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MLB Saturday review: Guardians still fighting

With the playoff picture starting to come into sharper focus, every series matters for the contending teams. 

There were several key matchups on Saturday that impacted the playoff race.

Guardians on the rise

The Guardians' season looked to be heading to an unsuccessful conclusion a couple of weeks ago, but Cleveland has turned things around of late, with four straight wins giving them hope that they could still catch the Minnesota Twins in the American League Central.  

The Guardians are still five games back of the Twins with a losing record at 66-70, but with a three-game series against Minnesota coming up this week, things could change in a hurry.

The Guardians are showing plenty of fight, and won in extra innings for the third time in six games on Saturday, beating the Rays 7-6 in the 11th. Bo Naylor scored the winning run on a sacrifice fly from Steven Kwan. It was also Kwan who had taken the game into extra innings, with his ninth-inning single bringing home Myles Straw.

The Guardians revamped their pitching staff by taking advantage of an Angels clearout this week, and new recruit Lucas Giolito is in line to start Monday's game against the Twins. The Guardians are still +1225 to make the playoffs and +1200 to win the division.

Orioles take advantage of Rays' loss

Tampa Bay's loss to Cleveland provided an opportunity for the Baltimore Orioles to enhance their lead in the American League East, and they were able to do just that with a 7-3 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks.

The O's had lost their two previous games, but got back to winning ways thanks to a six-run fourth inning after the D-Backs had gone 2-0 ahead in the third. Baltimore outfielder Cedric Mullins hit a three-run homer to start the scoring in the decisive fourth inning.

The Orioles (84-51) now lead the Rays (82-54) by 2.5 games and are -360 to win the division with Tampa Bay out to +260

Brewers moving clear of Cubs

Over in the National League Central, Saturday's results added to the separation between leaders the Milwaukee Brewers and the second-placed Chicago Cubs.

The Brewers moved to 76-59 with their eighth win in the last ten games, a 7-5 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies. That enabled them to move 4.5 games ahead of the Chicago Cubs (72-64) who lost for the second straight game, 2-1 to the Cincinnati Reds. 

The Cubs had looked to be on their way to a shutout win at the Great American Ball Park after starting pitcher Javier Assad posted 8.0 scoreless innings, with seven strikeouts. However, the Reds rallied in the ninth inning with Elly De la Cruz and new recruit Hunter Renfroe making the crucial plays.

The Brewers are now -500 odds to win the division, with the Cubs at +325, while Chicago has odds of -340 to make the playoffs and +260 to miss out. The Cubs are currently two games ahead of the Giants, Diamondbacks and Reds and holding onto a wild-card position in the National League.

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