The New York Yankees moved back into sole possession of first place in the American League East with a 6-4 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays after the Baltimore Orioles fell 6-4 to the Toronto Blue Jays.
Baltimore is one game behind New York in the division and is tied atop the AL wild-card standings with the Oakland Athletics, who lost 7-1 to the Los Angeles Angels last night. The Rays are 1 1/2 games back, with the top two teams making the postseason.
“Buckle up, it’s going to be a hell of a ride over the last month,” Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman told reporters. “I’d tell our fans who care deeply about us and pay a lot of money, I would tell them to hang in. We’re going to sprint this one out and try to do them proud.”
The Yankees (77-59) open a four-game series tonight against Baltimore (76-60) at the 46,000-capacity Oriole Park in Camden Yards.
“When that place is sold out with Orioles fans, it’s a great atmosphere,” Baltimore first baseman Mark Reynolds told reporters. “I’m actually a little nervous out there playing in front of so many people.”
In the National League, the Washington Nationals defeated the Chicago Cubs 9-1 to improve to 84-52, the best record in Major League Baseball. The Atlanta Braves (77-60), who beat the Colorado Rockies 1-0, and the St. Louis Cardinals (74-63), who lost 6-2 to the New York Mets, have the top two spots in the NL wild-card race. The Los Angeles Dodgers are a game behind the Cardinals.
Alex Rodriguez hit a run-scoring double and Russell Martin followed with a two-run ground-rule double in the fourth inning to give New York a 3-1 lead at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida.
Martin hit his 15th home run of the season in the sixth and two runners reached home plate on a Tampa Bay error in the seventh.
Evan Longoria hit a run-scoring single in the first for the Rays (75-62), who are 2 1/2 games behind the Yankees in the AL East. Ben Zobrist tied the game at 3-3 in the fifth with a two-run triple and Luke Scott homered in the sixth to tie the game at 4-4.
Hiroki Kuroda (13-10) allowed four runs on eight hits and struck out three in six innings for the Yankees. Rafael Soriano pitched a perfect ninth inning for his 36th save.
Rays starter Matt Moore (10-9) gave up six runs on eight hits while striking out nine in 6 1/3 innings.
At Rogers Centre in Toronto, the Orioles led 2-0 in the second inning on Adam Jones’s solo home run and Matt Wieters’s score on Manny Machado’s groundout to second.
Toronto’s Kelly Johnson hit a run-scoring double in the second and Rajai Davis hit a solo home run to tie the game 2-2 in the third inning before the Rays added four runs in the seventh.
Reynolds ended the scoring in the ninth inning with a two-run homer for the Orioles.
“We won the series; that’s our goal,” said Orioles catcher Wieters. Baltimore took the series 2-1.
Nationals pitcher Gio Gonzalez earned his 18th win, pitching a three-hitter and striking out nine in seven innings against the Cubs.
Roger Bernadina, Bryce Harper and Adam LaRoche each blasted home runs in the third inning as the Nationals took a 5-0 lead. Harper added another solo home run in the sixth and Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa added two home runs in the seventh.
Anthony Rizzo scored the Cubs’ only run with a home run in the ninth inning.
It was the second consecutive game in which the Nationals had six home runs against the Cubs, who have lost the first three contests in the four-game series that ends tonight.