Playoff watch: Rays, Rangers stumble again

Some quick thoughts on Wednesday's results and a look forward to Thursday.

At-bats of the night: Robinson Cano and Mike Carp hit home runs as the Yankees and Red Sox won late. I wrote about those two games here.

Pitching performance of the day: Jose Fernandez completed his brilliant rookie season by allowing one run in seven innings -- and also hitting a home run, which rubbed the Braves the wrong way when he admired it for few seconds (God forbid!) and led to a little bench-clearing exchange of phone numbers. Fernandez apologized for his actions, which included some looks into the Atlanta dugout after giving up a home run to Evan Gattis, saying, "I feel embarrassed. I feel like I don't deserve to be here, because this isn't high school. This is a professional game. I made a mistake. I'm going to learn from it." Love the mature response after the fact. Cut the kid some slack. He got caught up in the excitement of his final game.

Anyway, what were the playoff implications here? Well, the Braves are battling the Dodgers for home-field advantage in the NL, currently holding a 2-game lead. Considering Atlanta has an MLB-best 51-20 home record, it's not an insignificant race to look at.

Most important win: The Yankees beating the Orioles and climbing over the O's and Indians into second place in the second wild card standings. Yay for the second wild!

Most important loss: The Pirates sat Andrew McCutchen and didn't have Mark Melancon or Jason Grilli available, but they beat the Rangers 7-5 as Vin Mazzaro got out of a jam in the eighth and Kyle Farnsworth got the save. That completed a sweep over the Rangers, who received another poor effort from Matt Garza. Combined with the A's 18-3 thrashing of the Twins, the Rangers are now 3 games behind the A's and just 3.5 up on the Yankees.

Thursday's best pitching matchup: Jake Peavy versus Jeremy Hellickson (Red Sox at Rays, 7:10 ET). As one reader on Twitter commented to me, maybe the Rays have been eating too much fried chicken. They're 4-13 since Aug. 25, hitting .226 and averaging 2.6 runs per game over that span. After going 0-5 in a six-start stretch with a 9.00 ERA, Hellickson tossed 5.1 scoreless innings his last start.

Player to watch: Yoenis Cespedes, A's. Is he heating up at the right time? He's hitting .421/.450/.632 in September after hitting .216 in August. It could be a hot streak fueled by a .500 BABIP, since his strikeout-to-walk rate is still poor (8 to 1), but if he gets going after a disappointing year, the A's will be that much harder to catch. The A's have an afternoon game in Minnesota while the Rangers get the day off before the teams meet for a weekend showdown in Texas.