VIDEOS: Clutch hits, late-inning drama abound in MLB Friday

By Matt Snyder | Baseball Writer

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What a night. What a freaking night.

Look, I always think I'm lucky to have my job. I get to watch and write about baseball and it's actually, technically a "job." Friday night, though, was one of those nights where said luck was taken to an exponential power.

There were massive home runs, exceptional defensive plays, slugfests, pitcher's duels, huge comebacks, clutch hits and teams staving off comebacks. Stars performed, lesser names came up big and everything in between. We had just about everything, including two lead changes atop divisions (the Tigers taking back first in the AL Central while the Braves did the same in the NL East).

Let's take a stroll through some of the highlights.

Astros rookie George Springer crushed a ball that hit the D-ring catwalk in Tropicana Field as his team would beat the Rays, 3-1.

The Marlins beat the Mets, 3-2, as left fielder Marcell Ozuna twice threw out the tying run at home plate -- including on the final out of the game.

The Yankees would plate four in the bottom of the ninth to beat the Orioles, 5-3. The big blow? Carlos Beltran's three-run, walk-off homer:

The Reds took an 8-run lead in the second inning against the Blue Jays. They led 9-3 going into the sixth. And the Blue Jays won by five (14-9) in a game that didn't even go to extra innings. The go-ahead hit came from Eric Kratz (watch video on MLB.com), but the game was broken open on former Red Edwin Encarnacion's second three-run homer of the night:

•The White Sox got two in the ninth to tie the Twins, but then Brian Dozier delivered a walk-off single for the home team:

The Tigers took a 5-0 lead into the bottom of the eighth. An Asdrubal Cabrera three-run homer and Carlos Santana solo job brought the Indians within one, but the Tigers would hold on to win, 6-4, thanks to an Ian Kinsler RBI double and Joe Nathan save.

Over in Kansas City, the Mariners also had a 5-0 lead, but this one was blown. The Royals erased the five-run deficit in the fifth and sixth innings and it was tied headed to the ninth. That's when Brad Miller broke the tie:

And the Mariners would win, 7-5, meaning that the Tigers had taken first place back from the Royals.

The Braves took a 4-2 lead into the ninth in Washington, but Craig Kimbrel coughed up the lead on a two-run Anthony Rendon homer. The game would go 13, but the Braves would prevail, with the clutch hit coming from Evan Gattis:

The Braves have won 20 of their last 27 against the Nationals and are again in first place in the NL East.

The Brewers and Rockies combined for 35 hits and six homers in a 13-10 Brewers win. Jean Segura had his first career two-homer game. And the Brewers now have a 5.5-game lead in the NL Central.

•The Giants lost again (to the Diamondbacks, this time), but didn't lose any ground on their lead in the NL West, because the Padres rallied to take down the Dodgers with a three-run ninth. The clincher? An Everth Cabrera sac fly:

The A's and Red Sox were tied at three for most of the game -- it was 3-3 in the middle of the third and remained there until the bottom of the eighth -- with the home A's eventually prevailing. They'd do so on the strength of a clutch Coco Crisp single:

And that's pretty much how the night went. Close games, clutch hits and several stud closers blowing saves. What a night.

We may be in for a lot more of this drama in 2014, too. Get this: There are only seven teams not within five games of a playoff spot right now. The Cubs are only 6.5 games out of the second NL wild card. The Astros are only 7.5 out of the AL's second wild card. To go to the opposite end, there are 18 teams either in a playoff position or within 3.5 games of a spot.

With so many teams hanging around contention and so few teams ready to separate from the pack, the league is ripe for nights like we just had -- and it's not even July yet. Good times.

How about an encore Saturday, MLB? That's not too much to ask, is it?

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