A.L. Playoffs Chase: Thursday Morning Update

Nate McLouth of the Baltimore Orioles smiles after being hit with a shaving cream pie after the Orioles defeated Tampa Bay Rays 3-2 at Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

Wednesday night, the Orioles won yet another one-run game, this time in walk-off fashion to extend their lead over the Rays.

A.L. East W L
Yankees 80 62 -
Orioles 80 62 -
Rays 77 65 3

Wednesday brought some big-time drama, especially in Baltimore and Chicago, with some separation opened up in the Wild Card standings but just more tightening in the divisional tables.

Yankees 5, Red Sox 4: 'Twas a painful win for the Yankees, who lost Derek Jeter in the eighth inning to an ankle injury. It was a good win, though, since a loss would have meant second place; instead, the Yankees remained in a first-place tie with the Orioles. Yes, the Baltimore Orioles. Don't scoff. It's almost October. New York's David Phelps, slated to lose his rotation slot when Andy Pettitte comes off the Disabled List, pitched into the sixth inning and gave up just one run. The Yankees won with power, as Curtis Granderson hit his 36th and 37th home runs, and Robinson Cano his 30th. Jarrod Saltalamacchia led off the bottom of the ninth with a homer of his own, but Rafael Soriano locked down the Red Sox after that for his 37th save.

Orioles 3, Rays 2: The Orioles just keep on winning, and they just keep on winning one-run games. They're now 26-7 in those contests, which would represent an all-time record if the season ended today. The Rays took a 1-0 lead on the game's second pitch, when B.J. Upton drove a pitch into the left-field stands. The Orioles cam right back in the bottom of the inning with two runs, via RBI singles from Matt Wieters and Wilson Betemit. The game got deadlocked in the third, when Ben Francisco's double into the left-field corner plated Jeff Keppinger. It was still 2-2 in the ninth when rookie third baseman Manny Machado made the biggest defensive play in his young career. With two outs and pinch-runner Rich Thompson on second base, Evan Longoria reached on a swinging bunt toward third. Machado charged the ball and grabbed it, but, knowing he didn't have a play at third, spun around and tossed the ball to shortstop J.J. Hardy, who had sprinted over to cover the base. Thompson had rounded the bag too far, and Hardy tagged him out to end the threat. Machado led off the bottom of the ninth with a base hit, moved to second on a sacrifice bunt, and cruised home with the winning run when Nate McLouth drilled a liner off the wall down the right-field line.

A.L. Central W L
White Sox 76 66 -
Tigers 75 67 1

Tigers 8, White Sox 6: After losing the first game of this four-game series, the Tigers have now won two in a row to close the deficit in the Central to just one game. Gavin Floyd's return to the White Sox rotation went well ... for a while. Through four innings, he and the Sox owned a 1-0 lead. But everything went awry in the fifth, when Floyd didn't survive the inning and was charged with three runs. In the seventh, Cecil Fielder made the score 6-1 with his 26th home run, a three-run blow. Detroit scored twice more in the eighth, which proved important when the White Sox roared back with four runs in the bottom of the eighth and one more in the ninth. With a runner on base, Jose Valverde struck out Orlando Hudson to finally end the game (and earn his 30th save).

A.L. West W L
Rangers
85 57 -
Athletics
82
60 3

Rangers 5, Indians 2: It wasn't all good news, for the Rangers, Adrian Beltre, or Josh Hamilton. Yes, the Rangers beat the Indians and maintained their three-game lead in the West. Yes, Beltre hit a two-run homer in the first inning. Yes, Hamilton hit a solo shot in the third. But Beltre left in the fifth with a strained shoulder, Hamilton in the eighth with a balky knee. Priority No. 1 for the Rangers has to be holding off the Athletics, but a close second is getting healthy enough for a long postseason run. And what happened Wednesday night was a little discouraging.

Athletics 4, Angels 1: Incredibly, the A's ran their winning streak on the road to an even dozen games -- a new franchise record since the team's been in Oakland -- behind eight shutout innings from rookie sensation A.J. Griffin, who's now 6-0 with a 1.94 ERA in 11 starts this season. The Angels didn't get on the board until the bottom of the ninth, when Albert Pujols led off with his 30th home run. With a runner on second and two outs, erstwhile closer Ryan Cook came in and retired Vernon Wells on a grounder to shortstop to end the contest.

A.L. Wild Card W L
Athletics
82
60 2
O's / Yankees 80 62

-

Rays 77 65 3
Angels 77 66
Tigers 75 67
5

Next Up: First up, the Orioles and Rays will finish their series, with the Rays desperately needing to win this one. They've got Jeremy Hellickson starting, with Wei-Yin Chen taking the hill for the O's. Later in the afternoon, the A's will try to run their road winning streak to 13 games, while further burying the Angels in the Wild Card standings. Nothing's inevitable, though; especially not with Jered Weaver starting for the Angels. Thursday night, the White Sox and Tigers finish their series, with the Tigers having a shot at taking three of four and pulling into a first-place tie. The Red Sox host the Yankees, while the Rangers host the Indians again.

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