Rays Clinch First AL East Title in 10 Years

September 24, 2020

NEW YORK — Randy Arozarena homered twice and the Tampa Bay Rays clinched their first AL East title in 10 years Wednesday night with an 8-5 victory over the New York Mets.

Joey Wendle and Brandon Lowe also went deep to help Tyler Glasnow (5-1) win his fifth straight decision. Tampa Bay will be home at quirky Tropicana Field for a best-of-three first-round playoff series beginning next Tuesday.

It is the third division crown for the thrifty Rays, who also won the AL East in 2008 and 2010. Their inaugural season was 1998. 

After missing a chance to clinch Tuesday, the Rays went into Wednesday again needing just a win or a New York Yankees loss against Toronto to lock up the division championship.

The Rays (37-20) broke a 2-all tie in the sixth on Arozarena's two-run homer off Michael Wacha (1-4) and pulled away.

As has become customary during this pandemic-shortened season, the celebration was muted. After Nick Anderson fanned Andres Gimenez for the final out, the closer exchanged a hug with catcher Mike Zunino. The Rays filed out of the dugout and someone shot off a canister filled with confetti that eventually dotted the grass and dirt at Citi Field.


CLEVELAND (AP) — Shane Bieber lowered his ERA to 1.63 in his final regular-season start, the lowest in the American League since Luis Tiant's 1.60 for Cleveland in 1968, and Jordan Luplow hit a game-ending home run that gave the Indians a win over Chicago and dropped the White Sox into a tie with Minnesota for the AL Central lead.

Bieber, who leads the big leagues with eight wins, allowed an unearned run and two hits in five innings with 10 strikeouts in his eighth double-digit strikeout game, also a major league high. 

He lowered his major league-leading ERA from 1.74. Chicago's Dallas Keuchel is second in the AL at 2.04 heading into his start against the Indians in Thursday's series finale. 

Chicago fell to 34-22, the same record as the Twins going into their game against Detroit later Wednesday. Cleveland (32-24) closed within two games of the lead with its second straight last at-bat victory. José Ramírez hit a three-run homer with two outs in the 10th for a 5-3 win Tuesday.


MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Jake Cave hit a pair of home runs, Kenta Maeda finished off his regular season with another strong start and Minnesota beat Detroit to take over sole possession of the AL Central lead for the first time since late August.

Eddie Rosario added a two-run homer for the Twins (35-22), who have won four straight. They moved a half-game ahead of the second-place White Sox (34-22).

Maeda (6-1) allowed three runs and four hits in six innings with nine strikeouts. After an infield hit by the first batter of the game, he set down 15 of his next 16 hitters. He gave up a three-run homer to Miguel Cabrera in the sixth.

Cabrera hit another three-run shot with two outs in the ninth off Sergio Romo, who retired Jeimer Candelario for his fifth save.

Tigers rookie Casey Mize (0-3) gave up six runs and five hits in 4 2/3 innings. Mize, the top pick in the 2018 amateur draft, finished his rookie season with a 6.99 ERA in seven starts.


LOS ANGELES (AP) — Ramon Laureano broke a ninth-inning tie with a two-run homer and Oakland beat Los Angeles in a matchup of West division champions.

Laureano also had an RBI single in the seventh and made a diving catch in center field.

Edwin Rios, who replaced Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner in the sixth, homered in his first at-bat in the eighth, tying it 4-all. It was the first run given up in 19 appearances this season by Jake Diekman (1-0), who had a 22-inning scoreless streak that dated to last Sept. 16.

Stephen Piscotty singled in the ninth off Blake Treinen (3-3). With two outs, Laureano homered for a 6-4 lead.

Liam Hendriks pitched the ninth for his 14th save.


SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Mauricio Dubón hit a three-run homer off reliever Yency Almonte in the fifth inning and San Francisco defeated Colorado to move barely in front in a crowded NL wild-card race.

Evan Longoria also went deep for the Giants. Brandon Belt added three hits and walked twice.

Logan Webb (3-4) allowed two runs over 5 1/3 innings to win in his first career relief appearance. 

The Giants (28-27) have won three of four and are percentage points ahead of Cincinnati for the first of two NL wild cards.

Rockies starter Ryan Castellani (1-4) walked five and gave up five runs in 4 2/3 innings.


WASHINGTON (AP) — Given a chance to DH so he could ease the burden on his bothersome back, Bryce Harper homered twice against his former team, helping Philadelphia beat Washington and eliminate the 2019 World Series champions from the playoff race.

The loss ended Washington's modest — albeit season-best — four-game winning streak and left its record at 23-33. The Nationals were knocked out of postseason contention hours later when San Francisco beat Colorado. 

The Phillies are 28-29 and third in the NL East, right in the thick of the chase for an NL playoff berth.

Harper, who left the nation's capital for a $330 million contract with the team up I-95 before last season, connected off Erick Fedde (2-4) twice to reach 13 homers for the year. Harper was walked intentionally in his other three plate appearances.

Zach Eflin (4-2) gave up three runs in eight-plus innings.

Philadelphia went up 12-1 by tacking on three in the eighth, including Andrew McCutchen's solo homer, and another six in the ninth on three-run shots by Didi Gregorius and Andrew Knapp.


KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Salvador Perez and Franchy Cordero each had two homers and five RBIs, and out-of-contention Kansas City pummeled playoff-chasing St. Louis in their series finale.

The Cardinals (27-26) remain 3 1/2 games back of first-place Chicago in the NL Central but had their edge for the No. 2 spot in the division nearly wiped out. The Reds (29-28) beat the Brewers (27-28) in their series finale to close within percentage points of St. Louis headed toward a pivotal final weekend.

Both of Perez's homers came off Carlos Martinez (0-3), who departed with a strained lower back in the sixth. 

Danny Duffy (4-4) allowed one run in 5 2/3 innings as the Royals won a series rubber game for the first time in six tries this season.


ATLANTA (AP) — Dansby Swanson hit a three-run homer and the Braves cruised to their third straight win over the Marlins, in a game overshadowed by Max Fried's early departure with an ankle injury.

The Braves ace was making his final regular-season start, hoping to boost his NL Cy Young Award credentials ahead of starting Game 1 in the NL playoffs next week. 

But Fried lasted only one inning, tweaking an ankle while fielding a bunt down the third-base line by Starling Marte. While the left-hander didn't appear to be hurt, he wasn't the same pitcher after the play.


BOSTON (AP) — Nathan Eovaldi struck out eight over six scoreless innings, Rafael Devers hit a three-run double that capped a six-run third and the Red Sox beat the Orioles in a matchup of the AL East's worst teams. 

Kevin Plawecki had three hits and drove in two runs for the Red Sox, who won their third straight in their bid to escape last place.

Austin Hays hit a solo homer and had three hits for Baltimore, which has lost six of seven. The Orioles are one game ahead of the Red Sox.

Eovaldi (4-2) scattered seven singles, walked one and improved to 3-0 with a 0.94 ERA in three starts against Baltimore this season. 

Dean Kremer (1-1) was tagged for seven runs and seven hits over 2 2/3 innings in his fourth big league start.


PHOENIX (AP) — Rookie Wyatt Mathisen hit his first two career homers, fellow rookie Daulton Varsho knocked in the go-ahead run with a triple, and the Diamondbacks rallied over the Rangers.

The Diamondbacks were trailing 3-1 going into the sixth but rallied for a six-run inning off Rangers pitchers Wes Benjamin, Nick Goody and Brett Martin. Arizona sent 10 batters to the plate. Carson Kelly had a game-tying, two-run single, Varsho followed with the go-ahead triple, and then Mathisen and Tim Locastro hit back-to-back homers to push the lead to 7-3.

Goody (0-2) took the loss, giving up three earned runs and recording only one out. Sam Huff had two doubles for the Rangers. Isiah Kiner-Falefa had a triple and two RBIs.

D-backs starting pitcher Alex Young gave up three runs on six hits over five innings. Keury Mella (2-0) got the win with a scoreless inning of relief. 


CINCINNATI (AP) — Joey Votto homered for his first hit all season against Milwaukee, Trevor Bauer dominated on short rest and the Cincinnati Reds won a pivotal series for playoff contention.

The Reds are in position for a wild-card playoff berth after taking two of three from their NL Central rival. Cincinnati has won nine of 11, its best streak of the season, to get a shot at its first playoff appearance since 2013.

Reflecting the urgency of winning the final game of the series, Cincinnati had Bauer (5-4) pitch on three days' rest. He allowed four hits, struck out 12 in eight innings and exited with an NL-best 1.73 ERA.

Votto was 0 for 22 against Milwaukee this season when he connected in the first inning off Adrian Houser (1-6), who is 0-6 with a 6.70 ERA in his last nine starts.


SAN DIEGO (AP) — Padres starter Mike Clevinger was pulled after one inning because of a tight right biceps, potentially a big setback for playoff-bound San Diego.

Clevinger, acquired last month in a trade with Cleveland and the presumed starter for Game 1 of the playoffs next week, was sent for an MRI. If Clevinger can't go, that role could go to Dinelson Lamet.

Clevinger breezed through a perfect first inning on 12 pitches, including striking out Mike Trout and David Fletcher. But rookie Adrian Morejon (2-2) began warming up in the bullpen while the Padres batted in the bottom of the inning and came out to start the second.

Shohei Ohtani, Justin Upton and Anthony Bemboom homered for Los Angeles. Parick Sandoval (1-4) went three innings against the lethargic Padres for the win and Felix Peña got his second save.


BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — Catcher Gary Sánchez made two of the Yankees' season-high four errors and Toronto damaged New York hopes in its race for home-field advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

Danny Jansen homered twice, once off No. 3 catcher Erik Kratz in the eighth, as the Blue Jays reduced their magic number to one for clinching a wild-card berth and their first postseason appearance since 2016.

A.J. Cole (3-0) got the win and Ross Stripling pitched four innings for his first save since 2017.

Masahiro Tanaka (3-3) allowed five runs — three earned — and eight hits in four innings.


PITTSBURGH (AP) — Adam Frazier and Ke'Bryan Hayes led off the bottom of the first inning with back-to-back homers off Kyle Hendricks, sending Pittsburgh past Chicago.

The Cubs clinched their fifth postseason spot in six years on Tuesday night and maintain a fairly healthy lead in the NL Central with four days left in the regular season. But they've scored just nine runs total while dropping four of their last five games.

Hendricks (6-5) allowed seven hits in 7 2/3 innings.

Trevor Williams (2-8) gave up Anthony Rizzo's 11th home run in the first but little else. Richard Rodriguez worked the ninth for his fourth save.


SEATTLE (AP) — Nick Margevicius tossed six shutout innings, Ty France drove in a pair of runs and Seattle kept its slim postseason hopes alive.

The Mariners closed out the home portion of their schedule taking two of three from the Astros and enter the final weekend three back of Houston with four games to play for second place in the AL West. Seattle closes with four games at Oakland, while the Astros go to Texas for four games.

Zack Greinke (3-3) allowed eight hits in 4 2/3 innings and lost his third straight decision.

Margevicius (2-3) got the win and Yoshihisa Hirano held on for his fourth save.


CHICAGO (AP) — Coby White drew roars from the crowd early on with vicious crossovers and spins toward the basket.

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