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The Cleveland Guardians have been on a hot streak, and even when things go bad lately, they still turn out all right.

That happened Thursday when the Guardians blew a two-run lead in the ninth inning against the lowly Detroit Tigers, only to come back and win the game in extra innings 4-3 thanks to a single from rookie outfielder Oscar Gonzalez. It was Cleveland's fifth-straight win and pushed them 1 1/2 games ahead of the idle Minnesota Twins in the American League Central race.

"This is real right now. We have a lot going on right now, you can tell," said Guardians starter Zach Plesac, who pitched 6 1/3 innings and allowed just one run.  "We have a winning streak — the guys know how to win and we're playing together and finally hitting. Seems like everything is coming together right now."

It was the fourth-straight quality starter from the Guardians' rotation, and they've taken control in the Central thanks to recent scuffles from both the Minnesota Twins and Chicago White Sox. Cleveland is the No. 3 seed in the AL playoff picture right now.

"You have all these guys just getting better and better as they get older and more mature," said Cleveland reliever Bryan Shaw, who picked up his first save on Thursday after getting the win on Wednesday during the sweep of Detroit. "With more games under their belt, they're learning how to pitch, they're learning how to attack guys and learning how to manage games. It's great to watch."

There's been a change in the top three seeds, with a new team — the Minnesota Twins — suddenly on the outside looking in.

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Here are the rest of the summaries from Thursday for teams in AL playoff contention, plus Friday's schedule and the ever-changing playoff picture if the postseason starting today. 

Houston Astros starting pitcher Framber Valdez (59) delivers a pitch against the Texas Rangers during the first inning at Minute Maid Park. (Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports)

Houston Astros starting pitcher Framber Valdez (59) delivers a pitch against the Texas Rangers during the first inning at Minute Maid Park. (Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports)

Thursday's summaries

  • ASTROS 7, RANGERS 3: Houston manager Dusty Baker returned after missing five games with COVID, and starter Framber Valdez welcomed him back with seven shutout innings in a 7-3 win over the Texas Rangers. Valdez (11-4) allowed four singles and struck out eight to get his third straight win as the Astros improved to 72-41 and now have the best record in the American League “It was outstanding to be back, especially when you come back with the win and come back with Framber throwing the game that he threw." It's the first time all year that the Astros have had the No. 1 seed in the AL playoff race.
  • RED SOX 4, ORIOLES 3: Boston finally found a way to cool off the red-hot Orioles, winning 4-3 on newcomer Eric Hosmer's RBI double in the sixth inning. Baltimore had won seven of eight games in August coming in to Thursday's game. The win snapped a four-game losing streak for last-place Boston.
  • ROYALS 5, WHITE SOX 3: The struggling White Sox wasted another great start from Dylan Cease, falling 5-3 to the Kansas City Royals to lose three of four games in the series. Cease (12-5) allowed three hits and one run — on Vinnie Pasquatino’s home run leading off the second — in six innings as his ERA dropped to 1.96. He has not given up more than one earned run in a game since May 24, a span of 14 starts. Chicago is now 3.5 games behind Cleveland in the AL Central.

Friday's playoff schedule

  • Cleveland Guardians (Cal Quantrill 8-5, 3.88 ERA) at Toronto Blue Jays (Jose Berrios 8-4, 5.19 ERA, 7:07 p.m. ET
  • Baltimore Orioles (Austin Voth 2-1, 5.53 ERA) at Tampa Bay Rays (Corey Kluber (7-6, 4.05 ERA), 7:10 p.m. ET
  • Detroit Tigers (Daniel Norris 0-4, 6.90 ERA) at Chicago White Sox (Michael Kopech 4-8, 3.38 ERA), 7:10 p.m. ET
  • New York Yankees (Domingo German 1-2, 5.09 ERA) at Boston Red Sox (Nathan Eovaldi 5-3, 4.23 ERA), 7:10 p.m. ET
  • Seattle Mariners (George Kirby 3-3, 3.40 ERA) at Texas Rangers (Josh Sborz 0-0, 5.87 ERA, 8:05 p.m. ET
  • Oakland Athletics (Adam Oller 1-5, 7.63 ERA) at Houston Astros (Luis Garcia 8-8, 3.93 ERA, 8:10 p.m. ET
  • Minnesota Twins (Tyler Mahle 5-7, 4.49 ERA) at Los Angeles Angels (Patrick Sandoval 3-7, 3.41 ERA), 9:38 p.m. ET

If the playoffs started today ...

  • No. 1 seed — The Houston Astros (72-41, AL West leader, would get first-round bye) are the new top seed, finally passing the Yankees after Thursday's win. They are 11 games ahead of the Seattle Mariners in the AL West, and lead the Yankees by a half-game for homefield advantage in the postseason.
  • No. 2 seed — The New York Yankees (71-41, AL East leader, would get first-round bye) have lost the top seed for the first time after going just 7-12 since the All-Star break. They lead Toronto by 10 games in the AL East race.
  • No. 3 seed — The Cleveland Guardians (59-52, and our new AL Central leader would host No. 6 seed in best-of-three first-round series) have a 1 1/2-game lead over Minnesota and a 3 1/2-game lead over Chicago in the AL Central race.
  • No. 4 seed — The Toronto Blue Jays (60-50, wild-card leader, would host No. 5 seed in a best-of-three first-round series) lead the wild-card chase by only a half-game over Seattle for the top wild-card spot, and are 2 1/2 games clear inside the playoff picture right now.
  • No. 5 seed — The Seattle Mariners (61-52, second wild-card team, would play at No. 4 seed Toronto in a best-of-three first-round series). They are 1 1/2 games ahead of the Tampa Bay for the No. 5 spot and two clear in the playoff picture.
  • No. 6 seed — The Tampa Bay Rays (58-52, third wild-card team, would play at No. 3 seed Cleveland in a best-of-three first-round series). They are just a half-game ahead of the Baltimore Orioles for the final playoff spot, and the two teams play a three-game series this weekend in St. Petersburg.

Outside looking in

  • Baltimore Orioles: The Orioles are 58-53, just a half-game behind Tampa Bay for the final wild-card spot, and tied with Cleveland. 
  • Minnesota Twins: The Twins are 57-53, and are one game behind Tampa Bay for final wild-card spot. They have lost three in a row and four of five.
  • Chicago White Sox: The White Sox are 56-56, and are three games behind Tampa Bay for the final wild-card spot.
  • Boston Red Sox: The Red Sox are 55-58, and are 4 1/2 games behind Tampa Bay for the final wild-card spot. Is this their last weekend in this playoff category, or are they ready to drop a slot?

Too far back

  • Texas Rangers (49-62, 9 1/2 games out)
  • Los Angeles Angels (49-63, 10 games out)
  • Kansas City Royals (47-66, 12.5 games out)
  • Detroit Tigers (43-70, 16.5 games out)
  • Oakland Athletics (41-71, 18 games out)