1. The Houston Astros launch a miracle: Coming back to win a game you’re losing 3-0 with nobody on base and one out to go is almost impossible. Then you add to the mix that you’re facing Huston Street, a closer with an 87 percent success rate in save situations and just four blown saves all season. And the Astros knew that the Rangers were clobbering the A’s and might narrow the gap in the American League West to just a half-game with their first-ever series with the division title at stake due to start on Monday.
So of course the Astros won. Not because they knew the odds going in though, or should want to know them. After Luis Valbuena struck out for Street’s second out, Houston had just a 0.3 percent shot at coming back, according to win expectancy. Preston Tucker’s solo shot raised their shot at winning all the way up to a whopping 1 percent. George Springer’s subsequent triple almost quadrupled that -- all the way to 3.4 percent. Even after Springer scored on Jose Altuve’s single, the game still belonged to the Angels. Even after Carlos Correa’s one-hop chopper to second baseman Taylor Featherston improbably got stuck in the webbing of Featherston’s glove to become a “single,” the odds still were no better than Street’s career save percentage, parked around 86 percent.
But much like the odds of a glove failure made nonsense of expectations, Jed Lowrie made a mockery of the whole concept of expected outcomes when he poked a 2-1 changeup just barely over the fence at the foul pole in right field for a three-run homer, producing a 5-3 Astros win. Adding insult to humiliation, even that ball seemed playable right at the fence, but right fielder Kole Calhoun couldn’t come away with it cleanly.
For the Astros, it was perhaps a signature win, a massive upset to inch them just a little closer to the massive upset that their winning the AL West would be, relying as it did on some of their best features as far as how they’ve won all year: Top-to-bottom power in the lineup to give them a puncher’s chance in any late-game situation, plus quality pitching from Mike Fiers and the pen to limit Anaheim to three solo homers.
2. Masahiro Tanaka, New York Yankees: Salvaging a 5-0 win from an otherwise disastrous series for the Yankees in their four-game showdown with the Blue Jays was pretty huge, made larger still with the news that Jays shortstop Troy Tulowitzki will miss at least the next two weeks, leaving a big hole for Toronto. With Tanaka throwing a dominating seven shutout innings, allowing just four hits, it’s clear that he’s "the guy" if the Yankees get to a one-game playoff.
3. Zack Greinke, Los Angeles Dodgers: Having seen the Cubs’ Jake Arrieta bring his ERA below 2.00 and reinforce his late-season challenge to the expectation that one of two Dodgers is going to win the 2015 National League Cy Young Award, Greinke responded with his latest gem, demonstrating the art of nothingness by spinning eight shutout innings against the D-backs. (The Dodgers' win was made needlessly exciting by the bullpen after Kenley Jansen gave up three runs in the ninth but holding on for a 4-3 victory. Greinke’s Game Score of 82 made this his third-best start of the year, and the fourth time he has thrown eight full frames. And for those fidgeting about Corey Seager’s defense at short, he helped turn two DPs behind Greinke.
4. Kyle Gibson, Minnesota Twins: The Twins’ Rick Reuschel wannabe did his latest Big Daddy spin by throwing his best start since July, blanking the White Sox into the eighth inning of a 7-0 Twins win made possible in part by the latest beatdown that Minnesota delivered to White Sox ace Chris Sale. You read that right, because this is nothing new this season -- the Twins have won five of six Sale starts against them, keyed this time around by Torii Hunter’s third career homer off Sale. Sunday’s six-run, three-inning outing wasn’t even Sale’s worst turn against the White Sox this season, as they crushed the Condor for nine runs back on April 30. He has held them to fewer than four runs just once this season. In contrast, Gibson has delivered five straight quality starts against the Sox across the last two seasons.
5. Happy returns: Rich Hill made a great start for the Red Sox against the Rays in his first turn in the major leagues since 2009, having had to make a trip to the independent leagues in the meantime; Gordon Edes gives Hill's journey the love it deserves as a triumph over adversity and a payoff for persistence. The Red Sox ultimately won 2-0 in 13 innings, but Hill’s 10 K’s in seven innings while allowing just four baserunners was the story of the game. But I also want to squeeze in a tout for Matt Adams after he homered for the Cardinals for the first time since May 20 in their 9-2 win in what was his third game -- all pinch-hit appearances -- since he returned to action last week. The Cardinals could use the big man’s bat in the weeks to come if they’re going to fend off the Pirates in the NL Central race.
Christina Kahrl writes about MLB for ESPN. You can follow her on Twitter.