Buoyed by Texas and Seattle losses, the Toronto Blue Jays‘ gut-check walk-off victory over Boston on Sunday lifted the team to second place in the AL Wild-Card race.
Toronto now sits 0.5 games ahead of the Rangers, and 1.5 games clear of the formerly hard-charging Mariners, who have lost seven of their last nine.
A spate of sweeps have turned this race into a see-saw affair. The Jays swept Kansas City, got swept by the Rangers, and then swept the Red Sox; after sweeping the Jays, the Rangers got swept by the Guardians; and the Mariners just got swept by the Dodgers.
DODGERS 6, MARINERS 1
SEATTLE — Jason Heyward, Austin Barnes, and James Outman homered to lead the Los Angeles Dodgers to a 6-1 win against the Seattle Mariners on Sunday.
Heyward also had a double, single, and two RBIs to finish 8 for 14 with four doubles and a home run in the three-game series.
“Right now he’s on a heater. He’s swinging the bat so well,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “He’s playing Gold Glove defense, offensively he’s a threat, and he had a huge series.”
Amed Rosario was a homer shy of the cycle as the Dodgers completed a three-game sweep one day after clinching the NL West title.
J.P. Crawford had two hits and drove in the only run for the Mariners, who have lost seven of nine in the midst of a playoff race.
Seattle fell 2 1/2 games behind first-place Houston in the AL West, and is a game behind Texas for the final American League wild card.
The Dodgers had several of their regulars out of the lineup after clinching the division with an extra-inning win Saturday night. Even so, Los Angeles still jumped out to an early lead.
Heyward hit a solo homer in the first inning, his 15th, and added a run-scoring single in the fourth.
Barnes’ second homer of the season was a two-run shot in the second, giving Los Angeles a 4-0 lead. Outman capped the scoring with his 21st homer leading off the eighth.
“Disappointing way to finish the homestand, for sure,” Seattle manager Scott Servais said. “Today you’re hoping to get out on them early and get some runs and momentum early in the game, and we were unable to do that. They jumped on us.”
The Dodgers also got a strong pitching performance from left-hander Ryan Yarbrough (8-6), who held the Mariners to one run in 4 2/3 innings with seven strikeouts. Yarbrough came on in the second following opener Shelby Miller, and Gavin Stone fanned five in 3 1/3 innings of one-hit ball for his first career save.
Seattle starter Logan Gilbert (13-6) struggled, giving up five runs on seven hits in five innings. It was his first loss since June 28.
“This was a really big game, and we needed a better performance,” Gilbert said. “It’s frustrating. Not much I can do now, just try to clean it up. We’ve got big games ahead of us. It’s tough to say, but just move on and focus on the next one.”
GUARDIANS 9, RANGERS 2
CLEVELAND — The baseball-shaped cake with three lit candles went unclaimed as Jose Ramirez skipped his postgame media availability.
His party took place earlier.
Ramirez homered on his 31st birthday to touch off Cleveland’s nine-run fourth inning, leading the Guardians to a 9-2 win and three-game sweep of the playoff-chasing Texas Rangers on Sunday.
Ramirez connected off rookie Cody Bradford (4-2) leading off the fourth and the Guardians kept swinging away. They had a homer, two doubles, and six singles in scoring nine runs with nine hits, both their highs for an inning this season.
“We just kept getting hits and kept going,” Guardians manager Terry Francona said.
There wasn’t much the Rangers could do.
“We just got in one of those innings when we just couldn’t stop it,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “It’s a helpless feeling. What could go wrong, did.”
The Rangers, in the thick of the AL West and wild-card races, came to Cleveland riding a six-game winning streak only to be held to six runs over the weekend.
“Sure it’s disappointing,” Bochy said. “We’re all disappointed with how the games went. But we had a winning road trip. You get swept, and you’re like wait a minute. Best thing you can do is look at the silver lining. We’re coming off a 4-3 road trip and heading home.”
Andres Gimenez drove in three runs in Cleveland’s fourth, Gabriel Arias had two RBIs and Ramirez added a run-scoring groundout in his second at-bat of the inning as the Guardians sent 14 batters to the plate.
The big inning — Cleveland got just one hit the rest of the way — took any stress away for Guardians rookie Gavin Williams (3-5), who limited Texas to one run and four hits in six innings with seven strikeouts.
Cleveland’s playoff hopes are hanging by a thread in the AL Central, leaving the Guardians to play spoiler over the final three weeks.
The Rangers, on the other hand, are trying to extend their season into October. They came into the day one-half game behind first-place Houston in the division, and holding one of the three wild-card spots.
Also, the Rangers’ loss clinched playoff berths for Baltimore and Tampa Bay.
Ramirez tied it 1-1 in the fourth with a 431-foot shot that landed about five rows short of the top of the left-field bleachers.
Josh Naylor followed Ramirez’s 24th homer with a single and Cleveland strung together six straight hits before the Rangers pulled Bradford, who has been pitching in relief since his last start on July 30.
ASTROS 7, ROYALS 1
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Yordan Alvarez and Jake Meyers homered and Framber Valdez pitched seven strong innings as the Houston Astros beat the Kansas City Royals 7-1 on Sunday.
The Astros salvaged the final game of the series, expanding their American League West lead to 1 1/2 games as Texas lost to Cleveland 9-2.
Valdez pitched around three Astros errors for his fifth consecutive quality start, allowing one unearned run on five hits and a walk, striking out five.
“You go through streaks where you’re not yourself,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. “Then you go through streaks where you’re adding on and adding on and getting consecutive games, and your confidence grows. We need Framber, and it was big for him.”
Falling behind early, Valdez (12-10) had trouble locating his changeup. He threw first-pitch strikes to 11 of 26 batters while missing the strike zone with 16 of 39 changeups, but induced a pair of double plays to escape late-inning jams.
“The movement was inconsistent,” Royals manager Matt Quatraro said. “Some of them ran more, some of them didn’t much at all. Some of them cut. He kept the ball down, certainly. The double plays were huge.”
Meyers led off the fourth with his 10th homer and Alvarez hit his 28th leading off the fifth, the 38th allowed by Jordan Lyles (4-17), tying a Royals record. Kansas City is 48-102.
Houston collected leadoff hits in all but one inning against Lyles, who limited the damage as the Astros were 2-for-13 with runners in scoring position. He completed six innings, allowing four runs on six hits and a walk with six strikeouts.
“Gave up a two spot, then (homers) back-to-back innings after that,” Lyles said. “Good offenses make you work. They made me work in the first, in the third, the fourth, fifth. Hats off to them.”
Drew Waters’ sacrifice fly opened the scoring. After Logan Porter reached on Valdez’s throwing error and threw wildly to first, Loftin advanced to third. Porter was later awarded second as first baseman Jose Abreu threw his glove at Valdez’s wild throw for a second error on the same play.
Houston tied the game on Jose Abreu’s sacrifice fly in the third before Chas McCormick’s two-out RBI single gave the Astros a 2-1 lead. McCormick had three of Houston’s nine hits and stole two bases.
“I thought we hit well, put up good at-bats,” McCormick said. “With Framber on the mound and losing the last two, we had to finish the series strong. It was nice to come out there and show some energy and put up a good game.”
Meyers’ triple and Jose Altuve’s third hit highlighted a three-run ninth inning.