The red-hot Tampa Bay Rays improved their Major League Baseball playoff hopes by moving to within two games of rival Boston for the American League wild-card spot with an 8-5 win over the slumping Red Sox on Sunday.
The Rays (85-67), who trailed Boston (87-65) by nine games as recently as two weeks ago, have won seven of their last 10 to close the gap. Each team have 10 games remaining.
In Toronto, the New York Yankees fell 3-0 to the Blue Jays, missing an opportunity to extend their four-game lead in the AL East and denying Mariano Rivera a shot at setting MLB’s career saves record.
In the National League, the Milwaukee Brewers inched closer to clinching the Central division by capping a three-game sweep of the Cincinnati Reds 8-1.
The Brewers have a seven-game lead over St Louis, with the Cardinals playing the Philadelphia Phillies late on Sunday.
The defending World Series champion San Francisco Giants, trying to claw their way into the playoffs, beat Colorado 12-5 to move within four games of National League wild card-leading Atlanta, who lost to the New York Mets 7-5.
San Francisco trail Arizona by five games in the NL West.
In Washington, Wang Chien-ming had the longest start of his comeback from shoulder surgery, leaving with two outs in the seventh inning, while Danny Espinosa delivered his first RBI in two weeks as the Nationals beat the Marlins 4-3.
The right-hander allowed runs on Gaby Sanchez’s fifth-inning solo shot and Brett Hayes’ two-run homer in the seventh. Wang (3-3) gave up six hits, struck out five and didn’t walk a batter in 6-2/3 innings.
Meanwhile, Florida rookie Brad Hand (1-8) lost his fifth consecutive start, allowing four runs — three earned — and five hits in four innings.
Tampa Bay’s post-season push took another step forward when they took advantage of Boston starter Tim Wakefield, who allowed six runs in five innings.
Matt Joyce went 3-for-4 with three RBIs for the Rays, who went ahead 3-0 in the second inning and also tacked on two runs in the fifth and two in the seventh to claim an 8-2 advantage.
Starter David Price left the game with a 4-2 lead after four innings after being hit in the chest by a line drive, though it appeared to be a precaution.
Boston scored two runs in the fourth and got a three-run home run from Mike Aviles in the -bottom of the seventh, but it was too little too late as the Red Sox slump continued.
The Red Sox have lost 13 of 17 games and are now fighting for their playoff lives.
“I choose to believe, knowing the guys down in the clubhouse like I do, we’ll meet this challenge and it will make us stronger,” Red Sox manager Terry Francona told reporters. “I guess that’s our best way to go about this.”
Sunday’s other results:
‧ Tigers 3, Athletics 0
‧ Rangers 3, Mariners 0
‧ Angels 11, Orioles 2
‧ Indians 6, Twins 5
‧ White Sox 10, Royals 5
‧ Cardinals 5, Phillies 0
‧ Dodgers 15, Pirates 1
‧ Astros 3, Cubs 2
‧ Diamondbacks 5, Padres 1
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