Game of the day: Tampa Bay at Boston, 7:10 p.m. This four-game showdown between the top American League wild card contenders continues Friday with the best pitching matchup of the weekend. Right-hander Josh Beckett (12-5) returns to the Boston rotation and will pitch for the first time since he injured his ankle during a start on Sept. 5. Beckett has been dominant in two starts this year against the Rays, allowing no runs on just two hits in 17 innings. Tampa Bay right-hander James Shields (15-10) is 4-0 with a 0.79 ERA over his last four starts, and has a 2.87 ERA in four starts this year against Boston.
Other game to watch: New York Yankees at Toronto, 7:07 p.m. The Yankees have cruised to a comfortable 4 ½ game lead in the American League East thanks to the Red Sox’ recent struggles, and CC Sabathia (19-8) will take his second shot at his 20th win Friday night while shouldering minimal pressure. New York is just 4-4 in Sabathia’s last eight starts, but Sabathia is 3-0 with a 2.59 ERA this season in three starts against the Blue Jays. Maryland grad Brett Cecil (4-9) will start for Toronto, searching for his first win since July 29. Toronto has lost each of Cecil’s last five starts.
Games you should have seen:
Philadelphia 2, Florida 1 (10 innings). In the second-game of a double-header, Phillies left-hander Cliff Lee was one strike away from his seventh shutout of the season when Jose Lopez hit a solo home run to force extra innings. Ryan Howard drove a walk-off RBI double into the left-center field gap to score Michael Martinez and end the game in the bottom of the 10th. Philadelphia’s magic number to clinch its fifth straight National League East title is down to 2.
Cincinnati 8, Chicago Cubs 6 (11 innings). Jay Bruce hit a walk-off home run in the bottom of the 11th inning to lead the Reds to a wild win over the Cubs. Cincinnati led 6-4 in the ninth before RBI hits from Alfonso Soriano and Darwin Barney forced extra innings. Brandon Phillips homered and doubled for the Reds.
Stat you should know: 11-0, 0.37. Cliff Lee’s combined win-loss record and ERA in the months of June, August and September this season after his latest gem on Thursday. Lee went 1-2 with a 4.91 ERA in July.
Star of the night: Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond went 5 for 6 with three RBIs in Washington’s 10-1 win over the Mets. Desmond’s batting average (.251) is above .250 for the first time since April 7.
Chatter: “I think enough things haven’t gone our way, so I’ll take it.” — Tampa Bay outfielder B.J. Upton, who got a key two-out single in the third inning of the Rays’ 9-2 win over Boston when his broken bat caused Red Sox shortstop Marco Scutaro to misplay a routine ground ball. Tampa Bay went on to score four runs in that inning and cruised from there.