Football might make its return to the daily sports TV docket on Thursday, what with Andy Reid’s return to Philadelphia in the NFL (Chiefs-Eagles at 8:25 PM ET on the NFL Network) and Clemson-N.C. State setting the tone on an interesting weekend in the ACC (7:30 PM ET, ESPN), but baseball is still what’s providing high drama, and there was plenty of it last night as key playoff race games went extra innings.
AMERICAN LEAGUE WILD-CARD RACE
Tampa Bay 4 Texas 3 (12): Ranger fans had to feel like this was re-living the bad dream that is Game 6 of the 2011 World Series. They had this game won in the 11th, coughed up the lead and then lost it in an inning later.
And if you go a little deeper, it just gets worse. Derek Holland pitched brilliantly and led 2-0 in the sixth. Holland collared Evan Longoria and Wil Myers all night. But light-hitting Sean Rodriguez beat Holland for the game-tying two-run shot. Then Joe Nathan, one of the most reliable closers in the game, gave up the tying single to David DeJesus in the 11th. Joe Ortiz followed Nathan in the 12th and gave up the game-winner to Desmond Jennings.
This is a four-game set, so the Rangers have a chance at a little redemption tonight, and it’s a big-time pitching matchup with Yu Darvish facing Matt Moore. It’s not “must-win” for Texas—they’re a half-game up on Cleveland and a game up on Baltimore, with New York and Kansas City right behind. But it’s pretty close to it, and that makes it priority TV viewing at 7 PM ET on MLB Network.
Kansas City 7 Cleveland 2: The Royals got a three-spot early in the game to set the tone and a three-spot in the eighth to break open a 4-2 game. The top hitters in the KC lineup—Alex Gordon, Eric Hosmer and Billy Butler—have not often, or even usually, lived up to their ability this season. But the trio combined to go 6-for-12 with two walks in this key win.
Baltimore 5 Boston 3 (12): It was like Buck Showalter went back to the playbook the Orioles used in 2012. He got barely tolerable starting pitching from Wei-Yin Chen, who got through 5 2/3 and gave up three runs, including a game-tying shot from Mike Napoli. Then Showalter emptied his bullpen and locked everything down. The Red Sox didn’t score again, and Chris Davis hit a two-run single in the 12th, setting up Jim Johnson for the save.
NY Yanks 4 Toronto 3: Joe Girardi might have behaved like an inexcusable idiot in his defense of Alex Rodriguez after the latter got plunked in Boston last month and then again last week when he whined over the Orioles stealing signs, but the man still knows how to manage.
Girardi correctly treated last night’s game in Toronto like it was a Game 7, and yanked Phil Hughes after the latter gave up two runs in 3 1/3. Girardi kept the game close and after 15 straight scoreless innings in Canada, the Yankee offense put four on the board in the eighth. Girardi continued to fire every bullet he had and brought Mariano Rivera on for a four-out save.
The Royals-Indians series is complete and both teams are off tonight. The other three matchups roll on, with the Orioles-Red Sox finale also being a part of MLB Network’s 7 PM ET viewing options across the country.
NATIONAL LEAGUE: WILD-CARD RACE & NL CENTRAL
The NL wild-card race is pretty close to being eliminated from our daily recap of MLB action down the stretch, as Washington lost and Cincinnati won. But slumping Pittsburgh might still keep this item on the board.
Cincinnati 6 Houston 5 (13): More extra-inning drama. Jay Bruce had an RBI double in the first inning to open the scoring and a two-run double in the 13th to close it.
Atlanta 5 Washington 2: A sequence of three batters in the sixth inning dealt Washington a tough blow. The Nats led 2-0, then Dan Uggla homered, Jordan Schaefer singled and Justin Upton hit a pinch-hit home run. Lead gone and Washington slips 5 ½ back of Cincinnati. The Nationals won two of three from Atlanta, but at this point in the season any loss is a bad loss.
San Diego 3 Pittsburgh 2: The Pirates still have a 6 ½ game cushion on the Nationals, but Pittsburgh is really struggling. For the second straight night, the offense went retro-2012 collapse on everyone. Andrew McCutchen hit a two-run homer, but other than Justin Morneau’s two hits, no one else in the lineup did anything. I mean that literally. Nothing. Not a hit, not a walk. Then the Padres touched Mark Melancon for two in the ninth and got their third straight win on the banks of the Allegheny.
St. Louis 4 Colorado 3: Adam Wainwright tossed 7 2/3 innings of good baseball, got three hits at the plate and delivered the Cardinals to a two-game lead in the NL Central.
San Diego-Pittsburgh play a getaway game this afternoon at 12:30 PM ET, a game I’m surprised is not on the MLB Network. St. Louis wraps up its affairs in Colorado tonight. Cincinnati is off, while Washington opens a four-game set with Miami. The Nationals need a sweep to stay alive.