With just three weekends of baseball remaining, the MLB playoff races have been getting more tense by the day.
Hanley Ramirez came to the plate with just a few options, and many of them included ending the game. He could either be responsible for the 27th out, he could tie the game, or he could win the game. Sure he could also walk, but this just didn’t seem like that kind of moment.
The New York Yankees had a golden opportunity last night to gain ground, not in the wild card, with Toronto returning to the win column, but in the AL East, facing the first place Boston Red Sox. They had entered play with a four game deficit, and as luck would have it, four games against the Sox in Beantown. After not being expected to compete following their trades at the deadline, why not win the division. The Red Sox had other ideas.
Article continues below ...
Up 5-2 in the ninth, Joe Girardi opted to not start the inning with Dellin Betances, who had pitched the previous two days and accumulated 36 pitches. Betances wasn’t even the second option out of the ‘pen that inning. Instead, Tommy Layne began the inning and struck out Aaron Hill, only to be replaced by Blake Parker, who hit Chris Young. Then, it was Betances’ turn.
The Yankee closer had trouble with his breaking ball all night, leaving them just outside to lefties and tailing too far outside to righties. That lack of command led to a Dustin Pedroia walk. Both runners advanced on defensive indifference before Xander Bogaerts reached on a fielder’s choice that saw Young out at home.
With two down and New York holding a three run lead, Big Papi stepped to the plate with the Fenway faithful chanting his name. David Ortiz singled to drive home Pedroia and cut the Yankee lead to 5-3. Mookie Betts followed that up with a single of his own, to make it a one-run game. Up comes Hanley.
Ahead in the count, Ramirez flailed at a sweeping breaking ball that was well into the left-handed batter’s box. He was looking for a fastball. With a 3-1 count, he got a 99 mile per hour heater up and out over the plate that he drove well into the seats in center, giving the Red Sox a 7-5 win.
The loss moves the Yankees five off the pace in the division, and three back in the wild card. A win would have seen them tied with both Detroit and Seattle at two back of the Baltimore/Toronto combo in the wild card following the Oriole loss to the Rays, who have become spoilers of sorts over the last few days.
The Astros are still hanging around, and can make up some ground on the Mariners in Seattle this weekend. Their six remaining games with the Mariners will likely dictate which one of those teams makes their push towards the MLB playoffs.
The Royals were blown out by Oakland yet again on Thursday night, 14-5, and their playoff hopes are a sliver of their former selves at just a 0.2 percent chance of making the wild card according to FanGraphs.
With the Mets off yesterday, their movement in the standings would depend solely on the outcome of the Giants and Cardinals matchup at AT&T Park in San Francisco. With the Giants bullpen in shambles, Johnny Cueto wasn’t about to take any chances, tossing a complete game in which he allowed just five hits and two runs while striking out seven–all on just 105 pitches.
The win moves the Giants to a full game up on the Mets, while the loss puts the Cards a full game behind New York. The Marlins are sitting four back, and if they can hang around enough over the next week and a half, they have three games at home against the Mets from September 26-28 that could help vault them into a playoff spot. They also have six remaining with the Washington Nationals, three of which are on the road to close out the regular season. Those final three against the Nats could come a little easier than their previous bouts, with Washington potententially looking to rest their stars as they prepare for their NLDS matchup.
The Marlins have a 1.9 percent chance of making the playoffs entering play on Friday.
With a condensed slate of games yesterday, there wasn’t a whole lot of movement. But with the Mariners and Astros, Yankees and Red Sox plus the Cardinals and Giants all playing each other, there could very well be some interesting developments this weekend.