A look back on last night in the baseball playoff race, and ahead to tonight’s games and daily sports TV options…
AMERICAN LEAGUE WILD-CARD RACE
Tampa Bay 6 Texas 2: The Rays move into the top wild-card spot, while the Rangers keep sliding, having now lost 13 of their last 16. The long-struggling Tampa offense came to life against Matt Garza. The Rays’ 2 thru 5 hitters—Ben Zobrist, James Loney, Evan Longoria and Wil Myers—combined to go 10/16, and Myers hit a home run.
Kansas City 7 Cleveland 1: Cleveland misses a chance to move past Texas and into Wild-Card #2. The Royals get six strong innings from James Shields and a three-hit night from catcher Salvador Perez, including the rare sight of a catcher hitting a triple. The Royals are just 2 ½ back in the wild-card race, and the Indians’ loss also allows Detroit—who won last night over Seattle—to extend its lead for the AL Central title to six games.
Baltimore and New York were both off—TheSportsNotebook erroneously reported yesterday that the Yankees-Blue Jays opener, with veterans Andy Pettite and R.A. Dickey on the mound—would be last night. In fact, that game is today. The Orioles open up in Fenway Park with Scott Feldman facing Ryan Dempster. The way these two pitchers have been going, bet Over 9 on the Las Vegas totals line.
The Royals will send Yordano Ventura, a kid making his third big-league start to the mound tonight. Texas tries to save itself from a second straight late-season collapse by sending out Alexi Ogando to face Jeremy Hellickson.
MLB Network will be focused on this race tonight, with split coverage on Texas-Tampa and Baltimore-Boston starting at 7 PM ET.
NATIONAL LEAGUE WILD-CARD RACE
What a great night for the Cincinnati Reds. Johnny Cueto makes his long-awaited return from the disabled list and tosses five shutout innings in Houston. Cueto was staked by an early two-run homer from Zack Cozart and the Reds coasted in with a 6-1 win. Even better, it looks like they’ve got the ace that can start the wild-card game back.
Washington’s bid to catch Cincy took the night off due to a rainout. The Nationals—five games out, though just four in the loss column—will play a day-night doubleheader with the Braves today.
NATIONAL LEAGUE CENTRAL RACE
Before we talk about Cincinnati using Cueto in the wild-card game, let’s not rule the Reds out of the division title chase. The division co-leaders, St. Louis and Pittsburgh, each lost in winnable spots last night. The Cardinal bullpen—specifically Trevor Rosenthal—came undone in Colorado, giving up four runs in the eighth and losing 6-2. And Pittsburgh made San Diego starter Andrew Cashner look like the reincarnation of Cy Young, as Cashner ripped through the Pirate lineup, en route to a complete game 2-0 shutout.
The Cardinals and Pirates remain tied, while the Reds nudge to within 2 ½ games.