The Juice: Rays and Royals take a step forward in AL Wild Card, as Wil Myers and James Shields have big nights

Mike Oz
Big League Stew

Just two weeks to go in season No. 6 of the Juice! Stop by daily for news from the action, along with great photos, stats, video highlights and more.

Neither the Tampa Bay Rays nor the Texas Rangers have shown the killer instinct needed to lock down an AL Wild Card spot in recent weeks.

So it's a good thing for the Rays that rookie Wil Myers is already proving he's adept at coming through when he's most needed.

Myers homered and doubled, totaling three RBIs and leading the Rays to a 6-2 victory over the Rangers. It was the first game of a series that one of these teams is going to have to win, and that might potentially turn around their September fortunes.

Both teams have seen their playoff cushions shrink in recent weeks. The Rangers, with their seventh straight loss on Monday, now have just a half-game lead in the Wild Card standings. The Rays have a full game.

Meanwhile, the Indians and Royals, two of the teams chasing the Rays and Rangers, were matched up in Kansas City. The result there (keep reading) showed on this Monday night in September that the controversial offseason trade sending Myers to the Rays from Kansas City would prove fruitful for the other team involved too.

Royals top Indians with help from 17 Ks: The second half of that much-talked about trade, pitcher James Shields, did what his new team hoped he would on Monday. He led a dominant night for the Kansas City Royals pitching staff, in which they struck out 17 batters and, more importantly, delivered for the hometown fans in what Yahoo Sports' Jeff Passan called "the most important baseball game in Kansas City in nearly a quarter-century."

The Royals beat the Cleveland Indians 7-1 in the opening game of a crucial series between these two still-in-the-Wild Card-hunt AL Central foes. With the Texas loss, the Indians could have jumped into a Wild Card position with a win. But it wasn't so.

Ten of those Royals strikeouts belonged to Big Game James, who lived up to his nickname in his six innings of work, giving up only one run on six hits. The KC bullpen then iced the bats of the Indians, who had come in with a four-game winning streak.

''Every game is important,'' Shields said. ''This is what we live for, this is what we play for, September baseball, and hopefully we have a chance to go to the playoffs.''

The Royals are now 2 1/2 games back from a postseason berth. It would be their first since 1985.

Padres 2, Pirates 0: Andrew Cashner pitches a one-hit shutout, facing the minimum. A seventh-inning single by Jose Tabata was the only thing between Cashner and a perfect game.

Rockies 6, Cards 2: The Rockies get four in the eighth inning to break a 2-2 tie. The Pirates and Cards remain locked atop the NL Central.

D-backs 2, Dodgers 1: The D-backs got only two hits. Lucky for them, one was a two-run homer from Paul Goldschmidt.

Angels 12, A's 1: The hot A's were cooled down and pounded by C.J. Wilson, Mike Trout and Mark Trumbo.

Brewers 6, Cubs 1: Rookie Caleb Gindl had a homer and triple plus three RBIs for the Brewers.

Reds 6, Astros 1: Johnny Cueto returns from DL for the Reds and is solid in five innings. Zack Cozart had two hits and four RBIs.

Tigers 4, Mariners 2: Rick Porcello whiffs 10 batters in six innings as the Tigers outmuscle the Mariners.

White Sox 12, Twins 1: The White Sox score seven runs in the first inning. That's about all you need to know.

Phillies 12, Marlins 2: Cliff Lee goes bonkers at the plate and on the mound — eight innings, 14 Ks as a pitcher then three hits and four RBIs as a batter.

Braves at Nationals (ppd): Due to Navy Yard shooting. Doubleheader scheduled for Tuesday.

''September hits, sometimes you get kind of laid back and you get tired, so we're just trying to pump ourselves up. After the game, we always try to turn the music up loud and jump up and down. We have a huddle and we start screaming loud for no reason. ... Only time we get to do it is if we win.''

Tigers outfielder Torii Hunter after Monday's win.

Todd Helton salutes the home crowd in his first game in Colorado since announcing he'll retire at the end of the season.

• The Houston Astros now have 99 losses. Three digits coming soon.

• Before getting roughed up Monday night, Jarrod Parker of the A's was 9-0 in 19 starts since May 22.

• Matt Kemp was activated by the Dodgers on Monday and he struck out in a pinch-hit appearance.

Pennant races are here. Spend the stretch run with us.
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