The New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays are in a battle to catch the Boston Red Sox in the AL East, and are fighting for a wild card spot in the American League. That makes this weekend's four-game series very crucial in the second half of the season, and both teams played like it on Thursday night. After the Yankees tied the game with a run in the eighth and ninth, Brett Gardner's solo home run in the 11th lifted them past the Rays for a 6-5 comeback win. Gary Sanchez hit a grounder in the ninth inning that just got past the middle infielders to tie the game at five-apiece. Gardner scored the tying run after leading the inning off with a triple against Alex Colome. The outfielder's career-high-tying 18th home run came off of Andrew Kittredge, who suffered his first loss for Tampa Bay. The win was the fourth in a row for the Yankees, who got a huge couple of innings from flame-thrower Aroldis Chapman. The former Red and Cub needed just 19 pitches to strike out four over two innings in his third win. The Yankees did lose manager Joe Girardi in this one, as he was ejected in the seventh inning for arguing balls and strikes. Evan Longoria went deep early in the loss for Tampa Bay. This series continues on Friday night, followed by back-to-back matinee games on Saturday and Sunday.
Indians Edge Angels for 7th Straight Win
While the Kansas City Royals remain red hot on their eight-game winning streak, the Cleveland Indians are doing their part to stay atop the AL Central Division. The defending American League champs improved to a season-high 10 games over .500 with a 2-1 win over the Los Angeles Angels on Thursday afternoon. The win was their seventh in a row, and was fueled by the bats of Francisco Lindor and Carlos Santana, as well as the arm of Trevor Bauer. Lindor broke a tie with an RBI single in the seventh inning, while Bauer lasted a season-high eight innings in the victory. Santana also chipped in with a solo home run early on, as the Indians' rebounded from a 1-5 road trip with a perfect 7-0 homestand. Bauer earned his ninth win of the season by improving to 4-0 in five career starts against the Angels. He allowed a run on seven hits and struck out six in the victory. Cody Allen pitched a perfect ninth for his 18th save, while J.C. Ramirez suffered his ninth loss of the year for the Angels. The Indians will take their winning streak to the "Windy City" to battle their division rival, Chicago White Sox, beginning on Friday night.
Nationals Club 8 HRs in Rout of Brewers
Not that Max Scherzer normally needs that much run support, but he got plenty of it in Thursday's win. The Washington Nationals tied a franchise record with eight home runs, including five in one inning, in a 15-2 blowout win over the Milwaukee Brewers. The Nationals ended the game with 19 hits, including two home runs apiece from Ryan Zimmerman and Bryce Harper on the day, as the NL East leaders reached double digits in runs for the 18th time this season. During their seven-run third inning, the Nats set major league records with four consecutive home runs, and five home runs total in the inning. They joined five other teams in major league history to hit five home runs in an inning, becoming the first to do so since the Brewers did it in 2006. All five of those home runs came off of starter Michael Blazek, who took the loss in his first decision of the season. It was his first career start after making 108 appearances in relief. Jose Lobaton, Anthony Rendon, Wimer Difo, and Brian Goodwin also went deep, as the Nats tied a franchise mark for home runs, which was set by the 1978 Montreal Expos. Scherzer enjoyed the support en route to his 12th win, as he allowed one run over six innings and struck out nine on his 33rd birthday. Both Travis Shaw and Lewis Brinson went deep in the loss for Milwaukee. Washington will now move on to host the Colorado Rockies this weekend. The Brewers head home for an intriguing series with the Chicago Cubs.