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MLB Previews, Articles, Info, etc, Monday Service Plays 9/7/15

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    O’s have struggled at Yankee Stadium
    Stephen Campbell

    The confines of Yankee Stadium have been anything but friendly to the Baltimore Orioles as of late.

    The O’s are winless in their last four trips to the Bronx. Both sides renew acquaintances in New York Monday afternoon.

    At the time of writing, the line and total for the game were off the board at sportsbooks.


    Nationals have had Niese’s number recently
    Stephen Campbell

    If one team has owned New York Mets starter Jon Niese lately it’s the Washington Nationals.

    The Nats have won each of their last five games when Niese has been on the mound. They’ll look Max Scherzer’s way in Monday’s tilt versus Niese’s Mets.

    Sportsbooks are presently dealing the Nationals in the -180 ballpark.


    Expectations skyrocket for red-hot Blue Jays

    TORONTO — The unreal rise of the Toronto Blue Jays is built on a solid foundation of reality.

    It is called preparation and whatever the results this season, from struggling in May to soaring in August, there has been a consistency in the approach of the team each day.

    This steadiness, they hope, means they are not about to flame out any time soon.

    “The thing that has impressed me about this team all year,” first baseman Chris Colabello said, “is that whether we were going good, or going bad, we came to the field and we did the same things every day.

    “In the first half, there weren’t a lot of times when we weren’t in games. We lost a lot of games by one run and we could have easily been 10 or 15 or 20 games over .500 in the first half.”

    Despite a 21-6 August and a rise to first place in the American League East, the Blue Jays are 13-24 in one-run games.

    The Blue Jays also have had the type of hitting than can blow away the opposition, so when they win it is often by a big score. Entering Sunday, they had outscored the opposition 737-544, the biggest run differential in the majors.

    Yet through July 28, they were spinning their wheels at 50-51, and general manager Alex Anthopoulos got busy — spectacularly busy.

    It cost a bundle of top prospects but from July 28 until July 31, the deadline for trades without waivers, Anthopoulos dramatically improved shortstop by acquiring Troy Tulowitzki, obtained an ace for the starting rotation in left-hander David Price, filled a hole in left field with Ben Revere and bolstered the bullpen with experienced right-handers LaTroy Hawkins and Mark Lowe.

    “We were doing some good things this season,” manager John Gibbons said. “Offensively we were swinging it all year. We had a nice streak (11 games, June 2-14). But we were .500, you can’t get around that. We couldn’t gain any traction.

    “Then we made trades and got Tulowitzki, and Price, a couple of guys in the bullpen and Revere. Tulo hasn’t started hitting yet, but defensively he’s been unbelievable. It’s been big. That’s the kind of stuff that gets overlooked.”

    And, for good measure, after the deadline, Anthopoulos traded for Cliff Pennington to add infield depth on Aug. 8.

    The Blue Jays celebrated their general manager’s coup with another 11-game winning streak, Aug. 2-13.

    “The biggest thing I talk about all the time is chemistry and the way guys are with each other in the clubhouse, on the field and off the field,” Colabello said. “When we made those moves at the deadline those five guys made a really seamless transition.

    “It’s tough to say we didn’t have a good clubhouse environment before, but I think we all felt a little extra urgency and were excited. I don’t think anything changed in the way we went about our business, but it’s nice to see the results on the field.”

    The clubhouse climate, and the team’s talent, already had been improved with offseason moves that included acquiring third base Josh Donaldson, who is the front-runner for the American League MVP Award, and signing free agent catcher Russell Martin. Another offseason acquisition, second baseman Devon Travis, was an early rookie-of-the-year contender before injuries sidelined him.

    In each case, offseason acquisitions, and deadline deals, Anthopoulos carefully screened each player for makeup and character. Talent and production are obviously still vital, but Anthopoulos decided at the end of last season to increase his emphasis on the intangibles, as well, obtaining players who were a good fit for the club.

    “I think we’ve become extremely selective, more so than we ever have,” Anthopoulos said.

    The turnaround has coincided with an improvement in fielding and pitching.

    “This team is clicking on all cylinders,” Pennington said. “When you’re an outsider looking at this team you look at offense. The runs scored are unbelievable. Since I’ve been here, the starting pitching and the bullpen are as good as I’ve seen. Imagine that with this offense.”

    No one expects them to keep playing with the same success rate as they had in August.

    “When you’ve been as hot as we have, the law of averages says you have to cool off a little bit,” Gibbons said. “But you don’t want too cool off too much. You still have to play steady baseball. And we might keep playing great baseball the rest of the way, you don’t know.”

    Expectations have skyrocketed for the Blue Jays and that can put pressure on a team.

    But they do have players such as left-hander Mark Buehrle, Tulowitzki, Martin, Pennington, Price and Hawkins, who have postseason experience.

    “I think there’s some value to it, I don’t know how much,” Pennington said.

    “We’ve added some seasoned hardened guys,” Gibbons said. “It’s got to help. They’re guys who aren’t going to panic.”

    “Who wouldn’t want to have experience?” Anthopoulos asked. “It’s always good to have experience. I don’t know if it’s a prerequisite for success. It would be nice to have but I don’t know if it’s imperative to have it.”

    Colabello, who has delivered some big hits this season, said team chemistry is a strength.

    “It’s a special group of guys,” Colabello said. “Whether that means we’re going to win the World Series or not, I don’t know. But I’ll you what, I know that when this thing’s over, whether it’s after Game 162, or 163 , or the playoffs, or the World Series, there’s not a guy in that clubhouse who’s not going to be sad not to be around everybody else the next day.”


    Coach Fletcher’s Monday Scouting edge

    10:05 am Baltimore Orioles at the New York Yankees

    Yankees Try to Fight Back at Home

    The New York Yankees find themselves 1.5 games behind the Toronto Blue Jays for the AL East crown. They need to win every game they can. Oddly, the Toronto Blue Jays played a part in who faces the Yanks today. Toronto is a heavy hitting club, especially against southpaws. Wei Lin Chen is the Baltimore lefty schedule to go against the Jays on Sunday. But the O’s decided to skip his start and move him to face the Yankees today instead since Chen is a lefty. Chen is 8-7 with a 3.36 era. He’s been the O’s top hurler all year. This will be Chen’s 4th start this year against the Yankees. He’s 1-1 with a 2.79 era against the Yanks this season. Chen has lost only 1 outing in his last 7 starts, but he has regressed on the mound. Even though he has gone 3-1 in his last 7, he’s been the beneficiary of the Oriole offense for the most part. His era has been 4.85 in those last 7 starts. He’s pitching on 6 days rest today and this year he’s 0-2 with a 3.33 era with 2 day’s rest. The Yankees opened at -150.

    10:08 am Tampa Bay Rays at Detroit Tigers

    Wolf’s Comeback Must Stand the Test Today

    Everybody likes Randy Wolf. What’s not to like about the guy. How many pitchers at the age of 39 will spend another year in the minors in hopes of being called up? That’s what Wolf did and today he is facing the Rays hoping to extend his lease. His first start back vs Texas went about as well as could be expected. He lasted 7 innings and allowed 9 hits and 3 runs, walking none and fanning 5. He came back against the Angels 5 days later and went 7 innings allowing 1 run on 5 hits. But it all fell apart against Kansas City last Monday when they ripped him for 8 runs and 8 hits in just 3 2/3 innings. He walked 3 and fanned just two. Oddly enough Wolf’s last major league victory came against these same Rays on June 2, 2014. Drew Smyly, traded from Detroit to the Rays on July 31, will start against his former teammates. Smyly held the Orioles scoreless on 4 hits while fanning 10 in 7 frames in his last start. Tampa Bay opened at -132.

    10:10 am Milwaukee Brewers at Miami Marlins

    Two Promising Youngsters Tangle in Miami

    Zach Davies got off to a fast start the first time through the lineup against the Pirates in his major league debut. It all fell to pieces the second time through when the Pirates knocked him around for 4 hits and 4 runs in 4.1 innings. He had success until he tried to work in his curve ball after relying on a fastball and changeup the first time through. The 22 year old Davies was 6-8 with a 3.51 era in Triple-A ball. The Fish send out Justin Nicolino. Justin is 3-2 with a 3.07 era in 7 starts. In his last 4 starts the lefty has thrown at least 6 innings and over the 27 1/3 innings has an era of just 1.98. Nicolino was 7-7 with a 3.52 era in Triple-A before jumping to the Fish. Miami opened as -122 favorites.

    10:35 am Toronto Blue Jays at Boston Red Sox

    Veterans Square Off at Fenway

    It’s Mark Buehrle versus rick Porcello in Boston today. Buehrle still has some petrol in his pocket as he showed last week and throughout the season. He has 18 quality starts and has allowed 2 runs or fewer in 11 of his last 15 starts. Buehrle is 14-6 with a 3.53 era this season. Facing Buehrle will be Rick Porcello. Porcello doesn’t have a fancy record or era, but he has been outstanding since coming off the disabled list. Rick is 6-12 on the year with a 5.21 era. But since coming off the disabled list Porcello has tossed 15 innings and given up just 1 run. Buehrle is 12-10 against the Red Sox with a 4,24 era and Porcello is 3-5 vs Toronto with a 5.29 era. Porcello had one start against the Jays this year and they crushed him for 7 runs and 7 hits in 2 innings. Buehrle went 7 against the Bosox and gave up 1 run on 4 hits. Toronto opened at -131.

    5:10 pm Minnesota Twins at Kansas City Royals

    Twins Still Eying a Possible Wild Card Travel to KC

    The Twins will send Tom Milone to the bump. Milone is 7-4 with a 3.63 era. His last start was arguably his best of the season as he blanked the White Sox over 7 innings allowing only 3 hits, no walks, and he recorded 7 strike outs. Milone is 4-2 against KC with a 4.08 era lifetime. In his last start at KC he went 6 innings against KC allowing 1 run and 5 hits. The Royals counter with Yordano Ventura. He stands 10-7 on the year with a 4.24 era. He’s tougher at home where he is 7-4 with a 3.56 era. Ventura has come alive in his last 3 starts where he has gone 3-0 with a miniscule 0.95 era. In his last 19 innings he’s only allowed 2 runs on 13 hits. He’s walked 6 and fanned 28. Ventura is 1-2 vs the Twins with a 4.07 era but hasn’t faced them this season.


    Coach Fletcher’s Monday MLB Free Pick

    6:05 pm Los Angeles Dodgers at Anaheim Angels

    The Pick – Dodgers run line -1.5 -105



    Screen Shot Monday

    Mets @ Nationals — Washington’s Max Scherzer isn’t in the best of form right now. He has allowed 7 hits or more in four of his last five starts, and he hasn’t won an outing since July 30th when he beat the Marlins in Miami. Scherzer does have good numbers in two starts against the Mets, allowing just 1 earned run and nine hits over 14.2 innings of work. New York’s Jon Niese is also trending downward. Niese has given up 18 runs and 23 hits in his last three outings. The southpaw’s only start against Washington came at home back on May 2nd when he allowed 1 run and nine hits in seven innings of work. With conflicting numbers on both sides, this game is a tough handicap.

    Giants @ Diamondbacks — San Francisco’s Mike Leake has not lost in seven career starts against the Diamondbacks. Leake has a 2.29 ERA and 0.86 WHIP in 13 road starts this season. Arizona’s Pat Corbin owns a 2.79 ERA in five home starts, but he only has one win to show for it. With two pitchers in their best roles, I like Under 8 (-110) in this game.

    Braves @ Phillies — Atlanta has lost 12 straight games while scoring 4 runs or more in just three of those games. Their pitching staff has allowed 4 runs or more in eleven of those twelve games; the Braves have seemingly checked out for the season. But Philadelphia’s Aaron Harang is 5-14 with a 4.89 ERA in 24 home starts. Still, I want no part of Atlanta, so I lean to the Phillies (-140) in this game.

    Astros @ A’s — Houston’s Mike Fiers has only made two starts over a 17-day span entering Monday afternoon’s game. Fiers has won his last two outings, including his no-hitter at home over the Dodgers. He held the A’s to just 1 run and five hits in 6.2 innings pitched in Oakland back on August 9th. Oakland’s Felix Doubront has pitched better as of late, giving up 5 runs and 12 hits over his last 14 innings of work. The Astros are only hitting .240 while averaging 3.9 runs per game versus left-handed starters this season. The A’s are a live home underdog at +125 in this game.


    Preview: Mets (75-61) at Nationals (71-65)

    Game: 1
    Venue: Nationals Park
    Date: September 07, 2015 1:05 PM EDT

    Though they’ve gotten this homestand off to a perfect start, the Washington Nationals still have some work to do on Labor Day.

    The preseason NL East favorites begin a possible make-or-break three-game series Monday with the division’s current front-runners, the New York Mets.

    New York (71-65) caught the Nationals in the standings with a momentum-shifting home sweep July 31-Aug. 2 and has since taken off, with that series and several aggressive moves at the trade deadline sparking a 23-11 run that’s opened up a four-game lead on its chief rival.

    The sweep began a dismal 4-13 stretch for Washington (71-65), but the club has recovered with wins in 13 of its last 19 and enters the series on a five-game win streak following a four-game home sweep of downtrodden Atlanta.

    “Certainly it’s tightening up,” Mets manager Terry Collins said after his team’s 4-3 loss to Miami Sunday.

    Washington battered the Braves’ pitching for 36 runs in the series and hit seven homers, including three in Sunday’s 8-4 victory.

    Bryce Harper has homered in three straight and is batting .421 over his last 18 games. Ryan Zimmerman is hitting .439 with six homers and 18 RBIs over a 10-game streak.

    “I’ve been saying all along at some point we’re going to make a run. Hopefully this is it,” outfielder Jayson Werth said. “We’ve got our (top) guys going.”

    The resurgent offense will attempt to help out struggling Max Scherzer (11-11, 2.89), something it failed to do in the staff ace’s two prior season meetings with New York.

    Scherzer yielded one earned run over 14 2-3 innings in those starts but lost both after receiving only one run of support. He hasn’t won at all in six consecutive outings and is 0-3 with a 6.14 ERA in his past four.

    The All-Star surrendered 11 hits in six innings Wednesday but held St. Louis to two runs in a 4-3 Washington win.

    Scherzer’s winless drought has gone on even longer at Nationals Park. Since no-hitting Pittsburgh June 20, he’s 0-3 with a 5.16 ERA in five home starts and allowed four runs or more in three of those outings.

    The Mets, who dropped two of three in Miami to narrow the gap, send out a slumping pitcher of their own in Jon Niese (8-10, 4.17). The left-hander has permitted 18 runs and 23 hits over a three-start stretch and was reached for six in five innings of Tuesday’s 14-8 loss to Philadelphia.

    Niese also has lost four straight starts against Washington and is winless in five since tossing 7 1-3 scoreless innings at Nationals Park on Aug. 18, 2012.

    The Mets have won each of Niese’s last five road starts even though he’s allowed 12 runs over 11 1-3 innings in his past two.

    New York scored 23 runs in those games and will field a considerably different lineup than Scherzer faced May 1. David Wright and Travis d’Arnaud have returned from injuries and the offense has gotten a needed power boost from Yoenis Cespedes’ acquisition and rookie Michael Conforto’s promotion.

    Cespedes homered for the fourth time in five games Sunday and is 10 for 23 during that span. D’Arnaud is batting .415 with three homers and 15 RBIs over his last 12.

    The Mets are 7-6 against Washington in 2015 and have split six games at Nationals Park. The teams conclude the season with three at Citi Field beginning Oct. 2.


    Preview: Rays (67-69) at Tigers (62-74)

    Game: 1
    Venue: Comerica Park
    Date: September 07, 2015 1:08 PM EDT

    Fighting to stay in the wild-card race, the Tampa Bay Rays are hoping Drew Smyly can help their cause while getting the better of his former team.

    Smyly faces the Detroit Tigers for the first time Monday since he was dealt last year when the teams begin a three-game series.

    The Rays (67-69) remained 4 1/2 games behind Texas for the second wild-card spot after losing 6-4 to the New York Yankees on Sunday. Chris Archer made two huge mistakes – giving up back-to-back homers to Brian McCann and Alex Rodriguez – that erased a 3-0 lead and sent Tampa to its third loss in four games.

    ‘I didn’t execute in the biggest moment of the game,’ Archer said. ‘Am I disappointed? Of course. We need to win every single game.’

    Smyly (2-2, 3.11 ERA), who was drafted in the second round by the Tigers in 2010 and made his debut in 2012, gets a chance to right the Rays and also put together strong consecutive outings for the first time since missing more than three months due to a torn labrum. The left-hander had his best start among the four he’s had since coming back, matching a season high with 10 strikeouts and limiting Baltimore to four hits in seven shutout innings of an 11-2 victory Tuesday.

    “I’m looking forward to it for sure,” Smyly told MLB’s official website. “It’s exciting. I played there for three years, loved every bit of it. They’ve got great fans. Hopefully they’ll support me when I come back.”

    In his two victories since coming back, Smyly hasn’t allowed a run in 12 2-3 innings. In his other two outings, he’s yielded nine runs and 15 hits in 8 1-3 innings while going 0-1.

    Tigers counterpart Randy Wolf (0-3, 6.11) is also hopeful for support – of the offensive kind. The Tigers have failed to score in each of his three starts since being called up last month, and the left-hander was drilled for eight runs in 3 2-3 innings of a 12-1 defeat at Kansas City on Wednesday.

    Wolf has dropped five straight starts dating back to a 3-1 victory over Tampa Bay on June 2, 2014, when he limited the Rays to one run in six innings.

    Detroit’s late-season swoon continued with a 4-0 defeat to Cleveland on Sunday, its third shutout loss while dropping 13 of the last 16. The last-place Tigers, who have matched a season worst by falling 12 games under .500 at 62-74, are 10-19 versus the AL East, getting outscored 182-111 in those games.

    “We hit some balls decent, barreled some balls,” Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. “Ball didn’t seem to be traveling for us.”

    Ian Kinsler, who made a pinch-hit appearance Sunday, is 3 for 7 with a homer versus Smyly. Miguel Cabrera has gone 10 games without a homer and is hitting .194 in that span.

    Rays second baseman Logan Forsythe is hitting .538 with a 1.379 OPS during a seven-game hit streak.


    Preview: Orioles (65-71) at Yankees (76-59)

    Game: 1
    Venue: Yankee Stadium
    Date: September 07, 2015 1:05 PM EDT

    While Brian McCann has surprisingly emerged as the New York Yankees’ leader in RBIs, fellow catcher Matt Wieters is enduring another frustrating year for the Baltimore Orioles.

    McCann homered twice over the weekend while Wieters missed two weekend games ahead of Monday’s three-game series opener at Yankee Stadium.

    New York (76-59) captured two of three from Tampa Bay to begin its 10-game homestand. McCann homered in both of his starts, with his three-run shot in Sunday’s 6-4 victory giving him 86 RBIs – his most since a career-high 94 in 2009.

    “He’s been such a run producer for us all year long,” manager Joe Girardi said. “And to get that kind of production out of a catcher doesn’t happen very often, just because of what they go through physically.”

    The former catcher Girardi has done his part to keep McCann fresh by occasionally starting backup John Ryan Murphy, who is mired in a 5-for-26 slump.

    Wieters has been limited to 87 games over the last two years after season-ending elbow surgery in 2014. He sat out the final two games of a weekend set in Toronto with a left wrist injury suffered in Friday’s 10-2 victory.

    Manager Buck Showalter is hopeful Wieters can return Monday. The catcher is hitting .170 in his last 14 games.

    “He’s better today, it felt better so that was good to hear the improvement and the X-ray was negative so we’re hoping,” Showalter said.

    The Yankees remained 1 1/2 games behind the first-place Blue Jays after a weekend in which Alex Rodriguez also went deep twice. He entered the Rays series homerless in 10 straight, and is now two shy of his first 30-homer campaign since 2010.

    Rodriguez is also two hits away from tying Rod Carew (3,053) for 23rd on the all-time list.

    New York is 8-5 against Baltimore (65-71), including 6-1 at home. The Yankees will give the ball to Michael Pineda (10-8, 4.07 ERA), who makes his third start after spending a month on the disabled list with a strained right forearm.

    Pineda was charged with five runs over 4 1-3 innings in a 6-2 loss to Houston in his first start back Aug. 26 before recovering Tuesday to limit Boston to one run in six innings to earn a 3-1 road win and end a personal three-game slide.

    The right-hander is 2-1 with a 5.60 ERA in three starts versus Baltimore in 2015. Jimmy Paredes is 4 for 6 against him this year, Manny Machado is 4 for 8 and Adam Jones 4 for 9.

    The last time he faced Baltimore at home, he struck out a career-high 16 on May 10.

    The Orioles will start Wei-Yin Chen (8-7, 3.36), who allowed five runs in 4 2-3 innings in last Monday’s 6-3 loss to Tampa Bay after going 3-0 with a 2.90 ERA in his previous five outings.

    Chen is 1-1 with a 2.79 ERA in three 2015 starts against New York. Chris Young is 4 for 7 with a homer in those games against the left-hander and Chase Headley 3 for 6.

    Young is mired in a 4-for-40 slump, including 2 for 22 off left-handers. He bats .323 against southpaws compared to .182 against righties.

    Orioles slugger Chris Davis leads the majors with 40 homers and has reached 100 RBIs for the second time. He’s 3 for 14 with two homers off Pineda.

    Baltimore has dropped 14 of 17.


    Preview: Brewers (60-76) at Marlins (57-80)

    Game: 1
    Venue: Marlins Park
    Date: September 07, 2015 1:10 PM EDT

    Neither Justin Nicolino of the Miami Marlins nor fellow rookie Zach Davies of the Milwaukee Brewers are known for overpowering stuff.

    These inexperienced starters will be looking to rely on their location and guile Monday when these clubs open a three-game set in Miami.

    Nicolino (3-2, 3.07 ERA) will make his eighth career start and Davies (0-0, 8.31) his second.

    The Marlins starter is seeking his first victory at home, where he’s 0-2 with a 5.01 ERA compared to 3-0 with a 0.87 ERA on the road. The left-hander continued his road success Tuesday by throwing seven scoreless innings in a 7-1 rout of Atlanta.

    With only 15 strikeouts in 44 innings, it’s clear that velocity isn’t the reason the 23-year-old Nicolino has posted a 1.98 ERA in his last four outings.

    “The thing about Nico, the thing he can do, and he does so well, he knows how to pitch,” manager Dan Jennings told MLB’s official website.

    The 22-year-old Davies (0-0, 8.31) also doesn’t throw hard and is known more for a changeup similar to former Brewers starter Shaun Marcum. Davies and batterymate Jonathan Lucroy spent time Friday watching video on Marcum.

    That came two days after Davies surrendered four runs in 4 1-3 innings in a 9-4 victory over Pittsburgh with three walks and three strikeouts in his big-league debut. The right-hander said he wants to be more aggressive in this outing.

    “Throwing pitches a little off, a little low, making sure I’m going after them and that I know I’m confident in my pitches,” he said.

    Nicolino’s strong four-start stretch began Aug. 17, when he limited Milwaukee (60-76) to two runs in 6 2-3 innings of a 6-2 victory even though Ryan Braun was 2 for 2 with a walk against him.

    Braun is batting .386 over a 17-game road hitting streak against Miami, going 11 for 26 in six games at Marlins Park – the only current NL stadium in which he has yet to homer.

    These teams have turned in encouraging play down the stretch. Milwaukee’s six-game win streak ended with Sunday’s 6-3 loss at Cincinnati while Miami has won five of six.

    The Marlins (57-80) took two of three in walk-off fashion from the NL East-leading New York Mets after Martin Prado’s sacrifice fly in the bottom of the ninth inning of Sunday’s 4-3 victory.

    Prado went 7 for 14 in the series, also driving in the winning run Friday. He is batting .405 in a nine-game hitting streak at home.

    ‘It’s all about momentum,” he said. “I feel good about my swing and I was in a good spot, and when things are going like that you feel like you have a pretty good chance to win.’

    Braun is 10 for 23 in his last six games while Elian Herrera was 5 for 14 with two homers in the Reds series.


    Preview: Pirates (81-54) at Reds (56-79)

    Game: 1
    Venue: Great American Ball Park
    Date: September 07, 2015 1:10 PM EDT

    With his rotation spot in question, Pittsburgh Pirates left-hander Jeff Locke will have to secure it during a month that’s been notoriously bad for him in his career.

    Locke looks for a better result in his second September start as the Pirates open a three-game road series against the last-place Cincinnati Reds on Monday.

    The Pirates (81-54) trail St. Louis by 5 1/2 games in the NL Central despite taking two of three from the Cardinals over the weekend, but they’re three ahead of the Chicago Cubs and 10 1/2 up on Washington in the wild-card standings.

    It remains to be seen what role Locke will play if Pittsburgh makes it to October.

    Locke (7-9, 4.66 ERA) coughed up five runs in 3 2-3 innings of Wednesday’s 9-4 loss to Milwaukee, and he is 2-3 with a 6.26 ERA since July 24. He has pitched six innings or more just once during that span, allowing 49 hits – seven of them home runs – in 41 2-3 innings while opponents have hit .292 against him.

    Locke may find it difficult to regroup in September, a month in which he’s gone 2-13 with a 6.60 ERA during his five-year career.

    With A.J. Burnett on the verge of returning from an elbow injury, each start becomes more pressing for Locke, whose second-half ERA is 5.88.

    “You don’t take the mound saying, ‘Gee, this could be the last one,'” Locke said. “You go out there and try to win the game for your team.”

    Pirates manager Clint Hurdle wasn’t ready to talk about Locke’s immediate future after his brief outing against the Brewers.

    “I’m not going to get into that right after a guy goes 3 2-3 innings,” Hurdle told MLB’s official website. “Those are conversations we’ll have internally. We continue to look at ways to make our team stronger all the time. Adjustments in any spot … those are ongoing conversations.”

    The Reds (56-79) have lost 17 of 22 and sit last in the Central, but they’re 9-4 against Pittsburgh this year and have given Locke trouble in three games. They have 21 hits and 11 runs – nine earned – in 16 innings against him, though that only amounted to one Cincinnati win.

    Todd Frazier is 9 for 23 with two home runs against Locke, who is 3-2 with a 3.46 ERA against the Reds in 10 career starts.

    Cincinnati’s Anthony DeSclafani (7-10, 3.87) has trudged through his own struggles, failing to reach the sixth in two of his last three starts with a 5.09 ERA. The right-hander has lost three of his last four, and the Reds have dropped each of his last five.

    He cruised into the sixth with a 3-1 lead Tuesday against the Cubs, but he only recorded two outs and was charged with two runs in the inning. DeSclafani allowed four hits and three runs overall and didn’t factor into the decision of a 5-4 loss.

    “I ran into some trouble,” he said. “I just have to make better pitches.”

    Brandon Phillips has three games with three or more hits in his last four for the Reds, including a 3-for-4 day with a two-run homer in Sunday’s 6-3 win over Milwaukee.

    Burnett hasn’t pitched since July 30 but could return as soon as Wednesday, while Pittsburgh first baseman Travis Ishikawa (lower back strain) is expected to come off the disabled list Monday.


    Preview: Blue Jays (78-58) at Red Sox (64-72)

    Game: 1
    Venue: Fenway Park
    Date: September 07, 2015 1:35 PM EDT

    Mark Buehrle got an extra day of rest to combat fatigue after his latest outing, and his recent success against the Boston Red Sox perhaps made that decision a little easier for Toronto Blue Jays manager John Gibbons.

    The left-hander will seek to win his fourth consecutive start against the Red Sox, who might not have a red-hot David Ortiz on Monday.

    Buehrle (14-6, 3.53 ERA) gave up two runs over six innings of a 9-2 victory over Detroit on Aug. 30 – his first win in three outings – but told the Blue Jays he felt tired after that game. In response, Gibbons switched his spot in the rotation with Marco Estrada, giving the veteran a chance to start the series opener at Fenway Park.

    “I think it’s a little bit of everything. It’s just that time of year. I don’t know if it’s dead arm or whatever,” Buehrle told MLB’s official website. “I’m going out there trying to give everything I’ve got.”

    Buehrle likely doesn’t mind as he’s 3-0 with a 1.83 ERA in his last three starts at Fenway and 3-0 with a 1.74 ERA in his past three overall against the Red Sox. He yielded one run over seven innings in an 11-2 home win July 1.

    Buehrle could see similar support after the Blue Jays’ high-scoring lineup appeared to get back on track with Sunday’s 10-4 win over Baltimore. Toronto had averaged 3.8 runs in its previous five games, well below its MLB-best mark of 5.5 per game.

    Jose Bautista hit his 33rd home run and an RBI double in the Jays’ 28th win in 35 games. Toronto (78-58) is the first team since the 2004 Houston Astros to reach 20 games above .500 after previously having a losing record following the All-Star break.

    The Blue Jays, 1 1/2 games ahead of the New York Yankees in the AL East, will try to pad that lead by working toward another sweep at Fenway. They took three straight there June 12-14 but are just 7-6 in this season’s series.

    Buehrle and his teammates might not have to face Ortiz after he was forced to leave Sunday’s 6-2 win against Philadelphia because of tightness in his right calf. Ortiz hit his fifth homer in nine games, the 497th of his career and his 200th at Fenway to help Boston (64-72) complete a three-game sweep.

    Ortiz is also batting .393 with nine extra-base hits and 10 RBIs in his last nine contests. He’s hit four homers in his past six against Toronto but has four hits in his last 21 at-bats against Buehrle with a solo home run.

    “We’re trying to figure out how he did it, whether it was during the swing or whether it was when he was running the bases,” interim manager Torey Lovullo said. “We thought it was the best thing to take him off the field and re-evaluate him (Monday) morning.”

    Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia is not slated to return from the disabled list (hamstring) until Tuesday at the earliest.

    Those absences could hinder Rick Porcello’s chances of getting improved support. The right-hander has received a combined four runs in his last five starts, going 1-3 despite a 2.79 ERA.

    Porcello (6-12, 5.21) gave up three runs – one earned – in eight innings Tuesday in a 3-1 loss to the Yankees.

    He was tagged for seven runs in two innings while pitching opposite Buehrle on July 1 and yielded one run and two hits over seven innings in a 4-1 win at Fenway on April 29.


    Preview: Indians (66-69) at White Sox (65-70)

    Game: 1
    Venue: U.S. Cellular Field
    Date: September 07, 2015 2:10 PM EDT

    Michael Brantley and Jason Kipnis are enjoying strong seasons as the Cleveland Indians’ best players.

    Neither has fared well against Chicago White Sox ace Chris Sale.

    There’s little at stake in this week’s three-game set in Chicago between AL Central rivals, though watching Sale operate against Brantley and Kipnis should provide entertainment in Monday’s opener.

    Cleveland (66-69) and Chicago (65-70) are essentially out of contention, though both are playing well. The Indians have won eight of 11 and the White Sox are seeking a fifth straight win.

    Brantley leads baseball with a .376 average since the start of August. Kipnis is one of the majors’ leaders with 17 games with at three hits and has a .311 average that is second on the team to Brantley’s .319 mark.

    They will have their hands full Monday. Brantley is 4 for 29 with 12 strikeouts against Sale (12-7, 3.29 ERA) while Kipnis is 4 for 17 in this matchup.

    Sale leads the majors in strikeouts per nine innings at 12.11, with a career-high 239 to lead the AL. He has thrown 14 scoreless innings over his last two starts at home.

    He can become the first pitcher in 13 years with 14 starts with at least 10 strikeouts since Arizona’s Curt Schilling had that many in 2002 and teammate Randy Johnson had 15 such outings.

    The left-hander is 3-0 with a 2.34 ERA in his last five starts with 53 strikeouts over 34 2-3 innings. Sale gave up four runs in 6 1-3 innings in Tuesday’s 8-6 defeat at Minnesota, throwing at least 110 pitches for the fourth straight outing.

    Chicago begins a 10-game homestand after totaling 25 runs and batting .351 while sweeping three from AL-leading Kansas City over the weekend. Alexei Ramirez is 10 for 17 in this win streak, going 8 for 14 with five RBIs in the Royals series.

    Leadoff hitter Adam Eaton was 8 for 15 with two homers and five RBIs over the weekend although he is dealing with shoulder discomfort.

    ‘Yeah, it’s good to win in general, but Kansas City’s a high-quality baseball team,’ Eaton said. ‘It’s good to take three from a very, very good team.’

    Eaton is 2 for 11 against Cleveland starter Trevor Bauer (10-11, 4.56) while Ramirez is 4 for 13 with a homer.

    Bauer fell to 0-3 with a 7.65 ERA in five road starts since the All-Star break after being tagged for five runs over 1 1-3 innings in Wednesday’s 5-1 defeat at Toronto.

    The right-hander is 2-1 with a 3.08 ERA in four 2015 outings versus Chicago. Slugger Jose Abreu is 7 for 16 in his career with a double and no homers against Bauer.

    Cleveland shortstop Francisco Lindor is hitting .400 in his last 14 games, including a go-ahead, two-run triple in the sixth inning of Sunday’s 4-0 victory at Detroit.

    “I was just looking for that pitch to drive it, and eventually I got it and I thank the Lord I got it,” Lindor said. “I was capable of helping the team win today and that’s what it’s all about.”

    Mike Olt went 2 for 4 on Sunday in his White Sox debut after being acquired off waivers the day before from the Chicago Cubs. His new team averages a major league-low 3.46 runs at home.


    Preview: Cubs (78-57) at Cardinals (87-49)

    Game: 1
    Venue: Busch Stadium
    Date: September 07, 2015 2:15 PM EDT

    Winning in St. Louis may not be enough to catch the NL Central-leading Cardinals, but Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon knows the value of road victories during a playoff push.

    The Cubs will try to win a series in St. Louis for the first time in two years, while the Cardinals look to separate from the pack in Monday’s series opener at Busch Stadium.

    The Cubs (78-57), who have won three straight and sit 7 1/2 games ahead of Washington for the NL’s second wild-card spot, are 12-32 in St. Louis since the beginning of 2011 and have lost six of seven there this season.

    Most teams haven’t been playing well this year at Busch Stadium, where the Cardinals have built a major league-best 49-22 record. The Cubs are one of the few clubs planning to make a postseason run, and it will likely need to go through St. Louis.

    “I’ve been through this before, when you’re playing really good teams like that, you eventually have to beat them in their own ballpark,” Maddon told MLB’s official website. “If we grab a lead, we gotta learn how to hold onto it there. That’s the next level mentally for us.”

    Chicago lost three of four at Busch from May 4-7 and was swept there June 26-28. The club hasn’t won a series there since taking two of three from Aug. 9-11, 2013.

    The Cubs’ only win in St. Louis this year came against Lance Lynn in a 6-5 victory after they shelled the right-hander for eight hits and five runs over six innings.

    Lynn (11-8, 2.80 ERA) is coming off a mild right ankle sprain that forced him to miss his previous scheduled start in Pittsburgh. He suffered the injury during a 6-0 victory in San Francisco on Aug. 29 that began a four-game win streak for St. Louis.

    The Cardinals (87-49), though, have lost three of four, including two of three to second-place Pittsburgh over the weekend, to trim their division lead to 5 1/2 games.

    “We’ve had a lot of close games and series that could go one way or the other,” manager Mike Matheny said. “That’s how it’s going to be as we continue to play them.”

    Lynn is 6-4 with a 2.53 ERA at home this season and was on a roll before his injury, posting a 5-3 record and 2.63 ERA since July 17. He won his last two starts by giving up just two runs in 13 innings against Arizona and San Francisco.

    Dan Haren will oppose Lynn looking to help the Cubs improve on a 35-29 road record, which is second-best in the NL behind St. Louis (38-27).

    Haren (8-9, 3.89) has only recorded six innings in one of his six starts since coming to the Cubs in a deadline trade with Miami. The right-hander has a 1-2 record and 5.87 ERA with Chicago and has given up nine home runs.

    Haren has allowed a homer in nine straight starts and has allowed a major league-leading 30 this season. He draws a favorable matchup in that category, though, as the Cardinals are tied for 11th in the NL with 113 home runs.

    “I’m going to give up home runs,” Haren told MLB’s official website. “I pitch to contact.”

    Kris Bryant’s 495-foot solo homer Sunday gave him 86 RBIs, tying Billy Williams (1961) and Geovany Soto (2008) for the Cubs’ rookie record. Bryant is hitting .346 with three home runs and nine RBIs in seven games since Aug. 30.


    Preview: Astros (75-62) at Athletics (58-79)

    Game: 1
    Venue: Coliseum
    Date: September 07, 2015 4:05 PM EDT

    The Houston Astros continue to show the way in the AL West. How they fare on an upcoming road trip may determine if they can remain on top.

    Houston begins a 10-game trek against division opponents with Monday’s matchup with a sagging Oakland Athletics team that will try to take Mike Fiers out of an outstanding groove.

    The Astros start the three-city tour with a three-game lead on surging Texas and visit the Rangers for four critical games after a stop in Anaheim that follows this three-game set. Houston (75-62) gained a little distance on the Rangers with Sunday’s 8-5 come-from-behind win over Minnesota coupled with a Texas loss to the Angels.

    Houston scored all its runs after the sixth inning – highlighted by Jed Lowrie’s go-ahead grand slam in the seventh – to give Dallas Keuchel his AL-leading 17th win.

    While Keuchel has emerged as the unquestioned ace, Fiers (2-0, 2.25 ERA) has given the rotation another strong option since being obtained along with outfielder Carlos Gomez from Milwaukee on July 30.

    The right-hander has posted a 0.67 ERA in four starts following the trade, highlighted by a 10-strikeout, 134-pitch no-hitter against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Aug. 21. Fiers showed no effects from the heavy workload next time out, limiting Minnesota to a run and three hits through six-plus innings in a 4-1 win on seven days’ rest.

    “I felt great,” Fiers told MLB’s official site. “To get that extra rest after throwing so many pitches helped me out a lot.”

    Fiers’ terrific stretch began in Oakland on Aug. 9, when he allowed Danny Valencia’s solo homer among five hits over 6 2-3 innings in his first appearance against the A’s.

    Oakland (58-79) took three of four in that series but has floundered since, going an AL-worst 7-17 and suffering a fifth straight loss with Sunday’s 3-2 defeat to Seattle.

    Billy Butler finished 2 for 4 with a solo homer and has been one bright spot during the A’s swoon, batting .519 over his last 10 games.

    Oakland has homered in 12 consecutive games, the majors’ longest active streak. However, Fiers hasn’t allowed any in three straight starts.

    The A’s have won each of Felix Doubront’s three starts since he joined the rotation in mid-August. The journeyman left-hander is 1-0 with a 2.57 ERA over that span, collecting his first victory with his new team after allowing four runs across six-plus innings in Monday’s 11-5 decision over the Angels.

    Doubront (2-1, 3.99), one of a club record 28 pitchers used by Oakland this season, also won his lone career meeting with Houston, permitting three runs in 6 2-3 innings with Boston on April 27, 2013.

    Colby Rasmus, the only current Astro with more than five at-bats against Doubront, is 7 for 17 with a homer in the matchup.

    A’s catcher Stephen Vogt is doubtful for the opener after being struck in the groin by a foul ball Sunday. Josh Reddick was out of Sunday’s lineup due to illness but pinch hit in the seventh inning.

    Houston is 7-6 against the A’s this season.

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