Tigers win dramatic game; Royals, Astros also keep pressure on leaders
By Chad Thornburg
With August nearing a close, the American League Wild Card race is heating up. The Red Sox and Orioles have held down the two spots for much of the month, but five other clubs -- the Tigers, Astros, Royals, Mariners and Yankees -- are knocking at the door, all within 3 1/2 games of a playoff berth.
Monday's games saw significant movement in the AL standings as Detroit, Houston and Kansas City each inched a game closer to the Orioles, while the Red Sox padded their lead on the top spot.
The Tigers, who were last in possession of a Wild Card spot on Aug. 8, climbed to within a game of Baltimore by beating the division-rival White Sox, 4-3, at Comerica Park. Jarrod Saltalamacchia fueled Detroit's win with a go-ahead two-run homer in the 8th inning, helping his club avoid a third consecutive loss at home. It was a much-needed victory for the Tigers, who have matchups with the Royals and Orioles in the first few weeks of September.
"You're moving into September, and September's a lot different now with that second Wild Card," Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler said. "It seems like there's a lot more teams that are competing and trying to get into the playoffs. Every win is memorable when it comes to this time of year."
Chicago faces a 7 1/2-game deficit and long odds to make the postseason, but still has five more games against the Tigers and a pair of three-game series vs. the Royals to make up ground in the crowded race.
In Kansas City, two Wild Card contenders went head-to-head at Kauffman Stadium, and the Royals emerged with the early edge over the Yankees in the three-game set. The defending World Series champions defeated New York, 8-5, in the opener and have now won 18 of their last 22 games to come within two games of the Orioles. The Yankees, who have lost two in a row, remained 3 1/2 games back.
"I think we still have a chance. We're playing really good baseball," said Yankees second baseman Starlin Castro. "We almost came back in that game. We have to try to continue playing, focus and start winning games."
Behind Jose Altuve's 22nd home run of the season, the Astros shutout the A's, 6-0, and they also moved within two games of the second Wild Card spot. Houston entered play on Aug. 19 facing a 6 1/2-game deficit and has since won eight of its last 10 contests.
The Blue Jays improved their lead in the AL East and also helped out all the teams chasing Baltimore in the Wild Card standings by defeating the Orioles, 5-1, in the series opener at Camden Yards. Toronto is now a season-high 19 games over .500 and two games ahead of the Red Sox in the division. Baltimore has dropped four of its last five games to fall four games back in the East and is clinging to its one-game lead with several challengers for its Wild Card spot looming.
Boston preserved its standing as the AL's top Wild Card team, increasing its lead on the O's and maintaining pace behind the Blue Jays in the East with a 9-4 win over the Rays. In the victory, Mookie Betts recorded his 30th home run, while Rick Porcello picked up his Major League-leading 18th win. Porcello became the first Boston hurler since Dave "Boo" Ferriss in 1946 to start a season 13-0 at Fenway Park.
Chad Thornburg is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.