Orioles and Athletics
The O's not only swept a three-game series against Tampa Bay, capped by a 3-2, 14-inning win on Thursday but also earned their 81st win of the season, ending a streak of 14 consecutive losing seasons. They did not, however, celebrate. Instead, Baltimore climbed on a flight to Oakland, taking its bid for a postseason berth to the West Coast for a week. The Orioles will also pay a three-game visit to Seattle early next week.
Philadelphia was among the teams that dumped salaries over the last six weeks, dealing Hunter Pence to San Francisco and Shane Victorino and Joe Blanton to the Los Angeles Dodgers. And the impact? Well, the Phillies, who were 50-61 and 13 games back of an National League Wild Card spot on Aug. 9, have won 22 of 33 games since and woke up on Friday four games back in the bid for the second NL Wild Card spot.
Detroit, fresh off back-to-back wins over the White Sox in Chicago to pull within one game of the AL Central leaders, get a weekend to regroup with a three-game set against last-place Cleveland. Then comes what should be the most challenging part of the Tigers' schedule. They'll travel to Chicago on Monday to make up Thursday's rainout, having already won 12 of 17 games with the White Sox. They'll then fly home to host Oakland in a three-game series. After that? Their final 13 games are against Kansas City and Minnesota, who are a combined 37 games below .500. The Tigers are 14-9 against the Royals and Twins this season. The Tigers are definitely focused on the White Sox. Detroit is 5 1/2 games back of the Yankees and Orioles in the battle for the second AL Wild Card berth and would have to climb over three teams to earn a spot. Detroit's key is its rotation, with a Big Three headed by Justin Verlander, the 2011 AL MVP and Cy Young Award winner, and followed by Max Scherzer and Doug Fister. Scherzer leads the Majors with 220 strikeouts and is 11-2 with a 2.56 ERA since June 12. Fister, 7-0 in September since joining the Tigers from Seattle on July 30 a year ago, is 8-2 in his last 12 starts, during which Detroit has gone 9-3. THREE DOWN
A couple of weeks ago, the chatter in the Steel City was about the chances of the Pirates being a part of the postseason for the first time since 1992. Today? There's a sense that the Bucs are in a second-half fade similar to what they experienced a year ago, and that they're close to extending their professional sports record for consecutive losing seasons to 20. The Pirates' string of 19 consecutive losing seasons is three more than the 1933-48 Philadelphia As, who held the Major League record until giving way to Pittsburgh at the end of the 2010 season, and four more than the 1919-33 Boston Red Sox.
Tampa Bay was not only swept in its AL East showdown with Baltimore, but it suffered walk-off losses in the final two games; the Rays' 26 one-run losses are the most of any AL team. Suddenly, they find themselves four games back of the Orioles and Yankees in both the race for the AL East lead and the second AL Wild Card spot. And now Tampa Bay makes a weekend visit to Yankee Stadium to face the Bronx Bombers, who are coming off back-to-back victories for the first time since they won three in a row against Texas four weeks ago. The Yankees were 1-for-22 with runners in scoring position in their two wins at Boston. The one hit was memorable, though: Derek Jeter singled home the second run in Thursday's 2-0 victory for his 3,283rd hit, tying Willie Mays for 10th on baseball's all-time hits list.
Having opened a two-city road trip by being swept in San Diego for the first time since 1995, the Cardinals found at least a moment of relief with a 2-1 victory at Los Angeles on Thursday night in the opener of a four-game series. This is a matchup of two struggling NL Wild Card hopefuls. The Cards and Dodgers both went into Thursday having lost six of seven. The Dodgers have now lost seven of eight, scoring a total of 14 runs in the process. That has allowed the Cardinals to take a two-game lead over the Dodgers in the battle for the second NL Wild Card spot. Having been without shortstop Rafael Furcal (right elbow) since Aug. 31, St. Louis was dealt two more blows this week. First baseman Lance Berkman underwent right knee surgery on Tuesday, and starting pitcher Jake Westbrook was scratched from Thursday's start because of a right oblique strain. Lance Lynn, an All-Star this season who was moved to the bullpen for six appearances after an Aug. 24 start against Cincinnati, responded to another chance to start in place of Westbrook, providing six strong innings.
Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.