of business for the ninth straight game to put them in the driver’s seat entering the season’s final day.
With a three-way tie in the AL Wild Card a real possibility, Major League Baseball announced what will happen in such a scenario. Cleveland will take on the Rays on Monday at 4:07 PM EST before the loser plays the Rangers on Tuesday at 4:07 PM. The winners of the two games would then play in the AL Wild Card Game on Wednesday at 8:07 PM. If there is simply a tie between the Rays and Rangers, Texas will host Tampa Bay on Monday at 8:07 PM to determine who will play Cleveland in the Wild Card Game on Wednesday, while a Rangers-Indians tie would result in a Indians home game at that same time. On the season’s final day, none of three teams has punched a ticket to the postseason and baseball could get to see its most exciting finish in recent memory. After all, in 2011′s Game 162, there were only two teams involved. Here are your standings and pitching matchups for the season’s final day.
Cleveland (91-71), +1.0
Texas (90-71), –
Tampa Bay (90-71), –