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MLB Previews, Articles, Info, etc, Tuesday Service Plays 9/8/15

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    Five To Follow MLB Betting: Tuesday, September 8, 2015 Opening Line Report
    by Alan Matthews

    I get that agent Scott Boras is just looking out for his client. But he has no right, at least in my opinion, to tell the New York Mets how to use their ace pitcher Matt Harvey. Of course, Harvey missed all of last season due to Tommy John surgery and the Mets are keeping him on an innings limit. A few years ago, Washington did the same with Stephen Strasburg, and in my mind that wrecked the Nats’ best chance to win the World Series. There was some talk that Boras didn’t want his client pitching in the playoffs if the Mets made it because Harvey’s season innings are capped at 180. Are you kidding me? Are guys not playing baseball to win? Harvey himself did say on Sunday that he will pitch if New York does make the playoffs. Harvey currently sits at 166 1/3 innings. The Mets had planned to utilize a six-man rotation the remainder of the regular season and skip Harvey at least once more. But he’s scheduled to go Tuesday in Washington what Manager Terry Collins called the biggest start of Harvey’s career.

    ♦Mets at Nationals (-105, 7)

    Mets GM Sandy Alderson did say that Harvey could be skipped multiple times this month to save those innings. In fact, he might not go again until the last series of the regular season against Washington and only if that actually matters. Alderson did add that Harvey’s usage may be partly dictated by the standings in the NL East. Alderson ruled out using Harvey in the bullpen to conserve innings. Harvey (12-7, 2.60) is 2-1 against the Nationals this season with a 0.98 ERA in four starts. Bryce Harper can’t figure him out, going 0-for-17 with seven strikeouts. It’s Jordan Zimmermann (12-8, 3.38) for Washington. He has won four straight starts and allowed just one earned in each of his past two. Zimmermann is 1-1 with a 4.26 ERA in three starts this year against the Mets. Lucas Duda, who was activated off the DL on Monday, is 9-for-38 with a homer against him. Daniel Murphy is a .339 hitter off him with four homers.

    Key trends: The Mets are 1-4 in Harvey’s past five road starts vs. teams with a winning record. The “over/under” is 4-1 in his past five overall. The Nats are 7-1 in Zimmermann’s past eight vs. New York.

    Early lean: Nationals and under.

    ♦Blue Jays at Red Sox (+130, 9.5)

    Boston is likely to get back second baseman Dustin Pedroia on Tuesday. He has been out since July 23 with a right hamstring injury. Pedroia was hitting .306 at the time of his injury on June 24. He returned for six games in July, but went 1-for-22 before shutting it back down. He likely won’t play every single day at first. Pedroia will face Blue Jays starter R.A. Dickey (10-10, 4.09). The Jays have won the knuckleballer’s past nine outings. Dickey is 0-3 with a 5.76 ERA in four starts this season vs. Boston. David Ortiz is 9-for-28 career off him with three homers and eight RBIs. Red Sox rookie lefty Henry Owens (2-2, 5.87) comes off the worst start of his young career, allowing seven runs in 1.2 innings against the Yankees. He hasn’t faced Toronto.

    Key trends: The Jays are 6-0 in Dickey’s past six vs. teams with a losing record. The over is 6-0 in Owens’ past six. The under is 3-1-1 in Dickey’s past five at Boston.

    Early lean: Red Sox, a Big Papi homer, and over.

    ♦Dodgers at Angels (+176, 6.5)

    Nothing beats watching Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw face off against the Angels’ Mike Trout. Fair to call those two the best pitcher and position player in baseball. Kershaw (12-6, 2.18) threw a complete game against the Giants last time out, allowing one run and six hits while striking out 15 — his third straight game with at least 10 whiffs. Since June 22, Kershaw has allowed more than one run only once in 12 starts and he has struck out 39 batters over his last three starts. Trout is 2-for-6 with a double and two strikeouts off him. Albert Pujols hits Kershaw well, going 10-for-23 with four doubles. It’s fellow southpaw Andrew Heaney (6-2, 3.18) for the Halos. He faced the Dodgers on Aug. 1, allowing two runs and four hits in 5.1 innings. Keep in mind that the Dodgers add the designated hitter here.

    Key trends: The Dodgers are 4-0 in their past four against a lefty. They are 2-5 in Kershaw’s past seven on the road. The Angels are 0-4 in their past four interleague home games vs. lefties. The under is 11-2 in Kershaw’s past 13.

    Early lean: Dodgers and under.

    ♦Orioles at Yankees (-168, 8)

    It’s probably too late for the Orioles’ playoff chances, but they will get back shortstop J.J. Hardy on Tuesday. He hasn’t played since Aug. 23 due to a groin injury. The team may or may not get back catcher Matt Wieters. He hasn’t played since Friday due to a wrist injury. Baltimore entered Monday’s game 6.5 games out of the second wild-card spot. It’s not happening. Kevin Gausman (2-6, 4.59) goes here for the O’s. He hasn’t won since Aug. 1 and lasted only 2.1 innings last time out against Tampa Bay. Gausman pitched in the Bronx on July 22 and allowed four runs over six innings in a loss. Brett Gardner is 4-for-13 off him with a homer. Alex Rodriguez is 2-for-5 with a dinger. The Yankees’ Masahiro Tanaka (11-6, 3.73) beat the Orioles on July 23, allowing three runs over 7.2 innings. Jonathan Schoop is 2-for-9 with two homers and five RBIs off him.

    Key trends: The Orioles are 0-7 in Gausman’s past seven vs. teams with a winning record. The Yanks are 7-1 in Tanaka’s past eight vs. the AL East. The over is 4-0 in his past four against teams with a losing record.

    Early lean: Yankees and over.

    ♦Rangers at Mariners (+116, 7)

    It’s lefty Cole Hamels (8-8, 3.70) here for Texas. This will be his third start against Seattle since being acquired from the Phillies at the July 31 deadline. He is 0-1 with a 4.85 ERA vs. the Mariners this season. Logan Morrison is 10-for-25 with three doubles career off him. Robinson Cano is 2-for-12 with a solo homer. Seattle’s Taijuan Walker (10-7, 4.51) hasn’t lost since July 12. He is 1-0 with a 2.08 ERA in two starts this season vs. the Rangers. Adrian Beltre is 4-for-6 with two doubles off him.

    Key trends: The Mariners are 5-1 in Walker’s past six at home. The over is 6-0 in his past six at home.

    Early lean: Rangers and under.


    Gausman, Orioles tend to struggle as underdogs
    Stephen Campbell

    Bettors who have backed the Baltimore Orioles at plus money when Kevin Gausman has gotten the ball haven’t been getting any results lately.

    The O’s are winless in Gausman’s last five starts when tabbed as underdogs. Sportsbooks are presently offering Baltimore in the +152 ballpark for Tuesday’s tilt with the New York Yankees.

    The Bronx Bombers are slated to counter with ace Masahiro Tanaka.


    ‘Overs’ cashing when Nola gets the ball
    Stephen Campbell

    Over bettors have been loving Aaron Nola of the Philadelphia Phillies due to his penchant of participating in a lot of high-scoring affairs.

    In Nola’s last eight outings, the Over has gone 6-1-1. The 22-year-old is slated to get the ball Tuesday against the Atlanta Braves.

    The line and total for the NL East contest had not yet hit the board at sportsbooks at the time of writing.


    MLB Betting Cheat Sheet: The Dirty Dozen

    Here’s a comprehensive look at betting notes for the mid-week major-league schedule:

    Dirty Dozen

    The Atlanta Braves losing streak has now reached 12 games. The Braves were out-scored 36-9 in a four game series in Washington over the weekend, and their next stop is Philadelphia. The Phillies aren’t much better off, coming into this series as losers of 10 of their last 13 overall. The Braves have lost 40 of their last 51 road games, and they are expected to continue to struggle in Philly, as an underdog in Game 1.


    The Arizona Diamondbacks have struggled at home lately, losing six of their last seven at Chase Field. Their 31 home wins this season are three fewer than they have on the road. Arizona will host the San Francisco Giants this week, and the Giants are coming off consecutive wins over the Rockies in Colorado. The Giants have won the last three in this series, sweeping the D’Backs at Chase Field back in July.

    No Ace in Kansas City

    The Royals thought they had found their ace when they acquired Johnny Cueto at the trade deadline, but the right-hander has failed to live up to expectations. He was rocked for five runs on seven hits in just three innings in a loss to Chicago on Sunday. It was his fourth straight defeat, and Kansas City has lost six of his eight starts since coming over from the Reds. His next start comes on the road in Baltimore, and he was crushed by the Orioles earlier this season.

    Hitting Notes

    *The Texas Rangers rank second in the major leagues in runs scored versus left-handed pitching, and they face a southpaw in Game 1 of their series in Seattle on Monday.

    *The Red Sox will play the Blue Jays at Fenway in a matinee on Monday, and Toronto leads the majors in runs scored. Boston is batting a major league best .284 in day games, so we could see plenty of runs in Game 1.

    Pitching Notes

    *Matt Harvey is quickly approaching 180 innings, the recommended limit for a pitcher returning after Tommy John surgery. His next scheduled start is a big one, facing the Nationals on Tuesday in Washington. He could be shut down after that as the Mets will likely want to rest him for the playoffs.

    *Jake Arrieta followed up his no-hitter versus the Dodgers by tossing eight scoreless innings at home versus Arizona, and he’s allowed just one (unearned) run over his last four starts. His next scheduled start comes on Thursday against the Phillies.

    Totals Streak

    The Seattle Mariners return home to host Texas after winning seven of 10 on the road. They’ve been scoring plenty of runs, and the total has gone over the number in seven of their last eight overall. That trend is even stronger at Safeco, where they have gone over at a rate of 21-4-2 in their last 27 home games.

    Injury Notes

    *Giancarlo Stanton was expected to return from a wrist injury at some point, but recent word out of Miami is the slugger is still dealing with pain and is unlikely to play again this season.

    *Nelson Cruz has been sidelined for over a week with a quad injury, but he’s hoping to return to the lineup on Monday in Game 1 versus Texas.


    Preview: Braves (55-83) at Phillies (53-85)

    Game: 2
    Venue: Citizens Bank Park
    Date: September 08, 2015 7:05 PM EDT

    The Atlanta Braves have ended their worst single-season losing streak since 1977, but the prospects of a repeat effort don’t seem high. The last time Atlanta won consecutive road games, it was four out of first place and teetering at .500.

    Weight has since been loaded almost entirely on the loss column. Promise has been drained from the season, but the Braves can at least try to continue holding off the last-place Philadelphia Phillies on Tuesday night at Citizens Bank Park with Ryan Weber making his major league debut.

    The Braves (55-83), who last won two in a row on the road during a three-game streak June 28-July 7, had dropped 12 straight overall and 13 in a row away from home before Monday’s 7-2 win over Philadelphia. The team’s 12-hit effort matched its best over a 4-23 span that had it within a game of matching the Phillies (53-85) for baseball’s worst record.

    Andrelton Simmons was 3 for 4 to break an 0-for-18 slump, and Hector Olivera was 2 for 5 with a home run, double and four RBIs after going 2 for 15 in his first five big league games.

    “I’m just happy I could contribute and help the club win,” Olivera said through an interpreter. “I feel that it builds more confidence, and the more we get going, I’ll start feeling better. All in all I’m just happy we were able to get the win.”

    The Braves passed baseball’s longest losing streak down to Philadelphia at five. The Phillies, in danger of matching their season-low water mark of 33 games under .500, have scored two runs in three straight games with Ryan Howard in an 0-for-19 slump over his last five.

    “That was a disappointing start to the homestand,” interim manager Pete Mackanin told MLB’s official website. “We caught a team that’s down, and we couldn’t do a whole lot.”

    It hasn’t been any better on the mound as they’ve posted a 6.77 ERA over a 3-11 span, and rookie Aaron Nola (5-2, 4.02 ERA) was even worse than that in his last start after two extremely promising outings. Nola had allowed one run and five hits over his past 15 innings before surrendering a season-high six runs and nine hits over four in Wednesday’s 9-4 loss at the New York Mets.

    “I felt good out there,” Nola said. “Things kind of just unraveled. I missed a couple spots and they really made me pay for it.”

    The right-hander earned a 12-2 home win over Atlanta on Aug. 1, giving up two runs in five innings. Freddie Freeman, who homered Monday and is batting .395 in his last nine games against the Phillies, was 2 for 2.

    Weber is debuting less than two months after Nola, joining Atlanta after going 6-3 with a 2.21 ERA in 27 games – six starts – with Triple-A Gwinnett. The right-hander went 2-1 with a 2.81 ERA and .179 opponent batting over his last three starts. In 99 2-3 total minor league innings this season, the 25-year-old has issued just 10 walks.

    Atlanta’s Cameron Maybin has missed consecutive games due to a left cornea abrasion and is day to day.


    Preview: Mets (76-61) at Nationals (71-66)

    Game: 2
    Venue: Nationals Park
    Date: September 08, 2015 7:05 PM EDT

    With the firestorm over his innings count beginning to subside, both Matt Harvey and the New York Mets can shift their focus back towards making the playoffs.

    Harvey has a chance to bring the visiting Mets another step closer to the postseason and put a significant dent in the Washington Nationals’ playoff aspirations when he takes the mound at the site of his last loss Tuesday night.

    An already high-profile three-game series between the NL East’s top two teams has received additional attention after Harvey and his agent, Scott Boras, implied that the standout pitcher would be shut down after reaching a 180-inning limit imposed by Dr. James Andrews, who performed the Tommy John procedure that sidelined Harvey for all of 2014. The 2013 All-Star enters Tuesday’s outing at 166 1-3 innings.

    Mets general manager Sandy Alderson said Monday that the team plans on Harvey pitching if it reaches the playoffs, though to what extent has yet to be determined.

    ‘How he’s used in the postseason is really going to be a function of how he’s gotten through the six months of the regular season,’ Alderson said. ‘I can’t sit here and say he’s going to be available throughout the entire playoffs, because we don’t know how he will feel and what all of the considerations are at that time.’

    Alderson suggested that Harvey would be held out until New York’s season-ending series with the Nationals from Oct. 2-4 if the division had still not been decided. Harvey also denied speculation that he would skip the postseason in a column he penned for The Players’ Tribune website.

    ‘There has never been a doubt in my mind: I will pitch in the playoffs. I will be healthy, active and ready to go,’ he wrote.

    A different sort of panic may be setting in with Washington (71-66), which fell five games behind New York (76-61) after allowing five unanswered runs in Monday’s 8-5 loss. The Mets hit three homers off Max Scherzer while reaching the Nationals ace for five runs in six innings and halting Washington’s five-game win streak.

    “We had some opportunities to score some runs, but the Mets have a shutdown bullpen,” right fielder Bryce Harper told MLB’s official website. ” … We just have to find a way and come back tomorrow.”

    The Nationals now draw another tough task against Harvey (12-7, 2.60), who’s 4-0 with a 1.50 ERA in seven starts since yielding five runs – two earned – over seven innings of a 7-2 loss July 20 at Nationals Park. The flashy right-hander allowed one run or less in five consecutive outings before surrendering four over 6 1-3 innings in Wednesday’s 9-4 win over Philadelphia.

    Harvey has held Washington hitters to a .182 average while compiling an 0.98 ERA in four season meetings, with Harper 0 for 17 with seven strikeouts lifetime against him.

    Ryan Zimmerman is 1 for 9 off Harvey this season but batting .435 with six homers and 18 RBIs over an 11-game hitting streak.

    Washington counters Harvey with a surging pitcher of its own in Jordan Zimmermann (12-8, 3.38), who’s won four straight starts and been superb his past two. After allowing one run over seven innings in a 5-1 home win over Miami on Aug. 29, he limited Atlanta to a run and two hits through six in Thursday’s 15-1 rout at Nationals Park.

    Zimmermann was hit hard when he faced the Mets on Aug. 2 at Citi Field, surrendering five runs on homers by Curtis Granderson, Daniel Murphy and Lucas Duda in six innings of a 5-2 defeat.

    Murphy has hit .339 with four homers in 59 at-bats against Zimmermann, who’s 1-1 with a 4.26 ERA in three 2015 matchups with New York.


    Preview: Rays (67-70) at Tigers (63-74)

    Game: 2
    Venue: Comerica Park
    Date: September 08, 2015 7:08 PM EDT

    The Tampa Bay Rays’ playoff hopes continue to dwindle, and they could be gone altogether soon if their starting pitching can’t turn things around.

    Tampa Bay turns to Erasmo Ramirez to stop the rotation’s slump Tuesday night against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park.

    Last in the AL with 3.8 runs per game, the Rays (67-70) have remained in contention for a wild-card spot on the strength of their starting pitching, which ranks third in the league with a 3.66 ERA. The rotation is slipping at the wrong time, though, posting a 6.41 mark as the club has dropped four of five.

    Drew Smyly was the latest to turn in a lackluster performance, giving up four runs over five innings against his former team in Monday’s 5-4 loss to Detroit.

    “This is a very young team and these are really tough losses for them,” manager Kevin Cash said. “In the long run, it is a great learning experience, because we’ve played so many close games that every pitch of every at-bat matters. You learn how to play hard every out.”

    Ramirez (10-5, 3.84 ERA) has posted a 5.87 ERA in his last three starts. He totaled only 8 1-3 innings in the past two after completing at least six in five of his previous six outings.

    The right-hander has also won once in his previous six road starts, posting a 5.96 ERA in the past four while surrendering five homers in 22 2-3 innings.

    Ramirez threw a scoreless inning of relief for Seattle in his only appearance against Detroit on April 25, 2012.

    Evan Longoria stayed hot for Tampa Bay on Tuesday, going 3 for 4 with his fifth home run in seven games. He owns a 1.375 OPS in that span.

    Rajai Davis led the Tigers (63-74) to their fourth win in 17 contests Monday with two home runs, his first multihomer game since 2012. Davis, who has disappointed with a .244 average after hitting .282 in 2014, had batted .155 over his previous 21 with four home runs all season.

    Aside from his first career win against Kansas City on Aug. 5, Detroit’s Matt Boyd (1-5, 8.36) has been mostly dismal in seven other starts. The most recent was a 15-7 loss to the Royals on Thursday in which the left-hander was tagged for six runs before getting pulled after facing four batters in the second inning.

    “I just couldn’t throw stuff where I wanted to,” said Boyd, who also walked two.

    Tampa Bay ranks near the top of the majors with 46 home runs against lefties. Logan Forsythe’s seven-game hitting streak was snapped Monday but he owns a 1.008 OPS against left-handers. Longoria is hitting .365 off lefties compared to .243 against right-handers.

    J.D. Martinez, tops on the Tigers with 89 RBIs, was 0 for 4 with two strikeouts to bring his average to .156 over his last nine games. Victor Martinez, who sat out due to an illness, is also hitting .156 in his last 12, but .344 with 24 RBIs in his past 26 against Tampa Bay.


    Preview: Orioles (65-72) at Yankees (77-59)

    Game: 2
    Venue: Yankee Stadium
    Date: September 08, 2015 7:05 PM EDT

    The New York Yankees’ offense has been good enough to allow them to overcome less-than-dominant pitching and move back to the verge of the AL East lead.

    Whether that formula will be enough to bring them the division title remains to be seen, but it’s certainly been working very well against a run of lesser opponents over the past two weeks.

    Looking to regain the top spot, the Yankees go for a sixth straight win over the Baltimore Orioles on Tuesday night.

    New York (77-59) moved within a half-game of Toronto by virtue of its 8-6 victory over the Orioles on Monday and the Blue Jays’ 11-4 loss in Boston. The Yankees haven’t been in first since being tied with Toronto on Aug. 24 and have not held the top spot alone since Aug. 22.

    ‘It’s nice to see them lose games,’ manager Joe Girardi said of the Blue Jays, winners of 28 of 36.

    New York has gone 8-2 in its last 10 – which have come against Atlanta, Boston, Tampa Bay and Baltimore – by scoring 78 runs. That’s enabled it to overcome a pitching staff that hasn’t been bad but has failed to provide the lineup with many easy days.

    Michael Pineda struggled through six innings of four-run ball and the bullpen allowed two runs Monday, but Greg Bird hit a tiebreaking three-run homer in the seventh inning and Alex Rodriguez and John Ryan Murphy also went deep for the Yankees, who trailed 4-1 after two.

    Continuing to spell the injured Mark Teixeira, Bird has batted .353 with three home runs and seven RBIs in the past five games.

    ‘For me, it’s just about simplicity,’ Bird said. ‘I’m just trying to hit the ball hard. The rest is out of my hands.’

    The Yankees are 42-11 when they hit at least two home runs.

    Masahiro Tanaka (11-6, 3.73 ERA) has personified the bend-don’t-break results of the staff recently, going 2-1 with a 4.66 ERA in his past three starts. He threw 6 1-3 innings and gave up four runs at Boston on Wednesday, but benefited from another offensive outburst to win 13-8.

    The Yankees have scored 28 runs in Tanaka’s last two starts – both victories.

    The right-hander’s 17 home runs allowed in 13 starts since June 21 are tied for second-most in the majors. He beat Baltimore 9-3 at home July 23, pitching 7 2-3 innings and allowing three solo homers, and is 1-1 with a 3.74 ERA in three career starts against the Orioles – all at Yankee Stadium.

    Chris Davis is 3 for 9 with a home run and a double against Tanaka, but has also struck out four times.

    Baltimore’s slide continued Monday as the Orioles (65-72) dropped into a last-place tie with the Red Sox in the division with their third straight loss and 15th in 18 games.

    ‘We are not taking advantage of the counts when we do get them in our favor,’ manager Buck Showalter said. ‘We just can’t correct it.’

    Kevin Gausman (2-6, 4.59) lasted a career-low 2 1-3 innings and gave up four runs and eight hits in Wednesday’s 7-6, 11-inning home victory over Tampa Bay.

    The right-hander, 0-4 with a 5.45 ERA and eight home runs allowed in his past six starts, is 1-1 with a 2.74 ERA in four career starts against New York. He pitched six innings and allowed four runs in a 4-3 home loss to the Yankees on July 22.


    Preview: Brewers (61-76) at Marlins (57-81)

    Game: 2
    Venue: Marlins Park
    Date: September 08, 2015 7:10 PM EDT

    The Milwaukee Brewers are on pace for their wost record in more than a decade, though they’re trying to end the season in positive fashion behind a red-hot offense.

    They seek an eighth win in nine games Tuesday night when they visit the Miami Marlins.

    Milwaukee (61-76) owns a .445 winning percentage, a mark it hasn’t seen over a full season since finishing 67-94 (.416) in 2004. The Brewers have lately looked like a force to be reckoned with offensively, though, winning 9-1 in Monday’s series opener behind 15 hits, including seven for extra bases.

    They’ve averaged 6.8 runs while hitting a major league-leading .335 in the last nine games, with Adam Lind, Jonathan Lucroy and Ryan Braun leading the way. Lind is batting .480 with 12 RBIs in his last nine, Lucroy is at .411 in his last 14 and Braun is hitting .391 in his last 12. Braun also extended his hitting streak at Miami to 18 games by going 2 for 4.

    Miami (57-81) has lost 15 of its last 22, and Monday marked the 12th time it had scored two runs or fewer in that span. Manager Dan Jennings was ejected in the seventh inning for arguing balls and strikes.

    “Just a little bit of a liberal strike zone for me,” Jennings said. “I felt like it was expanded down below and we had a difference of opinion and I expressed it and he did what he had to do and ran me.”

    Both clubs will start rookie pitchers, with Milwaukee’s Taylor Jungmann (9-5, 2.42 ERA) having allowed one run or fewer over at least six innings in three of his last four starts. Jungmann defeated Pittsburgh for the third time Thursday, limiting the Pirates to one run and three hits over six innings in a 5-3 victory.

    If Jungmann can improve or preserve his ERA, he’d become the fourth rookie since 1976 with an ERA of 2.42 or lower in at least 16 starts, joining Jose Fernandez, Francisco Liriano and Mark Fidrych.

    This is his first start against Miami.

    The Marlins counter with Adam Conley (3-1, 5.02), who looks to redeem himself after struggling in the club’s 9-6 win at Milwaukee on Aug. 18. He gave up four runs and a season-high nine hits over 3 2-3 innings. He’s posted a 3.94 ERA in three starts since, winning the last two at Washington and Atlanta.

    Conley is seeking his first win at Marlins Park since a 14-3 victory against Cincinnati on July 11.

    Milwaukee is one of baseball’s worst teams against left-handed pitching, batting .235, though Braun is hitting .405 off lefties since July 12. Braun and Jean Segura were a combined 4 for 5 against Conley last month.

    Both pitchers have swung the bat well – Jungmann’s .321 average is the highest in the majors among pitchers with 20 or more plate appearances, and Conley is 3 for 10.


    Preview: Pirates (81-55) at Reds (57-79)

    Game: 2
    Venue: Great American Ball Park
    Date: September 08, 2015 7:10 PM EDT

    While manager Clint Hurdle refused to blame a quick turnaround on his team’s sloppy play, he’s hoping Francisco Liriano can end struggles of a much longer length Tuesday night when the Pittsburgh Pirates continue their series versus the Cincinnati Reds.

    Pittsburgh had its lead for the NL’s first wild card reduced to two games following its 3-1 loss Monday and the Chicago Cubs’ 9-0 rout of St. Louis. The Pirates – still 5 1/2 games out of first in the NL Central – looked sluggish early after beating the Cardinals on Sunday night, committing two of their season high-tying four errors during Cincinnati’s three-run second.

    ‘We were able to get them the lineup last night, so those who were in knew they were in, and they’re minds could be fresh,’ Hurdle said, paying no mind to his team’s 2 a.m. arrival to its Cincinnati hotel. ‘If we defend the ball better, who knows what might’ve happened.”

    Liriano (9-7, 3.40 ERA) may feel beating the Reds for the first time is something he’s “gotta do” considering he’s 0-5 with a 3.96 ERA in 10 lifetime starts against them since joining Pittsburgh (81-55) in 2013. The left-hander did not register a decision April 6 in his only start versus Cincinnati this season after yielding two runs in seven innings of a 5-2 loss.

    Liriano has never found a comfort zone at Great American Ball Park, going 0-4 with a 4.86 ERA in six starts, and the Pirates have provided him only nine runs in those outings. Though he lost his last road start, Liriano is still 5-3 with a 2.67 ERA in 11 outings outside Pittsburgh.

    Jay Bruce has only a solo homer in 18 lifetime at-bats versus Liriano, but the slugger enters this game with the spark of his milestone 1,000th hit – a single that capped a 13-pitch at-bat. He’s hitting .267 against the Pirates this year, but is 5 for 14 in the last four contests.

    ‘I’ve been fortunate to be around long enough to get 1,000 hits,’ said Bruce, who became the sixth player in club history with 1,000 hits and 200 homers. ‘I’m fortunate to be able to do it with the Reds. It’s humbling to be mentioned with that group.’

    Cincinnati (57-79) is seeking its first three-game win streak since July 28-30 and first three-game run at home since a season-high six in a row from June 7-19. The Reds may get a boost from the return of speedy outfielder Billy Hamilton, who completed a minor league rehab assignment and is expected to rejoin the team.

    Despite being sidelined since Aug. 19 with a sprained right shoulder, Hamilton still leads the majors with 54 stolen bases. He’s swiped 16 in 17 attempts in 13 games against Pittsburgh this year and is a .214 hitter in 14 at-bats versus Liriano.

    Reds rookie Raisel Iglesias (3-6, 3.81) is trying to end a run of tough luck that has left him 0-2 in his last four starts despite a 1.93 ERA. The Cuban right-hander was in line for a win Wednesday at Wrigley Field after holding Chicago to two runs in seven innings, but the bullpen squandered the lead before Cincinnati eventually won 7-4.

    Iglesias’ lone start versus the Pirates was a 4-3 win Aug. 1 in which he lasted 6 2-3 innings and gave up two runs.


    Preview: Blue Jays (78-59) at Red Sox (65-72)

    Game: 2
    Venue: Fenway Park
    Date: September 08, 2015 7:10 PM EDT

    It’s been two months since R.A. Dickey lost a start, though he hasn’t faced the Boston Red Sox during that stretch.

    Dickey’s unbeaten streak figures to be put to the test by the hot-hitting Red Sox on Tuesday night.

    A four-hit complete game in Wednesday’s 5-1 win over Cleveland moved Dickey to 7-0 with a 2.78 ERA in 10 post All-Star break starts, becoming the first Blue Jays pitcher since Roger Clemens in 1998 to begin the second half with seven straight victories. The knuckleballer has won his last three and hasn’t lost since a 2-0 defeat to the Chicago White Sox on July 9.

    “I’ll tell you what’s worked, the bats have exploded when I pitch,” Dickey (10-10, 4.09 ERA) told MLB’s official site. “It’s such a gift to come and watch these guys play, it really is.”

    Toronto (78-59) has totaled 55 runs in winning Dickey’s past eight starts and won 12 of 16 overall, but had its AL East lead trimmed to a half-game following Monday’s 11-4 loss to the Red Sox and the New York Yankees’ win over Baltimore.

    Boston (65-72) collected 17 hits and has scored 33 runs while batting .358 over a four-game win streak.

    The Red Sox have been troublesome as well for Dickey, who’s posted a 5.76 ERA in losing all three season meetings. He had no such problems while going 4-0 with a 2.23 ERA in five starts versus Boston in 2014.

    Mookie Betts is 4 for 11 with two triples against Dickey this season and extended his hitting streak to 13 games with a 3-for-5 effort Monday. He’s batting .396 over that stretch, while Jackie Bradley Jr. is hitting .577 with 11 RBIs over an eight-game streak lengthened by going 4 for 4 with a homer and four RBIs in the opener.

    ‘I think that there is a general overall confidence that he is showing right now,’ Red Sox interim manager Torey Lovullo said of Bradley. ‘He can walk up to the plate and hit at any count and any pitch at any part of the at-bat, and that is from a lot of hard work behind the scenes that he has put in.’

    David Ortiz, three homers shy of 500, doubled twice one day after leaving a game against Philadelphia with right calf tightness. He’s hitting .321 with three homers in 28 at-bats against Dickey and Pablo Sandoval 4 for 12 with a homer and two doubles off him this season.

    Sandoval was back in Monday’s lineup after missing the Philadelphia series with back tightness, and Dustin Pedroia could join him Tuesday if cleared to return from a hamstring injury that’s sidelined him since July 22.

    Boston’s potent offense couldn’t overcome a rough outing from Henry Owens (2-2, 5.87) on Wednesday, when the rookie left-hander was reached for seven runs in only 1 2-3 innings of a 13-8 home loss to the Yankees.

    Owens has an 8.62 ERA while surrendering six homers in 15 2-3 innings in three home assignments, and faces for the first time a Toronto lineup that’s homered an MLB-leading once every 23.56 at-bats versus southpaws.

    The 23-year-old did hold Kansas City to one earned run in eight innings at Fenway Park on Aug. 21 to earn his second career win.

    Josh Donaldson, hitting .347 off lefties this season, went 3 for 4 with a solo homer Monday. Jose Bautista knocked in two runs and is 6 for 11 with two homers and seven RBIs over the last three games.


    Preview: Indians (67-69) at White Sox (65-71)

    Game: 2
    Venue: U.S. Cellular Field
    Date: September 08, 2015 8:10 PM EDT

    The five-start span Carlos Carrasco was on prior to landing on the disabled list was one of the best of his career, bettered only by a similar run this time last year.

    After resting his pitching arm, the right-hander returns Tuesday night in Chicago against a White Sox team that handed him his last poor outing.

    In his last start before heading to the DL with shoulder inflammation, Carrasco (12-9, 3.53 ERA) limited the New York Yankees to a run and five hits with 11 strikeouts in 6 2-3 innings of a 7-3 victory on Aug. 21. It improved him to 2-1 with a 1.36 ERA and .134 opponents’ batting average with 40 strikeouts and six walks in his last 39 2-3 innings.

    He also has a 1.17 ERA in his last six road outings and is 8-3 with a 2.41 ERA and both of his complete games in 13 away outings.

    “I didn’t like it when I went to the DL,” Carrasco told MLB’s official website. “… But, it’s part of baseball, so I went to the DL. I’m going to come off on Tuesday. I’m ready to go pitch.”

    He enjoyed similar dominance in six starts from Aug. 10-Sept. 7, 2014, going 4-0 with a 0.70 ERA. The last of them came against the White Sox, but this season has been a different story in the series.

    He is 1-2 with a 9.00 ERA and .928 opponent OPS in three starts to drop him to 3-6 with a 5.75 mark in 11 career starts against Chicago. Melky Cabrera (7 for 15 with a home run) and Adam Eaton (5 for 12) have enjoyed the most success, but Avisail Garcia is 0 for 9.

    Carrasco is up against Carlos Rodon, whose own strong stretch hasn’t been interrupted by injury, and the left-hander has had more success in the season series.

    Rodon (6-6, 4.10 ERA) gave up two runs and five hits in six-plus innings of Wednesday’s 3-0 loss in Minnesota, but he’s 2-2 with a 1.85 ERA in his last five starts. It’s come with a 2.38 run-support average.

    “He’s got good stuff, and he’s been doing well,” manager Robin Ventura said. “We have to put something on the board to help him out.”

    The 22-year-old rookie is 1-0 with a 0.71 ERA in two starts against Cleveland while limiting top hitters Michael Brantley (1 for 7 with three strikeouts) and Jason Kipnis (0 for 6).

    That lefty-hitting duo was out of the lineup as the Indians (67-69) began the series by overcoming Chicago ace Chris Sale in Monday’s 3-2 win to end the White Sox’s four-game winning streak.

    Ryan Raburn moved into the cleanup spot and homered in both of his at-bats, and the outfielder is 10 for 20 with three homers and three doubles in his last nine games. He’s batting .321 with a 1.000 OPS against left-handed pitching this season and is 2 for 6 against Rodon, so Terry Francona could again find room for him in the lineup. Four of his eight multihomer games have come against Chicago (65-71), and he’s hitting .340 with 11 home runs and a 1.037 OPS in his last 43 games at U.S. Cellular Field.

    “I think everybody’s got those places where they do well in,” Raburn said. “Fortunately, for me, this is one of them because we play them so much. Hopefully, it continues tomorrow.”

    Cleveland has gone 22-15 dating to July 29 – the day before Carrasco’s run started – and it can get within a game of .500 for the first time since being 27-28 on June 6. It’s also won four straight at U.S. Cellular.


    Preview: Twins (71-66) at Royals (82-55)

    Game: 2
    Venue: Ewing M. Kauffman Stadium
    Date: September 08, 2015 8:10 PM EDT

    It’ll take something much worse than the Kansas City Royals’ current stretch to threaten their sizable lead atop the AL Central, but a cavalier attitude regarding their struggles likely won’t help with the playoffs approaching.

    Kansas City looks to avoid a season-high fifth straight loss as it sends inconsistent Edinson Volquez to the hill Tuesday night against the visiting Minnesota Twins.

    The Royals (82-55) hold the biggest division lead in the majors with an 11-game edge over the second-place Twins (71-66) despite being outscored 31-9 during a four-game skid.

    Their only runs in Monday’s 6-2 loss to the Twins came on Kendrys Morales’ RBI groundout and a sacrifice fly from Salvador Perez. Lorenzo Cain, Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas had two hits apiece for Kansas City, which scored 27 runs in the two games prior to its skid.

    The Royals have the majors’ best bullpen ERA at 2.46, but relievers have allowed 11 runs in 15 innings during the losing streak. Starters have an 8.57 ERA in that stretch.

    “We haven’t played up to our standard,” manager Ned Yost said. “I think our starting pitching hasn’t been exceptionally sharp through this run, and offensively, we’ve faced some tough pitching.”

    Volquez (12-7, 3.53 ERA) didn’t show much concern after giving up six runs and eight hits in three innings Thursday against Detroit before the Royals rallied for a 15-7 win.

    “It’s just part of the game,” Volquez said. “Just a bad day.”

    The problem is that Volquez is having those types of days regularly of late. He’s allowed six runs in three of his last five starts in an up-and-down stretch during which he’s allowed one earned run in the other two.

    Volquez has had some of his best days against Minnesota, going 2-1 with a 2.08 ERA while tossing at least seven innings in all three starts this season. Trevor Plouffe is one of the few Twins batters who has given him trouble, going 4 for 9.

    Eduardo Escobar went 3 for 3 and drove in three runs Monday, improving his average to .394 over his last 18 for Minnesota, which sits 1 1/2 games behind Texas for the AL’s second wild card.

    The Twins had the fewest road wins in the AL on Aug. 19 before winning eight of their next 11 away from home.

    “It’s not about making any kinds of statements,” manager Paul Molitor said. “We’re trying to hang on and make the playoffs next month, and the only way to do that is to beat teams along the way, like Kansas City.”

    Kyle Gibson (9-9, 3.84) has struggled lately on the road, going 0-2 with a 9.30 ERA in his last four outside of Minnesota. One of his best starts of the season came in Kansas City, though, when he gave up four hits in eight innings of a 2-0 win July 2 to improve to 2-1 with a 1.35 ERA in three career outings at Kauffman Stadium.

    This will be the third time in five starts against the Royals in 2015 that the right-hander has opposed Volquez. Gibson, who has a 2.60 ERA over his last three outings overall, has gone 2-2 with a 2.81 ERA in the other four.


    Preview: Cubs (79-57) at Cardinals (87-50)

    Game: 2
    Venue: Busch Stadium
    Date: September 08, 2015 8:15 PM EDT

    Baseball’s best record and a comfortable NL Central lead give the St. Louis Cardinals the luxury of skipping their most consistent starter in preparation for the postseason.

    The surging Chicago Cubs weren’t intimidated in the series opener and now face Michael Wacha on 10 days’ rest as they seek a fifth straight win Tuesday night in St. Louis.

    Wacha (15-4, 2.69 ERA) was scratched Wednesday against Washington to limit his innings over the regular season’s final month. He’s thrown 50 1-3 more than in 2014, when he missed nearly three months with a stress reaction in his right shoulder.

    The right-hander is 4-0 with a 0.92 ERA in his last six starts but hasn’t pitched since allowing four unearned runs in six innings of a 5-4 loss Aug. 28 at San Francisco.

    The Cardinals (87-50) lead the Central by 5 1/2 games over Pittsburgh and will reach the playoffs for a fifth consecutive year barring an epic collapse. A priority for manager Mike Matheny is to have Wacha fresh for October.

    “There are reasons we need to take a little pause whenever we get an opportunity,” Matheny told MLB’s official website. “I explained that to him as well, because he’s not overly excited about it.”

    Wacha beat the Cubs on June 27, but he allowed five runs in six innings against them July 8 before the Cardinals rallied for a 6-5 win. Starlin Castro (8 for 17 with a homer and two doubles) and Anthony Rizzo (7 for 17 with a home run) have hit Wacha well throughout their careers.

    Castro had two hits and Rizzo drove in a run Monday as the Cubs (79-57) dealt the Cardinals a fourth defeat in five games with a 9-0 victory. Dexter Fowler led off the game with a homer and added a two-run double, and rookie Addison Russell hit a three-run shot.

    Chicago pulled within two games of the wild card-leading Pirates and increased its edge to 8 1/2 over Washington for the NL’s last playoff spot. The Cubs also won for just the second time in their last 10 at Busch Stadium.

    “We’ve got to beat them here. That’s really important regarding our development,” said manager Joe Maddon, whose club has outscored opponents 31-9 during a four-game win streak. “It’s a nice first step, but let’s have another one-game winning streak tomorrow.”

    The Cubs extending their run could hinge on Jason Hammel (7-6, 3.55 ERA) ending his slump. The right-hander has gone 1-1 with a 6.52 ERA over his last four outings and gave up a run in the first inning for the third time in five starts during the Cubs’ 7-4 loss to Cincinnati on Wednesday.

    “The real thing I want to get out of is the first inning,” Hammel said. “I have to set a better tone to the game.”

    Hammel opposed Wacha on July 8 but left after the first inning with a hamstring injury. He allowed four runs in four-plus innings of a 4-1 loss June 28 in St. Louis and has struggled against Jason Heyward (9 for 16), Yadier Molina (5 for 11 with three doubles) and Jhonny Peralta (9 for 23 with two homers and two doubles) in his career.

    Heyward went 0 for 10 over his previous three and Molina 0 for 13 in his previous four before both went 2 for 2 on Monday. Second baseman Kolten Wong wasn’t in the starting lineup because of calf tightness and it’s unclear if he’ll start this contest.

    Maddon said rookie Kyle Schwarber, who has missed the last five with rib and oblique issues, could return at some point this series.


    Preview: Giants (71-67) at Diamondbacks (66-72)

    Game: 2
    Venue: Chase Field
    Date: September 08, 2015 9:40 PM EDT

    The San Francisco Giants have won the World Series in even-numbered years since 2010, but they’ve also missed out on the postseason in the two in between.

    Given their fade from contention, that’s a trend likely to hold form.

    While they hope it’s not too late to turn things around, the visiting Giants look to avoid a ninth loss in 11 games Tuesday night when they take on the Arizona Diamondbacks.

    Following championship seasons, San Francisco (71-67) finished eight games back in the NL West in 2011 and 16 out in 2013 despite posting winning records in both Septembers.

    The defending champs were 2 1/2 games out of first place in the NL West and 3 1/2 back of a wild-card spot Aug. 16, but they’ve since dropped eight of 10 to fall well behind division-leading Los Angeles and nine back of the second wild-card spot.

    “You got to keep competing and hopefully we can pull some out,” said Mike Leake, Monday’s losing pitcher.

    Much of the blame could be pinned on a lineup that has totaled 16 runs over the last eight defeats. After totaling 14 runs and 29 hits in back-to-back wins at Colorado, the Giants went 2 for 11 with runners in scoring position in Monday’s 6-1 loss at Chase Field.

    Brandon Crawford went 0 for 4, leaving him with an .098 average in his last 10 games.

    ‘We had our chances but we got to get some guys come through and deliver,” manager Bruce Bochy said.

    Bochy’s club will try to begin a late surge against Chase Anderson (6-5, 4.26 ERA). The right-hander is hoping to show enough to earn a spot in Arizona’s 2016 rotation.

    Following an eight-start stretch in which he went 2-4 with a 7.65 ERA, Anderson was sent to Triple-A Reno for about 24 hours before Jeremy Hellickson’s glute injury led to his return.

    The demotion may have scared him straight since he has a 2.55 ERA over his last three starts. He gave up three runs over five innings Wednesday but did not factor in a 9-4 loss at Colorado.

    After allowing one hit over seven innings in a 1-0 win at San Francisco on June 12, Anderson was touched for seven runs and 10 hits over 3 2-3 in an 8-4 home loss to the Giants on July 18.

    Buster Posey is 3 for 6 in the matchup and the 2012 NL MVP has been a bright spot, batting .543 with a home run and three triples over a nine-game hitting streak.

    Tim Hudson (6-8, 4.69) will try to lead San Francisco to only its fifth win in 20 road games. He made a pair of appearances in the bullpen after posting a 5.63 ERA over a six-start stretch.

    Ryan Vogelsong was initially scheduled to start before working two innings in the opener.

    Hudson is 9-2 with a 2.36 ERA in 14 starts against Arizona. However, he lost 5-1 on April 19 after allowing five runs over five innings in his only meeting this season.

    Paul Goldschmidt homered off the right-hander in that game, but the MVP candidate is hitting .179 with two home runs over his last 10.

    A.J. Pollock and Phil Gosselin homered Monday as Arizona (66-72) ended a four-game skid. The club now seeks its first series win since sweeping four at Cincinnati from Aug. 20-23.

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