Playoff watch: Rivera to the rescue

Some quick thoughts on the most important results and plays of the day, and a look forward to Thursday.

Key at-bat of the day: Well, besides Matt Adams' two extra-inning home runs for the Cardinals, how about this one: Mariano Rivera versus Alejando De Aza ... in the eighth inning. It was the first time Joe Girardi had summoned Rivera in the eighth inning since Sept. 27, 2011 -- and that was just to get Rivera some work in before the postseason. His last four-out save came in July of 2011 (his only one that season). But with the Yankees desperately crawling back into the wild-card crawl, desperate measures are needed. The White Sox had scored four runs to cut the Yankees' lead to 6-5, and they had two on and two outs. Rivera struck out De Aza -- with the help of two generous strike calls from home-plate ump Tim Welke, including a called third strike zone on a pitch low and away off the plate. Rivera cruised through the ninth and the Yankees managed to stay even at 2.5 games behind the Rays.

Pitching performance of the day: Yu Darvish ... in a bad way. Darvish gave up five hits, two home runs, five runs and six walks in an 11-4 loss to the A's, putting the two teams back in a tie for first. Via the Game Score tabulation method, it was Darvish's worst start of 2013.

Most important win: A's beating Darvish. Brandon Moss got the A's started with a two-run homer, Daric Barton hit a big two-run shot off Darvish in the sixth and then scorching hot Coco Crisp hit his 18th -- and eighth in 14 games. Jarrod Parker was very good again

Most important loss: Baltimore's 6-4 loss to Cleveland, dropping the Orioles behind the Indians in the wild-card race and 4 games behind the Rays. Buck Showalter took a chance on starting Zach Britton, wanting to give his starters an extra day of rest, but it backfired as Britton didn't get out of the third. I called it a questionable choice in this space last night as it seemed like a low percentage of working of out based on Britton's recent Triple-A performances (one good start, mostly mediocre).

Awards watch: Girardi seems to be pulling all the right moves these days. Manager of the Year?

Thursday's best pitching matchup: Jake Peavy versus Ivan Nova (Red Sox at Yankees, 7:05 p.m. ET). It's a light schedule and the Yankees kick off their big four-game series with their hottest pitcher. In his past 10 starts, Nova is 6-2 with a 2.06 ERA and just three home runs allowed. Peavy is 3-1 with a 3.18 in his six starts with Boston, allowing two runs or fewer in five of them. With both pitchers on a roll, should be a tight, low-scoring game.

Player to watch: Joey Votto is coming off an 0-for-7 effort in the Reds' 16-inning loss to the Cardinals and is hitting just .245 since the beginning of August. He's still drawing his walks (.404 OBP in that span), but as the superstar hitter in the middle of the lineup, a few more hits to go with the walks would be nice.