AL wild card: Red Sox are tied with Yankees for first place; Sailors try to stay alive
Two days remain in the 2021 MLB regular season and two American League playoff spots remain up for grabs. The two wild card spots are undecided and four teams are still mathematically alive. The possibility of a massive four- or three-team tie exists. Here’s how the tie-off scenarios would work.
Here is the current ranking of wild cards entering Saturday night:
AL jokers ranking
1. Red Sox: 91-70
2. Yankees: 91-70
3. Blue jays: 90-71 (1.0 GB)
4. Sailors: 89-71 (1.5 GB)
The Yankees could have clinched the top wildcard spot on Saturday, but a 12-2 loss to the Rays means there will be a lot at stake in New York on Sunday.
The Yankees and Red Sox have already secured one more game, either a tiebreaker of Game 163 on Monday or the AL Wild Card game on Tuesday. The Yankees and Red Sox both control their own destiny. The Blue Jays and Mariners need help making it to the playoffs at this point.
Main games with joker AL, scores
Rays 12, Yankees 2 (score box)
Blue Jays 10, Orioles 1 (box score)
Red Sox 5, Nationals 3 (box score)
Angels at Mariners, 9:10 p.m. ET (GameTracker)
Red Sox enter tied with Yankees
The Red Sox earned a huge 5-3 victory over the Nationals on Saturday. The win means Boston is now tied with the Yankees for the top spot in the AL wild cards, and they also hold the tiebreaker thanks to their advantage over New York this season. The Blue Jays are one game behind the two and the Mariners are 1 1/2 behind, awaiting the outcome of their night game against the Angels.
In it, Boston starter Tanner Houck completed five perfect innings, but manager Alex Cora relieved him in the sixth inning of a one-run game for a pinched hitter. In the bottom of the sixth, reliever Garrett Richards helped Washington’s first baseman of the day via a Gerardo Parra single.
Boston’s meager lead – which entered in the fourth inning on Rafael Devers’ 36th homerun of the season – was seriously threatened in the seventh. First, reliever Ryan Brasier left a few pitches dangerously in the zone taking out Juan Soto on strikes, one of baseball’s most dangerous hitters. After that, Brasier loaded up the goals with two strikeouts, but managed to escape the jam by freezing Jordy Mercer with a fastball at the (very) back of the zone. A sliding snare from Hunter Renfroe also helped the Red Sox survive the frame for the first out.
A critical moment came at the end of the eighth. The Nats had runners in the first and second and one out with Alcides Escobar at the plate. Boston reliever Adam Ottavino threw a full count slider that appeared to cut the top outside corner, but plate umpire Phil Cuzzi called it four ball. The break-out shot made a somewhat uncertain trip to home plate, and receiver Christian Vázquez may have been too aggressive to frame it. All of this may have prompted Cuzzi to call a ball down the field. This loaded the groundwork for Soto, who led the field 1-0 at deep center for a tied sack fly.
Early in the ninth, however, Boston fired back as Vázquez netted a triple RBI over Soto’s header to take a 2-1 lead. Vázquez scored Boston’s third point soon after on a Travis Shaw single. Enrique Hernández added a two-run homerun and Boston had a 5-1 lead.
Things got a little tricky for Boston in the final quarter, as Andrew Stevenson hit a two-run homerun against Austin Davis to make it 5-3 without an out. Hansel Robles came in to record the last three strikeouts, which he did, albeit after bringing the potential equalizer to plate with two strikeouts.
Lowe hits three home runs, Rays demolish Yanks
The Yankees will have to wait at least one more day to clinch a playoff berth. The Rays blasted the Yankees on Saturday afternoon, completing three home runs from Brandon Lowe for a 12-2 victory. Lowe hit two three-run homers against Jordan Montgomery and one solo homerun against Michael King.
Lowe had a chance to hit a fourth home run but was knocked out in the eighth inning. He is the fifth player in Rays history with a three-homer game, joining Travis d’Arnaud, BJ Upton, Jonny Gomes and Evan Longoria (twice). Lowe sits on 39 homers and 99 RBIs with one game left in the regular season.
For the Yankees, Saturday’s game couldn’t be worse. Montgomery allowed a season-high seven runs in 2 2/3 innings, the lowest of the season, and they also had to work hard in their field. New York could only collect two points on a solo circuit from Anthony Rizzo and a triple from Gio Urshela.
The Yankees needed a win or loss for the Blue Jays and Mariners to clinch a playoff berth on Saturday. The loss to the Rays and Toronto opening a big early lead against the Orioles closed the door to a possible deciding game on Saturday. They will try again on Sunday.
Follow below for live updates, scores, highlights and analysis from Saturday in the AL wild-card race.