AL Wild Card Roundup: Orioles Tie for AL East Lead, Athletics Walk Off to Move Towards Clinching
By Robbie Knopf
Saturday was a terrible day for the Tampa Bay Rays. They won big versus the Chicago White Sox, with Matt Moore giving them 5.1 innings of 1-hit ball and Matt Joyce slamming 2-run home runs, but nevertheless moved to the brink of elimination as the two teams atop the standings found ways to continue their incredible seasons by winning again.
Athletics 7, Mariners 4 (10 Innings)
The Rays thought they could count on the Mariners. But slowly everything fell apart as the Athletics came away with another magical win. The M’s tagged Athletics starter Dan Straily for 3 runs in the 4th inning as both Kyle Seager and Michael Saunders went yard to give Seattle a 4-0 lead, and they knocked Straily out after just 4.1 innings. Jason Vargas gave the Mariners an outstanding start, going 7 innings allowing just 1 run on 5 hits, striking out 7 while walking 1. But while the Athletics bullpen stepped up to keep their deficit at 3, the Mariners bullpen completely fell apart. With 2 on and 1 out in the 8th, the Mariners brought in closer Tom Wilhelmsen for what could have been a 5-out save. Wilhelmsen forced Yoenis Cespedes to pop out, but then Brandon Moss drilled a double, scoring Coco Crisp before the M’s executed a great relay to get Stephen Drew out at the plate. Then in the 9th, the Athletics got right back where they left off against Wilhelmsen with Josh Donaldson slamming a game-tying 2-run home run that would send the game into extra innings. Then in the 10th, Stephen Pryor entered with 1 on and 1 out in the 10th and walked Cespedes before Moss came up huge again, drilling a walk-off 3-run home run as the Athletics won 7-4. The Athletics bullpen went 5.2 shutout innings in relief of Straily, with Grant Balfour earned the win in relief, giving their offense a chance to work on the Mariners bullpen, which it did successfully. It was the Oakland’s MLB-leading 14th walk-off win of the season. They made a game where the Mariners were completely in control turn into just another remarkable win as they moved one step closer to clinching a playoff spot.
Orioles 4, Red Sox 3
The Orioles let a 3-0 lead slip away in sloppy fashion yet somehow won anyway, improving to 28-9 in 1-run games with a 4-3 game over the Red Sox. Felix Doubront had electric stuff for the Red Sox, striking out 10 while walking just 1 in the game, but the Orioles made him pay dearly for his few mistakes. A Manny Machado RBI single made it 1-0 Baltimore in the 2nd inning and a Chris Davis 2-run blast in the 4th inning made it 3-0. But the Red Sox rallied back in the 5th, with Jarrod Saltalamachhia drilling a long 2-run home run off of Steve Johnson in the 5th to make it 3-2 before the Orioles beat themselves in the 6th. With 1st and 3rd and 1 out, Cody Ross hit a flyball to right field. But Chris Davis and Adam Jones ran into each other as the ball bounced out of Davis’ glove, scoring the tying run and giving the Red Sox 2 on with still just 1 out. But Tommy Hunter stay composed, getting Mauro Gomez to ground into a double play to escape the jam. And in the 7th, Manny Machado restored the lead for the O’s with a solo shot, and that was all they needed as the Orioles got 4 scoreless innings from their bullpen (all three runs were charged to Steve Johnson) including Jim Johnson‘s 49th save on their way to a 4-3 victory. It seems like just about any other team would have walked away with a demoralizing loss. But the Orioles somehow found a way yet again. The win put them into a tie for the AL East lead with the Yankees. The Orioles unbelievable run continues and now they have bigger aspirations than just a Wild Card spot.
Here are the latest AL Wild Card standings:
T1. New York Yankees + 1.0
T1. Baltimore Orioles + 1.0
3. Oakland Athletics —
4. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim 2.5 GB
5. Tampa Bay Rays 3 GB
The Angels were rained out and will play a doubleheader with the Rangers on Sunday. The Athletics can clinch a playoff spot on Sunday if the Rays lose, the Angels get swept, and they win. The Orioles and Yankees simply need to win and have the Angels lose one of their two games. For the Rays, it’s going to take a win and an Orioles loss on Sunday but then their task is very straightforward if certainly not easy: a sweep of the Orioles in their season-ending series at Tropicana Field to force a one-game playoff for a Wild Card spot. A loss, even if Baltimore and Oakland both lose, would mean that the Rays would need to sweep the O’s while the Rangers swept the A’s in their season-ending series to force a one-game playoff.