Three AL East Teams Tied for Two Wild Cards

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While the Rays have run away with the division crown in the American League East, the rest of the division has turned into a major battle for the Wild Card(s). The Yankees, Red Sox and Blue Jays entered play on Wednesday in a three-way tie for the two Wild Card spots, meaning one of these three contenders will not be playing playoff baseball in October.

All three teams will need to play their best baseball of the season over the final two and a half weeks, or else they’ll be the one left holding the bag. Each of the three teams took that warning to heart on Wednesday.

The Blue Jays pulled ahead of the Yankees and Red Sox with a 6-3 victory over the Rays on Wednesday afternoon behind seven innings of one-run baseball and 13 strikeouts from Robbie Ray. Bo Bichette provided the offense in that one with a homer and five RBI.

The Yankees also got a tremendous pitching performance -- with Nestor Cortes racking up a career-high 11 strikeouts over 6 1/3 innings of one-run ball against the Orioles. Their route to a victory wasn’t as straightforward though, as Austin Hays clubbed a go-ahead two-run homer off of Chad Green in the eighth inning. Not to worry though, the Yankees rallied back with two of their own in the ninth inning on a two-run single by Brett Gardner to secure the victory and keep pace with the Jays.

Not wanting to be left out of the fun, the Red Sox blew an early 3-0 lead but wound up taking the Mariners to extra innings on Wednesday where they exploded for six runs in the top half of the 10th inning to emerge victorious.

All three of these clubs are extremely well-deserving of postseason berths. It’s a pity that one of them won’t receive an invitation to the party. These next two and a half weeks are going to be epic. Just imagine the madness that would ensue if all three teams remain tied in the standings at season’s end.

If I'm reading the tie-breaker rules correctly, it appears as though two of the teams would play each other in a tie-breaker game to determine the first Wild Card, then the loser of that game would play the third team to determine the second Wild Card. The seeding to determine who plays who would be determined by the season series record between those three teams. In this instance, right now the Red Sox are winning the season series against both the Yankees and the Blue Jays, meaning that the would play in (and host) the first tiebreaker game. The Blue Jays hold the season series against the Yankees, meaning they would oppose the Red Sox in that first game. The loser would then host the Yankees for the second game. Or if all of that is too complicated, two-man sack races will be held on consecutive Sunday's until a winner is crowned.

For those that love to root for chaos, this seems like a prime opportunity.

Starting Pitchers with an EDGE

Robbie Ray - 7 IP, 1 ER, 4 H, 0 BB, 13 K, 32% CSW, 21 swinging strikes

It would have been an absolutely crazy thought before the 2021 season began, but it’s starting to look like a very real possibility that Robbie Ray might mess around and win the American League Cy Young Award this season. It’s the 10th time this season that Ray has punched out 10 or more batters in a start -- and the fifth time that he has done so in his last six outings. On the season, he’s now 12-5 with a spectacular 2.64 ERA, 1.01 WHIP and 233/43 K/BB ratio across 177 1/3 innings. His 233 strikeouts are tops in all of baseball.

Matt Manning - 6 IP, 1 ER, 2 H, 3 BB, 6 K, 27% CSW, 12 swinging strikes

Manning delivered perhaps the finest start of his young career on Wednesday, piling up a career-high six strikeouts over six innings of one-run ball against the Brewers. He was on the ropes early -- with the bases loaded and a run already in during the second inning -- where he retired Kolten Wong to end the threat. After that, only two runners reached base against him -- Omar Narvaez on a wild pitch after a strikeout, and Luis Urias on a walk in the sixth inning. He still owns a miserable 5.75 ERA and 1.53 WHIP over 72 innings on the season, but this start shows the potential that the 23-year-old hurler still possesses.

Nestor Cortes - 6 1/3 IP, 1 ER, 3 H, 2 BB, 11 K, 34% CSW, 13 swinging strikes

The 26-year-old southpaw delivered another outstanding effort in a tough-luck no-decision against the Orioles on Wednesday, racking up a career-high 11 strikeouts over 6 1/3 innings of one-run baseball. He has been a savior for the Yankees rotation this season, registering a 2.60 ERA, 1.05 WHIP and 87/23 K/BB ratio over 79 2/3 innings in 19 appearances (11 starts) on the year.

Hitters with an EDGE

Jesus Sanchez - 2-for-4, 2 HR (12), 4 RBI, 2 R

The 23-year-old slugger had an absolutely monster day in this one, powering the Marlins past the Nationals. He crushed a game-tying two-run homer off of Alberto Baldonado in the sixth inning, Then smacked a go-ahead two-run shot off of Kyle Finnegan to cap off a four-run uprising in the ninth inning. Sanchez has now hit four home runs in his last six games and seven over his last 16. He has also settled into the cleanup spot in the Marlins lineup. For the season, he’s now hitting .242/.310/.495 with 12 long balls and 31 RBI in 51 games.

Bo Bichette - 2-for-3, HR (25), 5 RBI, R

Bichette provided the bulk of the Blue Jays offense in Wednesday’s victory over the Rays, smacking a three-run homer in the opening inning, then adding on a sacrifice fly and an RBI single. He has been a monster five-category contributor this season, slashing .293/.341/.470 with 25 homers, 93 RBI and 22 stolen bases.

Austin Hays - 2-for-4, 2 HR (20), 3 RBI, 2 R

Hays got the Orioles on the board in this one with a solo shot off of Nestor Cortes in the sixth inning. He then blasted a go-ahead two-run homer off of Chad Green in the eighth, providing the entirety of his team’s offense in a losing effort. With the two-homer game, the 26-year-old outfielder is now slashing .254/.301/.466 with 20 homers and 63 RBI in 114 games on the season.

Andrew Benintendi - 5-for-5, 4 RBI, R

Andrew Benintendi is in some kind of zone right now. He has hit safely in seven straight games, with multi-hit effort in five of those seven -- and three or more hits in three of them. He had 14 RBI last week and is now well on his way to trying to replicate that impressive feat. All five of his hits on Wednesday were singles, with run-scoring knocks in the first and seventh innings and then a two-run single in the eighth. For the season, he’s now slashing .275/.318/.440 with 15 homers, 63 RBI and eight stolen bases in 117 games.

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EDGE Priority Pickup

Eric Lauer, SP, Milwaukee Brewers -- Available in 51% of Yahoo fantasy leagues

For the half of leagues out there that haven’t been paying attention, Eric Lauer has been good lately. Like, really good. The 26-year-old southpaw has allowed more than two earned runs just one time in his last 12 outings -- and in that one he only allowed three. Since June 27, he owns a masterful 1.84 ERA and 58/20 K/BB ratio across 63 2/3 innings. He draws a nice matchup against the Cubs on Sunday, then gets the Mets the following week before ending his regular season against the Cardinals in St. Louis. He’s certainly deserving of streaming for any/all of those starts.

Closing Time

Dylan Floro vs. Nationals - 1 IP, 0 ER, 0 H, 0 BB, 1 K (12th save)

The right-hander continues to excel in the ninth inning, retiring all three hitters that he faced on Wednesday to preserve a two-run lead over the Nationals. Floro has successfully converted each of his last eight save chances and now boasts a 2.84 ERA, 1.25 WHIP and 53/21 K/BB ratio across 57 innings on the season.

Aroldis Chapman vs. Orioles - 1 IP, 0 ER, 0 H, 0 BB, 2 K (27th save)

It hasn’t always been the storybook season that most fantasy managers were expecting when drafting Chapman as an elite closer this season, but he has at least gotten back on track by converting all 11 of his save chances since the All-Star break. He was outstanding on Wednesday, shutting down the Orioles in order -- including a pair of strikeouts -- to close out a one-run victory. On the season, Chapman has secured 27 saves while posting an underwhelming 3.58 ERA and 1.39 WHIP over 50 1/3 innings.

Raisel Iglesias vs. White Sox - 1 IP, 0 ER, 2 H, 0 BB, 2 K (32nd save)

One pitcher that has performed as the elite closer that he was drafted to be, is Raisel Iglesias. He made things interesting by allowing a pair of his on Wednesday, but was able to navigate a scoreless ninth inning to protect a one-run lead against the White Sox. His 32 saves are tied for the third most in all of baseball, trailing only Mark Melancon and Liam Hendriks. On the year, Iglesias boasts a 2.67 ERA, 0.91 WHIP and 96/11 K/BB ratio over 64 innings in his 59 appearances.

Thursday’s Matchup of the Day

Ian Anderson (ATL) vs. German Marquez (COL)

One of the best matchups on tap for Thursday is in the first game of the afternoon, where German Marquez heads to Atlanta to take on Ian Anderson and the Braves.

Marquez has been a bit inconsistent this season, but overall sports a 12-10 record, 3.93 ERA, 1.20 WHIP and 167/56 K/BB ratio over 167 innings in his 29 starts. He has faced the Braves once this season -- two starts ago on September 4 -- where he gave up four runs (two earned) on five hits over his five innings of work.

On the other side of the diamond, Ian Anderson makes his fourth start since returning from the injured list. It has been a mixed bag through his first three outings, where he holds a 3.95 ERA and 9/8 K/BB ratio across 13 2/3 frames. One of those starts was against the Rockies at Coors Field where he was tagged with four runs on five hits and four walks in only three innings of work.

Vegas is siding with the home team in this one, installing the Braves as a -172 favorite. Personally, given the Rockies recent success on the road and my inability to quit on German Marquez, I’ll be rolling with the Rockies in this one.


American League Quick Hits: Angels manager Joe Maddon admitted Wednesday that it’s unlikely Mike Trout (calf) will return this season… Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo said that he’s hopeful Jose Berrios (abdomen) will be able to make his next scheduled start… Wilson Ramos underwent surgery on Wednesday to repair a torn ACL in his left knee… Mike Minor was scratched from his scheduled start and placed on the 10-day IL with a left shoulder impingement, likely ending his season… Indians shortstop Amed Rosario was placed on the bereavement list and will be away from the team for at least three days… Angels placed outfielder Jo Adell on the 10-day IL with a left abdominal strain… Matt Chapman (shin) remained out of the Athletics lineup… Brett Gardner went 3-for-4 including a go-ahead two-run single in the ninth as the Yankees rallied to beat the Orioles… Brandon Marsh went 3-for-4 with a homer as the Angels triumphed over the White Sox… Carlos Hernandez was crushed for seven runs on nine hits over four innings in a loss to the Athletics… Matt Olson homered and drove in a pair for the A’s there… Michael Fulmer struck out four over two innings to close out the Brewers… Mike Zunino clubbed his 30th home run in a losing effort against the Blue Jays… Jarred Kelenic collected two hits and a stolen base in a loss to the Red Sox… Hunter Renfroe smacked his 28th homer as the Red Sox topped the Mariners in extra innings… Cal Quantrill didn’t allow an earned run over 6 2/3 innings in a lopsided victory over the Twins… Bobby Bradley homered, doubled and drove in three to lead the charge there… Jose Urquidy struck out six over six innings of one-run ball in a victory over the Rangers… Willie Calhoun went 2-for-4 with a double and a run scored in his return from the 60-day IL… Salvador Perez slugged his 44th home run in a loss to the Athletics…

National League Quick Hits: The Padres placed left-hander Blake Snell on the 10-day IL with a left adductor strain. It’s likely he misses the remainder of the regular season… Jorge Alfaro was held out of the Marlins lineup again on Wednesday due to tightness in his left calf… Willy Adames (quad) took ground balls on the field prior to Wednesday’s game against the Tigers. There’s still no timetable for his return, but he looks to be getting closer… Tyler Naquin (head) remained out of the Reds starting lineup on Wednesday… Jesus Aguilar (knee) is not expected to return this season… David Bednar (oblique) has already resumed playing catch and could return before the end of the season… The Diamondbacks placed Tyler Gilbert on the 10-day IL with left elbow inflammation… The Padres inked right-hander Vince Velasquez to a minor league contract. He’s expected to start against the Cardinals over the weekend… Mike Yastrzemski was a late scratch from the Giants lineup due to a bruised elbow… J.T. Realmuto (shoulder) returned to the Phillies lineup with a bang, blasting a solo homer and stealing a base in a victory over the Cubs… Josh Rogers racked up six strikeouts over five shutout innings in a tough-luck no-decision against the Marlins… Frank Schwindel clubbed his 13th home run as the Cubs fell to the Phillies… Paul Goldschmidt went 3-for-5 with a homer, double and three runs scored as the Cardinals topped the Mets… Antonio Senzatela logged his sixth straight quality start in a no-decision against the Braves… Julio Urias picked up his MLB-leading 18th victory against the Diamondbacks… Max Muncy clobbered his 34th home run as the Dodgers knocked off the Diamondbacks… Brandon Belt and Kris Bryant each slugged their 25th home run of the season in that loss…