AL wild card: Red Sox move into tie with Yankees for top spot; Mariners win thriller to stay alive

Thanks to Saturday's results, we'll go into Sunday with the possibility of a four-way tie for two wild-card spots still intact. Here's how the tiebreaker scenarios would work.

Now, here are the current wild-card standings after the Red Sox, Blue Jays, and Mariners all won on Saturday and the Yankees lost: 

AL wild-card standings

1. Red Sox: 91-70
2. Yankees: 91-70
3. Blue Jays: 90-71 (1.0 GB)
4. Mariners: 90-71 (1.0 GB)

The Yankees could have clinched the top wild-card spot on Saturday, but a 12-2 loss against the Rays means there's going to be a lot on the line in New York on Sunday. 

The Yankees and Red Sox have already guaranteed themselves an extra game, either a Game 163 tiebreaker Monday or the AL Wild Card Game on Tuesday. Both the Yankees and Red Sox control their own destinies. The Blue Jays and Mariners need help to reach the postseason at this point.

Key AL wild-card games, scores from Saturday

Rays 12, Yankees 2 (box score)
Blue Jays 10, Orioles 1 (box score)  
Red Sox 5, Nationals 3  (box score)
Mariners 6, Angels 4 (box score)

Key AL wild-card games on Sunday (all times ET)

Red Sox (C. Sale) at Nationals (J. Adon), 3:05 p.m.
Rays (M. Wacha) at Yankees (J. Taillon), 3:05 p.m.
Orioles (B. Zimmermann) at Blue Jays (H. Ryu), 3:07 p.m.
Angels (R. Detmers) at Mariners (T. Anderson), 3:10 p.m.

Mariners win thriller to stay alive

The Seattle Mariners stayed alive heading into the final day of the 2021 regular season with a thrilling, back-and-forth 6-4 win at home over the Angels on Saturday night. Had the Mariners lost the game, they would've been eliminated from postseason contention. Instead, Seattle now joins the Blue Jays at one game behind the Red Sox and Yankees, who lead the AL wild-card chase with one regular-season game remaining. 

For Seattle, Mitch Haniger played the hero in this one -- time and again. He notched an opposite-field RBI single in the third to plate the first run of the game, and then in the fifth, he broke a 1-1 tie with a two-run home run off a belt-high Jhonathan Diaz fastball. It was Haniger's 39th home run of the season. 

For Seattle, though, things seemed to fall apart in the eighth. Staked to a 3-1 lead, Mariners reliever Paul Sewald walked Brandon Marsh and Ohtani to begin the inning. After a mound visit, Sewald regrouped to strike out Phil Gosselin for the first out. Then, however, Jared Walsh ambushed a first-pitch fastball from Sewald and turned it around for a three-run homer. That gave the Angels a 4-3 lead and put the Mariners on the brink. 

In the home half, however, the M's clawed back and loaded the bases with one out. Jarred Kelenic was barely cut down at home plate on a ground ball, and that brought Haniger to the plate with the bases still loaded and two outs, Seattle down by a run. Time to roll tape: 

That's five runs for Seattle and five runs driven in by Haniger to give him 100 RBI on the season. Later in that inning, Kyle Seager plated a cushion run with a bloop single. Drew Streckenrider pitched a scoreless ninth for the save, although the potential tying run came to the plate with two outs. 

On Sunday, the Mariners can force a tiebreaker game (or games) if they beat the Angels and either the Yankees or Red Sox lose to the Rays or Nationals, respectively. The Blue Jays are in the same situation. 

The Mariners haven't made the postseason since 2001, which gives them the longest playoff drought in major North American sports. 

Red Sox move into tie with Yankees

The Red Sox picked up a huge 5-3 win over the Nationals on Saturday. The win means Boston is now tied with the Yankees for the top AL wild-card spot, and they also hold the tiebreaker thanks to their season-series edge over New York. The Blue Jays are a game behind both, and the Mariners are 1 1/2 back, pending the outcome of their night game against the Angels. 

In this one, Boston starter Tanner Houck twirled five perfect innings, but manager Alex Cora lifted him in the sixth inning of a one-run game for a pinch-hitter. In the bottom of the sixth, reliever Garrett Richards allowed the first Washington baserunner of the day via a pinch-hit single by Gerardo Parra. 

The skinny-at-the-time Boston lead -- which came in the fourth inning on Rafael Devers' 36th homer of the season -- was greatly imperiled in the seventh. First, reliever Ryan Brasier left a couple of pitches dangerously in the zone in the process of striking out Juan Soto, one of the most dangerous hitters in baseball. After that, Brasier loaded the bases with two outs, but was able to escape the jam by freezing Jordy Mercer with a fastball at the (very) bottom of the zone. Also helping the Red Sox survive the frame was a ranging, sliding snare by Hunter Renfroe -- playing out of position in center -- for the first out. 

A critical moment came in the bottom of the eighth. The Nats had runners on first and second and one out with Alcides Escobar at the plate. Boston reliever Adam Ottavino threw a full-count slider that appeared to nick the top outside corner, but plate ump Phil Cuzzi called it ball four. The breaking pitch made a somewhat uncertain journey to the plate, and catcher Christian Vázquez was perhaps too aggressive in framing it. All of that may have prompted Cuzzi to call a ball on the pitch. That loaded the bases for Soto, who drove the 1-0 pitch to deep center for a game-tying sac fly. 

In the top of the ninth, though, Boston struck back as Vázquez drove an RBI triple over the head of Soto to take a 2-1 lead. Vázquez scored Boston's third run shortly thereafter on a Travis Shaw single. Enrique Hernández added a two-run homer, and Boston had a commanding 5-1 lead.

Things got a bit hairy for Boston in the final frame, as Andrew Stevenson hit a two-run home run off Austin Davis to make it 5-3 with no outs. Hansel Robles came on to record the final three outs, which he did, albeit after bringing the potential tying run to the plate with two outs.

Lowe hits three homers, Rays demolish Yanks

The Yankees will have to wait at least one more day to clinch a postseason spot. The Rays blasted the Yankees on Saturday afternoon, riding three Brandon Lowe home runs to a 12-2 victory. Lowe hit two three-run home runs against Jordan Montgomery, and a solo homer against Michael King.

Lowe had an opportunity to hit a fourth homer, but grounded out in the eighth inning. He is the fifth player in Rays history with a three-homer game, joining Travis d'Arnaud, B.J. Upton, Jonny Gomes, and Evan Longoria (twice). Lowe is sitting on 39 homers and 99 RBI with one game remaining in the regular season.

For the Yankees, Saturday's game could not go worse. Montgomery allowed a season-high seven runs in a season-low 2 2/3 innings, and they had to work their bullpen hard as well. New York could only muster two runs on an Anthony Rizzo solo homer and a Gio Urshela triple.

The Yankees needed either a win or losses by both the Blue Jays and Mariners to clinch a postseason spot Saturday. The loss to the Rays and Toronto opening up a big early lead against the Orioles closed the door on a potential Saturday clincher. They'll try again Sunday.

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

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@Mariners via Twitter
October 3, 2021, 5:54 AM
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October 3, 2021, 5:52 AM
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October 3, 2021, 5:35 AM
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October 3, 2021, 5:09 AM

Mariners win

6-4 is the final. The Mariners need help tomorrow (as do the Blue Jays), but they're alive. Also, a four-way tie for two wild-card spots is still possible.

October 3, 2021, 4:56 AM

Haniger comes through again

Bases loaded, two outs, Mariners down by one in the bottom of the eighth: Mitch Haniger delivers yet again with a clutch single to turn a 4-3 Seattle deficit into a 5-4 lead. He's driven in all five Mariner runs tonight.

October 3, 2021, 4:35 AM
@Mariners via Twitter
October 3, 2021, 4:32 AM

Walsh crushes one to give Angels lead

The Mariners 2021 season is hereby in danger. In the eighth, Jared Walsh crushed his 28th home run of the season. This one was a three-run bomb that turned a 3-1 Mariners lead into a 4-3 Angels lead.

October 3, 2021, 4:28 AM

Haniger puts Seattle back on top

In the fifth Mitch Haniger got a belt-high fastball from Jhonathan Diaz, and he didn't miss: 

That's a two-run shot -- Haniger's 39th home run of the season -- and that's a 3-1 Mariners lead. With that blast, Seattle has an 80.7 percent chance of winning this game.

October 3, 2021, 2:53 AM

Rojas ties it up

Jose Rojas of the Angels knotted up the score at 1-1 with a home run off a Chris Flexen changeup. Here's a look: 

October 3, 2021, 2:41 AM

Haniger gives M's early lead

In the third, Ty France notched a hustle double on a ball almost caught by right fielder Jose Rojas, and then Mitch Haniger followed up with an sharp single to the opposite field to plate France and give Seattle a 1-0 lead in this must-win game. The Mariners now have roughly a two in three chance of winning this game.

October 3, 2021, 2:15 AM
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