No-hitters, eliminations and near-eliminations marked last night in the major league baseball playoff race, with the American League wild-cards and the NL Central title still open questions in this last week of the regular season. Here’s how it all went down…
AMERICAN LEAGUE WILD-CARD
Tampa Bay 7 NY Yanks 0: The second-half fade of Hiroki Kuroda is nearly complete. The Yankee starter who was an early leader in the Cy Young chase and a reason why New York’s postseason chances had to be respected, slipped over the last several weeks and became one of the biggest reasons a revived offense looks unlikely to push the Pinstripes over the top. Kuroda gave up a leadoff home run to Matt Joyce last night, three Tampa runs in the first inning and places the Yanks in a spot where their elimination number is one.
Cleveland 5 ChiSox 4: Chris Perez needs to send Jason Giambi a case of whatever liquor Giambi prefers. The Indians closer was wearing goats horns, after he coughed up a 4-3 lead in the ninth by giving up home runs to Dayan Viciedo and Alfredo de Aza. With a man on and two outs in the bottom of the frame, Giambi came up to pinch-hit and hit a two-run walkoff bomb that kept the Indians a game up in the push for the final wild-card.
Texas 3 Houston 2: The Rangers kept pace, staying game back, but is there reason to be concerned about Yu Darvish? This is the second straight game he’s failed to make it out of the sixth inning, in spite of pitching reasonably well. Darvish took 101 pitches to get 16 outs and the last I checked, the Astros lineup is not known for grinding up starting pitchers. I would assume Darvish is in line to pitch on Sunday.
Kansas City lost 4-0 in Seattle, and with an elimination number of two, the Royals join the Yankees as teams that could be formally ousted tonight. Baltimore did officially get bounced with a 10-inning loss to Toronto.
NATIONAL LEAGUE CENTRAL
St. Louis 2 Washington 0: Michael Wacha was the story of baseball last night, as he got within one out of a no-hitter and allowed only two walks. Ryan Zimmerman broke up the no-no with a single, but Trevor Rosenthal came on and get the last out, keeping the Cardinals two games up in the race for the division crown.
Pittsburgh 8 ChiCubs 2: Pittsburgh stayed within two of St. Louis, thanks to a 2-for-5 night and three RBIs from Pedro Alvarez. The third baseman had an RBI double in the second to start the scoring and a two-run double in the fifth to break open a 4-1 game.
NY Mets 4 Cincinnati 2: Mike Leake was taken deep by Daniel Murphy for a three-run jack in the second inning and the Reds’ bats couldn’t do anything with Jonathan Niese. At three games out, it’s going to be awfully tough for Cincinnati to win this division.
The Pirates hold a one-game lead over the Reds for the right to host the wild-card game, but note that as long as the teams were within a game either way going into the weekend, it doesn’t really matter. They play a head-to-head weekend series and the winner of that series also wins the season series between the two teams. The season series would be the tiebreaker in this case, so being one back or even going in amounts to the same thing.
MLB only uses additional head-to-head games to settle ties that would determine the difference between a division winner and a wild-card, or when one of the teams has to be eliminated entirely. If it’s just about homefield advantage, then the season series breaks the tie.
ESPN has a doubleheader that highlight’s Wednesday’s daily sports agenda. The Rays-Yanks go at 7 PM ET. I’m sure it delights every New York fan to know that in a game with their season on the line, they’ll send Phil Hughes to face David Price. Then again, their hopes still boil down to winning five in a row, needing Cleveland to lose five in a row, have Texas lose at least four times, hope Kansas City doesn’t get hot and even at that, you’re still just in a playoff to make the wild-card game. So the whole Hughes-Price thing probably isn’t as upsetting as it would be if this game were Saturday.
A non-influential Dodgers-Giants game from San Francisco will cap the doubleheader at 10 PM ET, though Los Angeles is still in the 3-seed in the National League. That’s the same spot San Francisco came from to win the World Series in 2012, but I’m sure that, at the very least, the Dodger season ticket-holders would like to be guaranteed at least two home games to open the playoffs. That means at least passing St. Louis, whom Los Angeles trails by a game, for the 2-spot.