BALTIMORE // The Tampa Bay Rays moved to within sight of their first American League East title by winning both games of a doubleheader against the Baltimore Orioles 5-2 and 7-5. With the regular season in the final week, Tampa Bay moved three games ahead of the Boston Red Sox, who beat the Cleveland Indians 5-4 to clinch at the very least the league's wild card.
If the Rays win their next game and Boston lose then that will secure the title. Both teams have five games remaining before the regular season ends on Sunday. The Rays recovered from a 2-0 deficit with two runs in the fifth and one each in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings to complement seven strong innings by pitcher James Shields in the first game of the double header. Tampa Bay were also down in the second game, 5-1, before Evan Longoria homered and pinch-hitter Dioner Navarro drove in two runs in a six-run eighth inning rally to complete the win.
"That was quite a comeback right there," the Rays manager Joe Maddon said after the second game. "The whole team contributed." In the first game, left-fielder Lou Montanez had given the Orioles a 2-0 lead in the second inning thanks to a home run. The Rays, however, levelled it in the fifth on an error by the losing pitcher Garrett Olson and a double by Fernando Perez. An RBI double by Jason Bartlett gave Tampa Bay a 3-2 lead in the sixth before a single by Carlos Pena made it 4-2 in the seventh.
Tampa Bay scored their final run on bunt single by Perez that scored Ben Zorbrist, who said: "This year has been a Cinderella story not just for me but the whole team. We can taste the title. But we're not there yet." In Boston, the Red Sox scored three runs in the fifth to erase a 4-2 deficit and break the Indians' seven-games winning streak. By clinching the wild card, Boston ended the New York Yankees' impressive 13-season run of play-off finishes.
In the National League, the Los Angeles Dodgers thrashed the San Diego Padres 10-1 to take a three-games lead in the NL West over the Arizona Diamondbacks. The New York Mets moved to within one and a half games of the Philadelphia Phillies in the National League East with a 6-2 win over the Chicago Cubs. The Mets also kept a game ahead of Milwaukee in the wild-card race. * Reuters