The San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers has always been a rivalry, a fierce and entertaining one at that, while the Tampa Bay Rays and New York Yankees have come to form a partnership of hate, fighting for the American League East crown.

The Dodgers have very slim hopes of reaching the playoffs, so the finale of their series was solely important for the Giants, who could move to within a half game of the San Diego Padres in the National League West.

Tampa Bay Rays

The Rays fell in dramatic fashion in the second game of their series, losing as Carl Crawford was thrown out at third base to end a wild battle.

Still, plenty of time remains in the season, considering the game entering the rubber match was just a half game in the Yankees favor, but Tampa Bay needed to get revenge in order to avoid losing a series at home on the heels of next week’s four-game set in New York.

Dan Johnson did all he could to try to help the Rays prove victorious. The former castoff who played in Japan and was most recently the MVP award of the International League as a member of the Rays Triple-A affiliate the Durham Bulls has been a noted Red Sox-killer throughout his major league career, but on this night he deflated the division’s other juggernaut.

Yankees starting pitcher Phil Hughes had a no-hitter through four innings, but succumbed to Tampa Bay in the fifth. Evan Longoria led off the frame with a single then Johnson lowered the boom, slugging a grooved fastball into the right-field seats for a two-out, two-run homer, giving the Rays a 2-1 lead.

The advantage was soon gone with help from brilliant acting by Yankees shortstop and leadoff hitter Derek Jeter.

Reliever Chad Qualls threw an inside fastball that ended with a clear ping. It hit the knob of Jeter’s bat, but Jeter immediately won an Oscar, turning away violently and holding his forearm.

The gullible umpire awarded him first base. Replays showed in slow-mo and real-time the ball clearly hit Jeter’s bat, and the ruling was somehow not overturned when the umpiring crew met for discussion.

Rays players were furious, as a trio of pitchers leaned over the dugout railing to exclaim what had actually took place. The 30,000 fans were in uproar as well, and so was manager Joe Maddon, who argued with the umps and was tossed for doing so. Maddon was angry then, but even more after Curtis Granderson followed with a go-ahead two-run homer on a full-count.

Boos reigned from the rafters.

A missed call turned into a big lead for New York, a lead that if held could sway the division race seriously in their direction.

Johnson wasn’t going to let that happen. Hughes was still on the mound and pitching well, getting the first two outs of the bottom of the seventh easily before running into trouble. Outfielders Matt Joyce rapped a single to center-field, bringing up Johnson. Yankees manager stuck with Hughes, despite his fifth inning homer recently etched into his memory banks. Hughes remembered too, and it turned out what followed was deja vu.

The fourth pitch of the at-bat was a cut-fastball, the same pitch Johnson had hit before, and this time Johnson only hit it deeper into the right field seats. Another two-run homer, and once again the Rays held the lead.

The Yankees could not recover from Johnson’s night at the plate, losing both the game and the division lead in the process. Now, with that extraordinary battle over until they meet again, I move to an even bitter and far more long lasting spat.

San Francisco Giants

On a cold, foggy night in San Francisco, a pitcher’s duel soon formed between the Dodgers Chad Billingsley and the Giants Matt Cain.

Already sub-par offenses were held in check, which is a vast understatement; they were dominated. Cain tossed seven scoreless innings, allowing just three hits while walking none. Billingsley wished he could have had such a stellar stat-line.

He had disposed of the Giants without allowing a run through six innings, but ran into trouble in the bottom of the seventh. Built around getting big hits in big situations all season long, San Francisco did so once more.

After losing in devastating fashion the night before, falling 1-0 because of an error committed by shortstop Juan Uribe in the later innings, the Giants took a 1-0 lead, as pinch-hitter Travis Ishikawa laced a one-out double off Billingsley, was lifted for pinch-runner Emmanuel Burris, and watched Mike Fontenot’s clutch hit from the dugout steps.

Fontenot, who came over from the Chicago Cubs last month as one of many brilliant in-season acquisitions by the Giants, stroked a 1-1 fastball into right field and in front of Ethier, scoring the speedy Burris for the aforementioned advantage.

Now it was the matter of San Francisco holding the slim lead.

They not only did, but added to it in the eighth. Aubrey Huff, who is having a superb year and was at the plate when Fontenot was caught stealing to end the seventh, led off the inning with a double. And after star rookie Buster Posey was intentionally walked to put two runners on with nobody out, an insurance run was manufactured.

A wild-pitch was thrown by 22-year old rookie Kenley Jansen, moving Huff and Posey up a base, which allowed Huff to beat the throw home on a groundball off Pablo Sandoval’s bat, which was all the Giants relief core would need.

Eighth inning tally was made all the more important when Ethier crushed a solo-homer in the ninth, but the attempted rally was no more than that, as San Francisco closer Brian Wilson overpowered outfielder Jay Gibbons, as Gibbons swung through a full-count, 98 mile per hour fastball to end the game and send the capacity crowd home happy.

One team, the Rays, took over first. The other, the Giants, inched closer, moving within a half game of the Padres.

Ah, pennant races.

Just another September full of exciting baseball, a month highlighted by two fights to the finish.

Read more MLB news on