Daily Sports: Wild-Card Leaders Hold Serve

NFL Week 3 goes Sunday, and with the TV schedule keyed by Indianapolis-San Francisco (4:25 PM ET, CBS) and Chicago-Pittsburgh (8:30 PM ET, NBC), a lot of fans won’t find time for baseball. But the races have just eight days to go. The leaders in the American League wild-card race held serve yesterday. Here’s what went down on Saturday…

Tampa 5 Baltimore 1: The Rays won an 18-inning marathon on Friday night and then both teams turned around to play a day game on Saturday. Might as well have just slept at the park. Alex Cobb was brilliant, Desmond Jennings hit a three-run jack and the Orioles are really on the ropes, now 3 ½ out and today’s finale the last chance they get to play one of the leaders.

Cleveland 4 Houston 1: Michael Brantley’s two-run homer was the big blow in a three-run third, and then Steve Kazmir went on to strike out ten. Wouldn’t it be something if the resurgent Kazmir ended up pitching a wild-card game at Tampa?

Texas 3 Kansas City 1: Texas, now a half-game back of the Tribe—though even in the loss column–got a big-time outing from Matt Garza who gave them eight solid innings. Kansas City is another team that’s 3 ½ out and running out of time.

NYY 6 San Francisco 0: It seems like there have been a lot of great pitching outings to report, since TheSportsNotebook’s playoff coverage moved into the daily sports space at the start of this week. Ian Nova joins the list with a complete-game shutout. The Yanks are three back and get Tampa Bay, a team they trail by four, to open next week.

And over in the National League, where three teams fight for the Central, and Washington hopes for someone to collapse in the wild-card picture…

Pittsburgh 4 Cincinnati 2: The Pirates really needed their veterans yesterday and they got them. After a disastrous ninth-inning loss on Friday night, the Bucs fell behind 2-0 in the second on Saturday. Then Russell Martin hit a two-run homer, A.J. Burnett settled down and order was restored in the Steel City. Pittsburgh takes the lead on Cincy to host the wild-card game and stays two back of St. Louis.

St. Louis 7 Milwaukee 2: Matt Adams has been swinging a good bat for the Cardinals and he hit a two-run bomb in the first. Lance Lynn gave his team a rare good outing, working into the seventh and only giving up a run.

The Miami-Washington game was rained out yesterday, and the teams will play a doubleheader today. That’s a tough break for the Nats—they need to sweep these games and it’s always tougher to sweep a twinbill than it is games on successive days.

Today’s baseball action starts with Giants-Yankees on TBS at 1 PM ET. Normally I would gripe about New York getting this national spot where there are showdown games elsewhere. But not today. It’s the final home game for Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettite, the latter of whom will start. Mariano deserves his moment. Then the week concludes with St. Louis-Milwaukee at 8 PM ET on ESPN.