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Playoff watch: Buchholz back for Boston

9/10/2013

Some quick thoughts on Monday's results and a look forward to Tuesday.

Inning of the day: I wrote about Ned Yost's tactical errors in the ninth inning of the Royals' 4-3 loss to the Indians. According to coolstandings.com, the Royals' playoff odds are down to 5.2 percent. By the way ... the Indians are only four back of the Tigers in the loss column. They have no games remaining with the Tigers so that hurts their chances, but the AL Central isn't over quite yet.

Argument of the day: Buck Showalter and Joe Girardi had a nice little war of words, Girardi apparently upset that Orioles' third-base coach Bobby Dickerson was trying to steal signs from Yankees catcher Austin Romine. That little flare-up overshadowed the more important news of the night: The Orioles beat the Yankees 4-2 behind a strong effort from Chris Tillman, who improved to 16-5 with a 3.66 ERA. The one flaw on Tillman's season ledger is 29 home runs, but some of that is a Camden Yards effect -- he's allowed 22 home runs at home, just seven on the road, where his ERA is a run lower. If the Orioles get into the wild-card game and can line up their starter, you have to think it would be Tillman.

Pitching performance of the day: Gerrit Cole outdueled Yu Darvish 1-0, clinching a winning season for the Pirates and handing Darvish his third 1-0 loss of the season, the most since Orel Hershiser lost four such games in 1989. ESPN Stats & Info breaks down Cole's superb outing, the best of his rookie season.

Most important win: While the Pirates' win was big from a psychological standpoint after getting swept by the Cardinals over the weekend, the Indians and Orioles picked up an important half-game on the Rays.

Most important loss: The Royals. They're now 4 back of the Rays and 2.5 back of the Orioles and Indians. If 90 wins is the line to get into the playoffs, they have to go 15-3 the rest of the way.

Awards watch: Max Scherzer had his worst start of the season in a 5-1 loss to the White Sox and Chris Sale, pushing his ERA to 3.01, seventh-best in the AL. Scherzer is still the Cy Young favorite with his 19-3 record and league-leading WHIP and high strikeout total, although Sale now has a healthy lead in WAR (but an 11-12 record), 7.1 to 5.5.

Tuesday's best pitching matchup: Clay Buchholz versus David Price, Red Sox at Rays (7:10 ET). After missing three months, Buchholz returns to the Red Sox rotation. He was 9-0 with a 1.71 ERA before going down, but looked shaky in a couple rehab starts. Price is coming off six-run and four-run outings on Tampa's recent road trip.

Player to watch: Francisco Liriano, Pirates. An interesting matchup here as well against Martin Perez. The Rangers are scuffling, having lost seven of 10. Liriano has run hot and cold of late, with four scoreless starts in his last nine, but a 10-run game and four-inning and three-inning outings mixed in.