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Posted at 07:00 AM ET, 09/23/2011

Leading off: Red Sox face Yankees clinging to wild card lead

Game of the day: Boston at New York Yankees: 7:05 p.m. The Yankees clinched the American League East title on Wednesday, but they can damage their archrivals’ hold on the wild card with a strong series this weekend. Boston enters Friday two games ahead of Tampa Bay and three games ahead of Los Angeles for the final AL playoff spot with six games to play. Red Sox left-hander Jon Lester (15-8) will start for Boston, and the Sox desperately need him to help stabilize a rotation that has been abysmal in September. Yankees right-hander Freddy Garcia (11-8) hasn’t been especially sharp during the season’s final month, boasting a 10.95 September ERA.

Other game to watch: San Francisco at Arizona, 9:40 p.m. The Diamondbacks can clinch an improbable National League West division title with a win over the Giants. Arizona has been in first place since August 10, and they can close out San Francisco with one win during the three-game set. Rookie left-hander Eric Surkamp (2-0) will make his fifth career start; the Giants have won each of his first four outings. Diamondbacks right-hander Josh Collmenter (9-10) has slowed down toward the end of his rookie campaign, but he still takes a solid 3.42 ERA into Friday night’s potential clincher.

Games you should have seen:

New York Mets 8, St. Louis 6. The Cardinals’ wild card chances took a devastating hit Thursday when they allowed six runs in the top of the ninth inning and failed to close out the Mets. St. Louis took a 6-2 lead into the ninth, but four walks and a Rafael Furcal error on a potential double-play grounder kept the Mets alive. Ruben Tejada tied the game with a two-run double, and Willie Harris knocked in the go-ahead runs with a two-run single. The Cardinals are now two games behind idle Atlanta with six to play.

Toronto 4, Los Angeles Angels 3 (12 innings). Edwin Encarnacion hit a walk-off solo home run that barely hooked around the left-field foul pole in the bottom of the 12th inning to lift the Blue Jays over the Angels. Five Toronto relievers combined to pitch five scoreless innings after the Blue Jays tied the game in the seventh on a wild pitch. The loss drops Los Angeles three games behind Boston and one game behind Tampa Bay in the American League wild card race.

Stat you should know: 1904. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Phillies became the first 98-plus win team since the 1904 New York Giants to lose six consecutive games when Philadelphia lost 6-1 to the Nationals on Thursday.

Star of the night: Tampa Bay rookie left-hander Matt Moore shut down the Yankees in his first major league start, striking out 11 in five scoreless innings during the Rays’ 15-8 win. Moore allowed four hits and walked one as Tampa Bay climbed back to within two games of Boston for the American League wild card.

Chatter: “Anything to get the Red Sox out would be awesome for me. They are fun to play against just because they have a quality team, and they’re gritty, and they play hard and stuff, but I’d love to see them lose . . . I hate the Red Sox.” — Yankees catcher Russell Martin, making it clear the Yankees aim to help deny the Red Sox a postseason berth.

By Greg Schimmel  |  07:00 AM ET, 09/23/2011

 
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