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Big League Stew

The Juice: Rays hiccup allows Indians to pull even in AL wild card; Rangers also gain ground

Mark Townsend
Big League Stew

Season No. 6 of the Juice has entered its final weekend! Stop by in the final days of the regular season for news from the action, along with great photos, stats, video highlights and more..

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After four days of no movement in the AL Wild Card standings, the Tampa Bay Rays were the first to slip up, losing 6-3 to the Toronto Blue Jays.

The Rays jumped on knuckleballer R.A. Dickey early thanks to solo home runs from Ben Zobrist and Delmon Young, However, they were done in by a four-run fourth inning that was capped by Sam Fuld whiffing on a ground ball to center field for a costly two-run error. It was a routine play that Fuld and every other outfielder makes countless times in a season without a misplay. It's almost a natural instinct to scoop the ball off the turf and fire it back in in one fluid motion. This time, he just missed it.

From the Associated Press:

''I think I just took my eye off it just a second too early,'' Fuld said. ''You can't really imagine a worse scenario as an outfielder.''

The Rays still had plenty of time to rally, too, but were unable to scratch out another run until the ninth inning. R.A. Dickey pitched into the eighth to pick up his 14th win. He'll finish the season with a respectable 4.21 ERA.

With the loss, Tampa Bay opened the door for the Cleveland Indians to draw even in the wild card standings and the Texas Rangers to pull within one game of both spots. Both teams were able to take advantage — Cleveland with a 12-6 victory over Minnesota and Texas with a 5-3 win over the Angels — so get ready for even more chaos over the next two days.

Cleveland rocks: The Indians jumped ahead of Minnesota quickly, scoring four runs in the first and three more in the second. Jason Kipnis tripled home Cleveland's first run and finished a home run shy of the cycle with two RBIs and two runs scored. Ryan Raburn, Mike Aviles and Drew Stubbs also drove in two runs apiece. Justin Masterson, perhaps Cleveland's next closer after Chris Perez was demoted on Friday, struck out the side in the eighth.

Texas rolls: August acquisition Alex Rios continued making an impact for Texas. In the seventh inning, Rios delivered a tiebreaking RBI single off Angels reliever Juan Gutiérrez and later stole second base to setup another former White Sox, A.J. Pierzynski, to drive home an insurance run. The latter would prove to be unnecessary after Tanner Scheppers and Joe Nathan each tossed spotless innings of relief. For Nathan, it was his 42nd save.

Pirates 4, Reds 1: Pittsburgh extends their lead to two games over Cincinnati for home field advantage in the wild card play-in game. Marlon Byrd had the game's biggest hit — a two-run single in the fourth. Pedro Alvarez added a two-run shot in the sixth and A.J. Burnett pitched eight innings for the win.

Cardinals 7, Cubs 0: St. Louis clinches their first NL Central title since 2009. At 95-65, they remain tied with Atlanta for the best record in the NL.

Braves 1, Phillies 0: Kris Medlen carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning and worked eight scoreless for his 15th win. Craig Kimbrel saved it for Atlanta, becoming the 11th closer to notch 50 saves in a season.

Red Sox 12, Orioles 3: Boston's magic number for clinching home-field advantage throughout the postseason is down to one. David Ortiz homered, giving him at least 30 in seven different seasons.

A's 8, Mariners 2: Oakland remains two games behind Boston, but clinched home-field over Detroit should they meet in the ALDS.

Marlins 3, Tigers 2: Jhonny Peralta made his debut in left field following the completion of his 50-game suspension. There were no glaring miscues, though Giancarlo Stanton's double in the third inning eluded him just long enough to clear the bases and give Miami their only three runs.

''He was slow getting to the ball by Stanton,'' Tigers manager Jim Leyland said of Peralta. ''But overall he did fine — first time out there in a big league game.''

Yankees 3, Astros 2: No Mariano Rivera on the mound or in center field, though the Astros did honor Andy Pettitte with a nice ceremony.

Brewers 4, Mets 2:

Royals 6, White Sox 1: Right-hander James Shields closed on a high note, earning his 100th career win with 10 strikeouts over seven innings.

Nationals 8, Diamondbacks 4: Washington ace Stephen Strasburg allowed two runs in seven innings in his season finale.

Dodgers 11, Rockies 0: Cy Young favorite Clayton Kershaw wrapped up his remarkable season with six scoreless, lowering his ERA to 1.83. Yasiel Puig left the game early after fouling two pitches off his left foot. He's expected to be day-to-day.

Giants 7, Padres 3: Outfielder Hunter Pence hit his career best 26th home run for San Francisco.

''I think physically I held up pretty well. I think one thing I learned is sometimes less is more. I like to work really hard and when you reach a point in September you've really got to back things off or it's going to be counterproductive.''

— Stephen Strasburg

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(USA Today)

Paper bags and empty seats for everyone in Seattle.

• Joey Votto has reached base 312 times in 2013, breaking Pete Rose's single-season club record.

• Cliff Lee finished September with 54 strikeouts and one walk in 39 innings.

• The Cubs and White Sox have lost 192 games this season. That's their highest combined total since 1948. (Via Matt Spiegel on Twitter)

The season is winding down but we're just warming up!
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