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The Morning After: East Race Tightens as Mediocrity Reigns in AL

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By sweeping the Twins, the Red Sox finally passed another team in the American League standings, moving a game ahead of Minnesota as the rightful owners of just the fourth-worst record on the junior circuit.

Next they'll face the league's best team for four games (Oakland) on an 11-day road trip that also includes visits to another winning team (Seattle) and finish up with the Yankees in New York, so the road immediately ahead won't be easy. But if the Sox can merely hold their ground between now and their return to Fenway at the end of the month they might be in decent shape, considering the even level of competition that leaves them just four out of a prospective playoff spot, and just 6.5 out in the East.

To put that latter deficit in an encouraging context, consider that it's the same Kansas City faced in the Central after the first day of this month. Now they have a 1.5-game lead.

Here's a look at what happened with the Royals, and around the rest of baseball, on Wednesday.

IN THE DIVISION

Yankees 7, Blue Jays 3: Mark Buehrle has had little success against the Yankees historically. The Blue Jays have lately had no success at Yankee Stadium. And neither of that changed on Wednesday night. Buehrle fell to 1-11 lifetime against the Bronx Bombers, while the Jays lost their 15th straight game in the Bronx, with Brett Gardner (four hits) and Brian McCann (five RBIs) doing the most significant damage. As close to first place as it's been since May 31 (2.5 games), New York goes for a sweep Thursday against the division leaders, who've now lost eight of 11.
New York is 4 games up on Boston; Toronto, 6.5 up.

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Orioles 2, Rays 0: After losing the opener, Baltimore won the next two games and the series, getting six scoreless innings from Kevin Gausman and Zach Britton's ninth save to deal the Rays a second straight setback. Steve Pearce drove home the eventual game winner in the fifth, then Nelson Cruz hit one into the catwalks high above Tropicana Field in the eighth, getting credit for his major-league leading 22nd home run. Alex Cobb was a tough luck loser, having allowed just an unearned run in seven innings, but nevertheless a loss is a loss -- and with this one the 6.5 gap between Tampa and Boston is the exact same as the gap between the Red Sox and first place.
Baltimore is 3.5 games up on Boston; Tampa, 6.5 back.

AROUND THE LEAGUE

Royals 2, Tigers 1: After pounding Detroit's Cy Young winners on consecutive days, Kansas City scored only twice against Drew Smyly -- but Jeremy Guthrie ensured it was enough, striking out nine and allowing only a J.D. Martinez homer over 6.2 innings as the Royals posted a 10th straight win. Alex Gordon plated Eric Hosmer to open the scoring in the first, then Omar Infante homered against his old team in the fifth to account for the KC offense, as the victors moved 1.5 games ahead of Detroit in the Central with a chance to sweep a four-game series on Thursday afternoon.
Kansas City is 5.5 games up on Boston; Detroit, 4 up.

Athletics 4, Rangers 2: After posting a 5.63 ERA over his previous four starts, Sonny Gray bounced back nicely with seven innings of two-run ball and it was good enough to give the A's the best record in baseball as they welcome the Red Sox for a four-game series. Former Sox player Brandon Moss scored a run for Oakland, doubled in another, and walked twice, while Sean Doolittle notched his ninth save in extending his personal scoreless streak to 22.1 innings.
Oakland is 10 games up on Boston; Texas, 1 up.

White Sox 7, Giants 6: The A's now own the big leagues' best record in part because their Bay Area brethren have lost five in a row, the latest coming against the White Sox and rookie slugger Jose Abreu. The Cuban first baseman hit his 20th homer in just his 58th game, becoming the third-fastest player to reach that mark; meanwhile, Adam Dunn later added a three-run shot, his 452nd career blast. Chris Sale beat Tim Hudson in what was billed as a pitcher's duel, but wound up to be a game featuring 26 hits.
Chicago is 1 game up on Boston.

Nationals 6, Astros 5: Red Sox-for-a-week Adam LaRoche was one of five Nats with two hits as Washington rallied against Houston's bullpen to complete a sweep of a three-game series that leaves the Astros with five losses in their last six games.
Houston is 2.5 games behind Boston.

Padres 2, Mariners 1: The Padres paid tribute to the late Tony Gwynn in their first home game since his death, then broke a 1-all tie when Tommy Medica singled home Everth Cabrera in the eighth to overcome a 10-strikeout performance from Felix Hernandez (whose wild pitch allowed San Diego's first tally). The loss snapped a three-game winning streak for Seattle, and leaves it a game out of the second wild-card position (which is currently shared by Detroit and New York).
Seattle is 3 games up on Boston.

The Indians and Angels were postponed by rain.

NATIONAL LEAGUE NOTABLES

Dodger ace Clayton Kershaw became the first pitcher ever to strikeout 15 without allowing a walk in a no-hitter, overwhelming the Rockies for an 8-0 win in which Colorado's only baserunner came courtesy of a Hanley Ramirez throwing error in the seventh ... Adrian Gonzalez had two hits and two RBIs in the Dodgers' victory, but most important might've been the deft scoop he made on a skipping throw to first after third baseman Miguel Rojas fielded a ball deep behind the third-base bag. Given the degree of difficulty on both ends of the play, it may well have been ruled a hit had Gonzalez not come up with it cleanly ... Jorge De La Rosa, traded by the Red Sox as part of the Curt Schilling deal in 2003, allowed eight runs in 3.1 innings opposite Kershaw ... Former Sox outfielder Marlon Byrd went 3-for-5 with his 11th homer and three RBIs as the Phillies used 18 hits to sweep the Braves, 10-5 ... Another from the Forgettable Red Sox Careers Department, Bartolo Colon, notched his first hit in nine years and 44 at-bats, helping his own cause in a 3-2 win over the Cardinals. He also went eight innings on the mound, yielding just a run on four hits ... Adding to three hits from former Sox minor leaguer Anthony Rizzo, ex-Boston outfielder Ryan Sweeney added a 2-for-4 effort to the Cubs' 6-1 win over the Marlins, lifting his average to .200 for the season ... Alfredo Simon posted his NL-leading 10th win as the Reds beat the Pirates, 11-4 ... Cody Ross, who is making $9.5 million this year and next in Arizona, did not play in the Diamondbacks' 4-3 defeat of the Brewers. He's started just one of the club's last five games, and is hitting .206.

10 YEARS AGO TODAY ...

Five of the first six Giants registered hits against Pedro Martinez, capped by an A.J. Pierzynski double that gave San Francisco a 4-0 lead in the first inning, but Martinez would yield just one more hit over the next five frames to keep the Sox in the game. Boston finally capitalized on that opportunity in the eighth, when Trot Nixon delivered a bases-loaded single and a Barry Bonds misplay allowed all three runners to score, tying the game. However, in the bottom of the inning, Pierzynski singled with two outs and pinch-hitter Edgardo Alfonzo followed with a two-run homer off Alan Embree, giving the Giants a 6-4 triumph.