For the first time since May 22, there's a new leader in the American League East. The Orioles head to Boston a percentage point ahead of the Blue Jays after Toronto lost for the 16th time in 25 games.
Baltimore is 46-39 (a winning percentage of .541), while Toronto is 47-40 (.540), and with the Orioles having been rained out at Boston, the Jays could reclaim the outright division lead by winning in Oakland today -- but in winning 11 of 16, the O's may have nevertheless established themselves as the best team in an (albeit) mediocre East.
Here's how it went for those teams, and around baseball, on Thursday:
IN THE DIVISION
Orioles 5, Rangers 2: Much attention has been paid to Nelson Cruz and his league-leading 26 homers, but during the club's recent surge the biggest boost may have come from journeyman Steve Pearce, who's batting .390 with eight doubles, six homers, 17 RBIs, and a 1.302 OPS over his last 15 games -- and led the way past Texas on Thursday. With two doubles among his career-high four hits, plus two steals, Pearce was one of four O's with multiple hits as Baltimore capitalized on Yu Darvish being pushed back a day when the start of the game was delayed by rain.
Baltimore is 8 games up on Boston; Texas, 1 behind.
Athletics 4, Blue Jays 1: The only run the Jays managed against Sonny Gray scored when umpires reversed a call at the plate on a fielder's choice, thereafter allowing the A's to score twice in the second and twice more in the eighth to claim the first of a four-game series. R.A. Dickey threw 126 pitches in a complete-game loss, while Gray allowed four hits over seven innings for his eighth win. Ex-Red Sox Brandon Moss had a double and two walks, lifting his OPS to .901 for the season -- eighth in the AL.
Oakland is 14 games up on Boston; Toronto, 8 up.
Yankees 7, Twins 4: He yielded more than three earned runs for the first time as a big-leaguer, but Masahiro Tanaka still registered his AL-best 12th win thanks to Carlos Beltran, who launched a three-run homer in the seventh to help the Yankees snap a five-game losing streak. New York scored all its runs off their former teammate, Phil Hughes, who has now surrendered at least five earned runs in the three straight starts after pitching like an all-star earlier in the year. Jacoby Ellsbury went 0-for-4 for the Yanks.
New York is 4.5 games up on Boston; Minnesota, 0.5 up.
Tigers 8, Rays 1: The Rays came in hot, and scored early, but Max Scherzer cooled them off quickly -- finishing with seven strikeouts in eight two-hit innings as the Tigers opened a four-game set with a rout. Trailing 1-0 when they came to bat, the Tigers hit three homers in the bottom of the first, including the 21st of the season from Victor Martinez, who hasn't hit that many since a 2009 season spent partially with the Red Sox, and whose career high is 25.
Detroit is 11.5 games up on Boston; Tampa, 1.5 behind.
(The Rays did have a somewhat humorous lineup coincidence(?) in defeat, however.)
(And a humorous response after things went awry.)
AROUND THE LEAGUE
Angels 5, Astros 2: David Freese had a big game for the second straight night, contributing a two-run double to a four-run fourth that enabled the Angels to hold off the Astros. The Angels rank second in the AL in scoring and are fourth in ERA, while the primary positive for Houston continues to be second baseman Jose Altuve, who went 3-for-5 to bump his league-leading average to .347.
Los Angeles is 10.5 games up on Boston; Houston, 3 behind.
NATIONAL LEAGUE NOTABLES
The Phillies scored twice in the ninth off Falmouth's Steve Cishek, then Jonathan Papelbon locked down his 19th save as the Phillies beat the Marlins, 5-4. Papelbon's ERA is now 1.35 on the year ... Former Red Sox lefty Javy Lopez pitched an inning of scoreless relief, but each of the three Giants who threw before him allowed a run, so the Cardinals won, 7-2 ... Cody Ross had a run-scoring, pinch-hit double as part of Arizona's seven-run ninth inning, helping the Diamondbacks tee off on recently acquired Pirate Ernesto Frieri (0.1 IP, 5 ER) and win, 10-2 ... Zack Greinke gave up the lead in the eighth, but Juan Uribe singled home Matt Kemp in the top of the ninth to facilitate a 3-2 Dodgers win at Colorado. The victory moved Los Angeles half a game ahead of San Francisco in the NL West.
10 YEARS AGO TODAY ...
It was the Braves who celebrated Independence Day with some fireworks, as Atlanta scored nine times in the fifth inning to take a 10-4 win and the rubber match of a series at Turner Field. Derek Lowe was throttled in the fifth, charged with the first seven runs while recording just one out, and Jimmy Anderson wasn't much more effective when summoned to stop the damage. Lowe did have a double at bat, though, and it produced an RBI -- which was a feat on this day, when the Red Sox had 11 hits but went 2-for-13 with runners in scoring position. It was Boston's fifth loss in six games, and 10th in 14 contests.