AL wild-card race: Red Sox, Blue Jays, and Mariners collect critical wins; Athletics eliminated

Entering Wednesday's slate of games, the American League wild card picture remained in flux. The New York Yankees continued their series against the Toronto Blue Jays with a two-game lead for the top spot. The Boston Red Sox, meanwhile, were attempting to fend off the Seattle Mariners (just a half-game back) and end a four-game losing streak against the Baltimore Orioles. The Oakland Athletics, still theoretically alive at the start of the night, had their own reasons for trying to upend the Mariners' recent run.

How did the night's action play out? Below you can find all you need to know, as well as relive CBS Sports' live blog coverage throughout the night.

AL wild-card standings

1. Yankees -- 90-68 (+1 G)
2. Red Sox -- 89-69
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3. Mariners -- 89-70 (1/2 GB) 
4. Blue Jays -- 88-70 (1 GB)

Blue Jays slug their way to victory

On paper, Wednesday night's pitching matchup between Gerrit Cole and José Berríos seemed primed to be a low-scoring affair. In practice, it was not. Rather, the Blue Jays' ever-threatening lineup put on a show as part of a 6-5 victory (box score).

George Springer led off the bottom of the first with a double and the Blue Jays were off and slugging from there. In total, Toronto recorded eight extra-base hits. Bo Bichette was responsible for three of them, doubling and delivering his 27th and 28th home runs of the season. Marcus Semien also homered, setting a record for second basemen with 44 dingers on the year. Springer, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., and Santiago Espinal provided the other extra-base knocks, all of the doubles variety.

In addition to Semien's record, the Blue Jays lineup made history of its own. Toronto became the first team since the 2003 Braves to see four players clear the 100-runs batted in mark, according to ESPN Stats & Info. Those four? Teoscar Hernández, Guerrero, Semien, and Bichette.

The win puts the Blue Jays just two games back of the Yankees for the top wild card spot with Thursday's series finale to go. The Blue Jays did appear likely to gain ground on the Red Sox, however, meaning they'll remain a game outside of the playoff picture with just four days remaining in the regular season. 

Red Sox down Orioles, maintain wild card lead 

The Red Sox faced a straightforward situation entering Wednesday's contest against the Orioles: a loss plus a Mariners win would leave them outside of the playoff picture with just days to go in the regular season. That's because the Red Sox, losers of four in a row, had seen their lead for the second wild card spot reduced to a half game.

Thanks to J.D. Martinez, the Red Sox needn't worry about the possibility for a little longer.

Martinez put Boston on the board early with a solo home run, his 28th of the campaign. Later, he plated a pair of runs with a double to give the Red Sox a 3-0 lead. Martinez has now driven in 99 runs on the year, positioning him for fifth career 100-RBI season. Alex Verdugo added two runs of his own in the eighth before Hunter Renfroe homered in the ninth to give Boston an insurmountable 6-0 lead (box score).

The Yankees loss means the Red Sox are now just one game behind the Yankees for the top wild card spot.

The Red Sox will wrap up their series against the Orioles on Thursday before traversing to D.C. for a three-game, season-ending series against the Nationals. 

Mariners stay hot, eliminate Athletics

The Mariners won their fourth consecutive game on Wednesday, edging the Athletics in a 4-2 affair (box score). The Mariners fell behind the Athletics in the middle innings before taking a 2-1 lead in the sixth on a Jarred Kelenic double. The A's subsequently tied the game on a Seth Brown home run, but Seattle retook the lead when Ty France hit a sacrifice fly in the seventh. Abraham Toro later homered in the eighth to give Seattle a 4-2 lead.

The Mariners entered Wednesday a half game back of the Red Sox for the second wild card spot. Boston knocked off the Orioles earlier in the night, meaning there will be no change on that front. The Mariners did, however, technically gain ground on the Yankees as New York lost a slugfest against the Blue Jays.

The Mariners will have Thursday off before hosting the Angels for three games this weekend. The Red Sox, for their part, will complete their series against the Orioles on Thursday before taking on the Nationals in D.C. for three games. 

As for the A's, the combination of a Red Sox victory and their own defeat left them 4 1/2 games back with three to play. Obviously that's mathematically impossible to make up, and so thehir postseason dreams are over.

Follow along below for live updates, scores, highlights and analysis from Wednesday night in the AL wild-card race.

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Elsewhere …

The Giants have defeated the Diamondbacks while the Dodgers have fallen well behind the Padres. 

Should the Dodgers lose tonight, then the Giants will enter Thursday with a three-game lead in the NL West with four games left. They could, conceivably, clinch the division as soon as tomorrow.

The Dodgers will complete their series against the Padres tomorrow before taking on the Brewers for three games. The Giants get one more against the Diamondbacks and then three versus the Padres. 

At this point, it's pretty safe to slot the Dodgers into that Wild Card Game against the Cardinals.

September 30, 2021, 4:43 AM
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The Mariners just retook the lead thanks to Ty France. It's 3-2 Seattle heading into the eighth. 

September 30, 2021, 4:47 AM
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And the Athletics tie it with a Seth Brown home run off Diego Castillo. Wow.

September 30, 2021, 4:30 AM
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Mariners take lead

Just like that, the Mariners have overtaken the Athletics. Jarred Kelenic narrowly missed a three-run homer, instead settling for a two-run sixth-inning double that gave Seattle a 2-1 lead. The Athletics had only taken their 1-0 lead in their portion of the frame.

As a reminder, a Seattle win will keep them a half game back of the Red Sox for the AL's second wild card spot. A loss, meanwhile, will drop them to 1 ½ games back with four to play. (The Astros would also clinch the AL West in that scenario.)

The Mariners have received strong pitching from their bullpen all season. We'll see if they can keep Oakland off the board and get the next nine outs.

September 30, 2021, 4:17 AM
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Athletics take lead

The Athletics have taken a 1-0 lead in the sixth inning on a solo home run by Tony Kemp. It was Kemp's seventh dinger of the season.

If the A's can hold on and win, it means that the Mariners will fall to 1 ½ games back of the Red Sox for the second wild card spot with four games to play. It will also mean the Astros clinch the AL West.

If the M's can come from behind, they'll remain a half game behind the Red Sox. The Astros will also not clinch the division until Thursday at earliest. 

September 30, 2021, 3:56 AM
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@BlueJays via Twitter
September 30, 2021, 3:22 AM
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Rays defeat Astros

The Rays have completed a 7-0 blowout victory against the Astros. Here's what that means as it pertains to the American League playoffs and the AL West race.

The Rays clinched the best record in the AL, meaning they'll have home-field advantage throughout the non-World Series phases of the postseason. (The Rays can still retain that advantage in the World Series if they meet up with a NL team with a worse record.)

The Astros can still clinch the division title tonight. But it would require the Athletics defeating the Mariners. That's the only way. (The A's and M's are currently knotted at 0-0 in the fourth inning.)

If the Mariners win, the Astros' magic number will remain one. In other words, the next Astros win or Mariners loss will put a bow on the division.

September 30, 2021, 3:18 AM
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Latest AL playoff picture update

Now, let's recap where things stand in the two unresolved AL races.

In the wild card, the Yankees loss while the Red Sox and Blue Jays won. That means New York's lead for the top spot over Boston is now down to one game. Toronto, for its part, trails the Yankees by two games and the Red Sox by one. The Mariners can remain a half game back of the Red Sox with a win against the A's.

In the West, the Astros are on their way to a blowout loss against the Rays. They can still clinch the division tonight, however, if the A's defeat the Mariners.

September 30, 2021, 2:50 AM
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Braves, Cardinals headline NL's night of play

We're focused on the American League playoff picture in this here live blog, but let's hit on the two major National League storylines as most of the night's games wrap up.

The Braves reduced their magic number to one with another victory against the Phillies. The Braves received a big night from Austin Riley and a good start from Max Fried. Another victory by the Braves or loss by the Phillies will clinch Atlanta's fourth consecutive National League East title. The two sides will wrap up their business on Thursday evening.

The Cardinals, meanwhile, clinched the second wild card spot on Tuesday. That's good news because the Cardinals had their 17-game winning streak snapped on Wednesday against the Brewers. The game featured zero postseason ramifications. 

September 30, 2021, 2:44 AM
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@BlueJays via Twitter
September 30, 2021, 2:18 AM
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@Yankees via Twitter
September 30, 2021, 2:01 AM
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@BlueJays via Twitter
September 30, 2021, 1:59 AM
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Higashioka continues to torment Jays, ties game

The Blue Jays haven't been able to put the Yankees away despite being in control most of the night. Now, they find themselves in a 5-5 tie in the seventh inning.

Yankees reserve backstop Kyle Higashioka -- in the lineup only because he's Gerrit Cole's personal catcher -- just plated two runs to make it an even game.

Higashioka has been oddly effective against the Blue Jays in his career. His .833 OPS versus them entering tonight was the second-highest he'd posted against a team who he had played at least 10 games against. For reference, his overall career OPS coming into play tonight was .630

September 30, 2021, 1:22 AM
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