Orioles beat Blue Jays to set up potential weekend wild-card drama

Big League Stew

Welcome to The Walk Off, the nightly MLB recap from Big League Stew. Here we’ll look at the top performers of the night, show you a must-see highlight and rundown the scoreboard. First, we start with a game you need to know about.

The powerful Baltimore Orioles’ first two runs came courtesy of a sacrifice fly and an RBI fielder’s choice. The third run was driven home on a ground ball through the right side. So was the fourth.

Not how you would expect the team that leads the major leagues in home runs to generate its offense, but as long as they scored more runs than the Toronto Blue Jays on Thursday night it was good enough. One run would have been enough in this game.

Orioles starter Ubaldo Jimenez – he of the 5.71 ERA on the season, but 3.17 ERA in the second half – shut out Toronto over 6 2/3 innings and Baltimore’s lights-out bullpen did the rest in a 4-0 win at Rogers Centre where the home team managed just one extra-base hit.

The boos from the sellout crowd hoping to see the Blue Jays grab a stranglehold on the wild card began well before the bottom of the ninth when Josh Donaldson and Jose Bautista struck out against reliever Brad Brach. It was Bautista’s third strikeout of the game and Donaldson was retired on strikes twice. The offensive woes that have plagued the team this month has put them in a less-than-ideal spot.

Jose Bautista struck out three times in Thursday’s loss. (The Canadian Press via AP)
Jose Bautista struck out three times in Thursday’s loss. (The Canadian Press via AP)

Marcus Stroman pitched into the eighth, a welcome sight for manager John Gibbons as he entered the game knowing his bullpen wasn’t at full-strength. Stroman gave up nine hits, but kept Baltimore’s sluggers from hitting a ball over the fence, which is an accomplishment worthy of kudos.

With Baltimore taking two out of three in the series, the Blue Jays and Orioles enter the final weekend of the regular season tied in the American League wild-card race. Toronto does hold the tiebreaker, meaning they’ll host the wild-card game if they can at least match Baltimore’s record over the weekend. There are certain factors, however, that are out of their hands.

The Red Sox, the Blue Jays’ opponent, are playing for playoff positioning as champions of the AL East. The Yankees, the Orioles’ foe, are playing for pride. Both situations bring up interesting questions about what kind of lineups both teams will field, especially when it comes to who might pitch.

The Tigers’ rainout against Cleveland earlier Thursday further complicates matters. Detroit is 1 1/2 games behind the Jays and Orioles, and depending on how the weekend plays out with their series against the Braves, may have to play a makeup game against the Indians on Monday if they can still claim a wild-card spot or force a Game 163 with a win.

This weekend has the potential to bring some real wild-card drama in the AL.

TOP PERFORMERS


CC Sabathia: Sabathia went 7 1/3 innings, allowing one run and striking out eight in the New York Yankees’ 5-1 win over the Boston Red Sox. It was the left-hander’s final start of the season and he ends the year with a 3.91 ERA in 179 2/3 innings, which is his best ERA since 2012.

Byron Buxton: The one-time No. 1 prospect in baseball reached base three times, including an exhilarating triple, as the Minnesota Twins beat the Kansas City Royals 7-6. Buxton has an OPS above .900 in 26 games in September after spending the bulk of August in Triple-A.

Justin Turner: Turner has been a steady offensive contributor all season for the Los Angeles Dodgers, and he did it again in a 9-4 win over the San Diego Padres, with three hits, two runs scored and an RBI.

MUST-SEE HIGHLIGHT


Yadier Molina hit a RBI double in the bottom of the ninth to lift the St. Louis Cardinals to a 4-3 win over the Cincinnati Reds. Or did he? Or rather, should it have counted? Molina’s double scored Matt Carpenter from first, but upon further review it appears the hit should have been called a ground-rule double, meaning Carpenter would have been stopped at third.

Why didn’t the Reds challenge? Well, they wanted to, but they didn’t signal their intent to challenge or submit an actual challenge in time, so the umpire left the field and the game ended. A game that matters a lot to St. Louis as they’re battling with the Mets and Giants in the National League wild-card race. What a weird, whacky, controversial finish in the final week of the season.

THE REST OF THE SCOREBOARD

Indians, Tigers (PPD): This game was rained out in Detroit. A tentative makeup date has been set for Monday, if necessary, depending on potential playoff implications.

Nationals 5, Diamondbacks 3: Michael A. Taylor went 3-for-4 with two RBIs while catcher Pedro Severino hit a solo home run.

Cubs 1, Pirates 1: Yes, a tie. Weather troubles in Pittsburgh caused this game to be called after the sixth and end in a deadlock. It’s the first tie in a major-league game since 2005.

Braves 5, Phillies 2: Dansby Swanson homered and scored two runs while starter Josh Collmenter pitched seven innings of one-run ball but settled for a no-decision.

Rays 5, White Sox 3: Tampa Bay pounded out 11 hits, Kevin Kiermaier leading the way with three of them, and Mikie Mahtook mashed a homer.

Mariners 3, A’s 2: Mike Zunino’s solo home run in the seventh stands as the game-winning hit for Seattle as they managed to keep their slim wild-card hopes alive.

Giants 7, Rockies 2: Johnny Cueto struck out 11 over seven innings, allowing just two runs and earning his 18th win of the season.

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Israel Fehr is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at israelfehr@yahoo.ca or follow him on Twitter.

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