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MLB Previews, Articles, Info. Friday 9/25/15

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    Five To Follow MLB Betting: Friday September 25, 2015 Opening Line Report
    by Alan Matthews

    Could be a wild day at Wrigley Field on Friday afternoon as the Cubs’ magic number to clinch their first playoff berth since 2008 was at two entering Thursday. Chicago was off Thursday, so if the San Francisco Giants were to lose on Thursday night in San Diego, the Cubs could clinch simply with a victory on Friday. If the Giants win, then the Cubs can’t do it in front of the fans and would have to potentially wait until San Francisco’s result on Friday night. Pittsburgh just clinched its third consecutive playoff berth on Wednesday night. .Oddly, it was also the third straight year the Pirates did it on Sept. 23. They are one of three teams to reach the playoffs each of the past three seasons, and they have now reached the postseason in three consecutive seasons three times in franchise history, also in 1970-72 and 1990-92.

    Pirates at Cubs (-119, TBA)

    This is your lone matinee and will have live betting at sportsbooks as it’s televised by the MLB Network. Big series here as really the Cubs have to take two of three at a minimum to have any shot of overtaking the Pirates for the top wild-card spot. They probably need a sweep. And the next time the Cubs see Pirates ace Gerrit Cole, who starts on Friday, would be that wild-card game. Cole (17-8, 2.64) is going to come up short in his bid for 20 wins. He took a no-decision vs. the Cubs on Sept. 16, allowing three earned in six innings. He is 6-1 lifetime against the Cubs, including 4-1 in Wrigley Field. Anthony Rizzo hits .357 off him in 14 at-bats. Starlin Castro is 6-for-16 with four RBIs. Cubs lefty Jon Lester (10-11, 3.46) dominated the Pirates on Sept. 15, throwing a complete game and allowing one run and five hits. Andrew McCutchen is just 1-for-10 career off him. Starling Marte is 3-for-7 with a double.

    Key trends: The Pirates are 10-1 in Cole’s past 11 on Friday. The Cubs are 5-2 in Lester’s past seven at home. The “over/under” has gone under in seven straight Pirates games vs. a lefty. The under is 10-1-1 in Lester’s past 11 vs. teams with a winning record. Pittsburgh is 4-1 in Cole’s past five at the Cubs.

    Early lean: Cubs and under no matter the number.

    Braves at Marlins (-225, 6.5)

    Expect to see Atlanta first baseman Freddie Freeman back in the starting lineup Friday. He didn’t start Wednesday against the Mets due to a wrist injury, but hit a pinch-hit two-run double, then remained in the game and hit the game-winning three-run homer in the ninth inning. The Braves need all the help they can get against Marlins ace Jose Fernandez (5-0, 2.18), who is simply unbeatable at home. With a victory, Fernandez would set a major-league record for most home wins without a loss to begin a career. He’s currently 16-0 with a 1.11 ERA in 25 career starts at Marlins Park. Freeman is 3-for-12 with a homer off him career. Andrelton Simmons is 2-for-10 with a double. The Braves go with rookie Ryan Weber (0-1, 3.26). He hasn’t faced the Marlins in his three career big-league starts.

    Key trends: The Marlins are 7-0 in Fernandez’s past seven at home vs. teams with a losing record. They are 0-5 in his past five on Friday. The over is 6-0 in Fernandez’s past six on Friday.

    Early lean: Fernandez gets the record. Take Marlins on runline and under.

    Twins at Tigers (-116, 8.5)

    Will Detroit have Miguel Cabrera back in the lineup here? He has been dealing with a back injury for a little bit and got Wednesday off. Cabrera looks tired and beaten up, hitting just .193 over his past 16 games without a homer. This is a series the Twins need to sweep and they could find themselves in the wild-card lead (for second spot) by Sunday if they do. Minnesota starts Mike Pelfrey (6-10, 4.16) here. He has a 7.23 ERA over his past five starts. He is 1-2 with a 4.19 ERA in three starts vs. Detroit in 2015. Cabrera is 6-for-26 off him. Ian Kinsler is 4-for-16 with two doubles and a homer. Detroit rookie lefty Matt Boyd (1-5, 7.40) hasn’t won since Aug. 5, his first start with Detroit since coming over from Toronto. Boyd hasn’t faced Minnesota.

    Key trend: The Twins are 1-5 in Pelfrey’s past six series openers. The Tigers are 1-5 in Boyd’s past six vs. teams with a winning record. The over is 4-0-1 in Pelfrey’s past five.

    Early lean: Tigers and over.

    Rays at Blue Jays (-163, 8.5)

    The Jays did enough in their big series with the Yankees to open this week, taking two of three, to all but assure they win the AL East. This game starts their final home series of the regular season. Toronto can still catch Kansas City for the top seed in the AL as well. Knuckleballer R.A. Dickey (10-11, 4.05) goes for Toronto. He is 0-3 with a 4.94 ERA this year against Tampa Bay. Asbrubal Cabrera is 6-for-16 with two homers and five RBIs off him. Tampa Bay has won the past three starts of Jake Odorizzi (8-8, 3.38). He is 1-1 with a 5.11 ERA in two starts vs. Toronto. Jose Bautista is 0-for-11 with four strikeouts off him. Josh Donaldson is 1-for-6 with a dinger.

    Key trends: The Rays are 0-4 in Odorizzi’s past four road starts vs. teams with a winning record. The Jays are 10-2 in Dickey’s past 12. The under is 8-3 in Odorizzi’s past 11 vs. teams with a winning record. The under is 5-1 in Dickey’s past six in Game 1 of a series.

    Early lean: Jays and over.

    Rangers at Astros (-142, 8.5)

    This game is on ESPN2 and will have live betting at sportsbooks. Clearly the series of the weekend. If Texas takes even two of three, the AL West race is over. Houston still is dealing with the Angels and Twins for that second wild-card spot. The Rangers start Yovani Gallardo (12-11, 3.41). He is 0-2 with a 7.71 ERA in his last two starts. Gallardo is 2-1 with a 6.14 ERA vs. the Astros this season. Colby Rasmus is 7-for-22 off him with two homers. Luis Valbuena is 9-for-28 with three doubles. Astros lefty Scott Kazmir (7-10, 2.73) has just two wins with Houston since coming over from Oakland. He’s 0-1 with a 4.71 ERA this month. Kazmir is 2-1 with a 1.60 ERA this year vs. Texas. Mitch Moreland is 3-for-8 with a homer off him. Adrian Beltre hits just .208 with 13 strikeouts in 48 at-bats off Kazmir.

    Key trends: The Rangers are 6-1 in their past seven against a lefty. Houston is 0-6 in Kazmir’s past six on five days of rest. The under is 8-0 in Gallardo’s past eight during Game 1 of a series.

    Early lean: Astros and under.


    Dickey struggling versus Rays this season
    Andrew Avery

    The Toronto Blue Jays have gone 0-4 in knuckleballer R.A. Dickey’s four starts versus the Tampa Bay Rays this season. Dickey is probable to get another shot when the Jays open a three-game set with the Rays at Rogers Centre Friday evening.

    Dickey has a personal record of 0-3 in those games and has a 4.94 ERA thanks to 13 earned runs in 23 2/3 innings of work.

    The Rays are expected to counter with Jake Odorizzi.


    Wind blowing in at Wrigley Field Friday
    Andrew Avery

    According to weather forecasts, wind will be blowing in from left field in Chicago when the Cubs host the Pittsburgh Pirates at Wrigley Field Friday afternoon.

    Probable pitchers for Friday’s tilt are Gerrit Cole for the Bucs and Jon Lester for the Cubbies. The Cubs opened -115 and the total is presently off the board.


    Preview: Pirates at Cubs

    Current Conditions – Chicago
    SUNNY 77 °F
    Wind: NNW 12
    5-Day Forecast GAME: Pittsburgh Pirates (93-60) at Chicago Cubs (89-63)
    DATE/TIME: Friday, September 25 – 2:20 PM EST
    WHERE: Wrigley Field, Chicago, Illinois

    The Pittsburgh Pirates and Chicago Cubs have had meaningful matchups all season, but the stakes will be raised even higher for their three-game series beginning Friday at Wrigley Field. The National League Central rivals likely are headed for a clash in the wild-card game, but the Pirates could still catch St. Louis for the division title or slip behind the Cubs for the top wild-card spot.

    The critical series begins with a marquee pitching matchup between Cubs left-hander Jon Lester and Pirates righty Gerrit Cole, who is in line to start Pittsburgh’s postseason opener. The Pirates, who have won six straight, have already locked up a playoff spot and are four games behind the St. Louis Cardinals and 3 1/2 ahead of the Cubs. Chicago can punch its ticket to the postseason with a win or a San Francisco loss but has little hope of catching the Cardinals. The Cubs have to like the potential matchup with the Pirates, though, as they lead the season series 10-6 and took three of four in Pittsburgh from Sept. 15-17.

    TV: 2:20 p.m. ET, MLB Network, ROOT (Pittsburgh), ABC 7 (Chicago)

    PITCHING MATCHUP: Pirates RH Gerrit Cole (17-8, 2.64 ERA) vs. Cubs LH Jon Lester (10-11, 3.46)

    Cole has posted quality starts in three straight outings and five of his last six with an ugly start at Milwaukee mixed in. The 25-year-old former UCLA star is 6-1 with a 3.10 ERA in eight career starts against the Cubs with the only loss coming in May. Cole faced the Cubs on Sept. 15 and gave up four runs (three earned) in 6 1/3 innings without factoring into the decision.

    Lester threw his first complete game of the season to beat the Pirates in the second game of a doubleheader on Sept. 15, striking out nine while allowing one run and five hits. The 31-year-old couldn’t sustain the momentum last time out, giving up four runs over six frames in a loss to St. Louis. Lester is 2-0 against Pittsburgh this season, allowing two runs in 16 innings over two starts with 16 strikeouts.


    1. Pirates OF Starling Marte is 15-for-25 with three doubles, two homers and eight RBIs during a five-game hitting streak.

    2. Cubs INF Tommy La Stella is 9-for-15 during an eight-game hitting streak and has extended the streak five times as a pinch hitter.

    3. Pittsburgh is 80-1 when leading after eight innings and 0-49 when trailing through eight.

    PREDICTION: Pirates 3, Cubs 2


    Preview: Phillies at Nationals

    Current Conditions – Washington
    CLOUDY 88 °F
    Wind: NW 3
    5-Day Forecast GAME: Philadelphia Phillies (57-96) at Washington Nationals (78-74)
    DATE/TIME: Friday, September 25 – 7:05 PM EST
    WHERE: Nationals Park, Washington, District of Columbia

    The Washington Nationals play their next seven games against three of the worst teams in the National League and will likely need to win them all to have any hope of making a season-ending three-game series at the New York Mets meaningful. Trailing the NL East-leading Mets by 7 1/2 games, the Nationals open a three-game series against the visiting Philadelphia Phillies on Friday night.

    Washington had won seven of eight to revive its sagging playoff chances but getting swept in a three-game set at Baltimore may have been the death knell. “It’s not great,” Nationals manager Matt Williams said. “Not where we want to be.” Right fielder Bryce Harper was 0-for-6 with seven walks in the series against the Orioles, marking the first time this season he has gone hitless in three consecutive games. The Phillies have lost eight of nine following Thursday’s 1-0 loss in Miami – the fifth time in that span they have scored one run or less.

    TV: 7:05 p.m. ET, CSN Philadelphia, MASN2 (Washington)

    PITCHING MATCHUP: Phillies RH Jerad Eickhoff (1-3, 3.16 ERA) vs. Nationals RH Jordan Zimmermann (13-8, 3.49)

    Eickhoff has pitched superbly in his last two starts but settled for a pair of no-decisions to remain winless since tossing six scoreless innings in his major-league debut on Aug. 21. Eickhoff blanked the Atlanta Braves on five hits over seven innings last time out after limiting the Chicago Cubs to one run on three hits over seven innings in his previous turn. He has gone at least seven innings in three of his last four starts.

    Zimmermann has been among the few constants for the Nationals, improving to 5-0 over his last seven starts by holding the Miami Marlins to two runs and six hits in seven innings last time out. He was hit hard by the Phillies in his previous outing but escaped with a no-decision despite allowing six runs and two homers over six innings. Zimmermann has made 15 career starts against Philadelphia, logging a 6-7 mark and 3.80 ERA.


    1. Washington has won six of the past seven meetings to improve to 11-5 in the season series.

    2. Phillies SS Freddy Galvis is 7-for-18 during a four-game hitting streak.

    3. Nationals 2B Danny Espinosa is done for the season due to a slight tear in his hamstring.

    PREDICTION: Nationals 4, Phillies 3


    Preview: White Sox at Yankees

    Current Conditions – Bronx
    CLOUDY 84 °F
    Wind: CLM 0
    5-Day Forecast GAME: Chicago White Sox (72-81) at New York Yankees (84-68)
    DATE/TIME: Friday, September 25 – 7:05 PM EST
    WHERE: Yankee Stadium, Bronx, New York

    CC Sabathia has labored through a long season that included one victory in a three-month span, but he carries a stellar track record to the mound Friday night as the New York Yankees continue their four-game set against the visiting Chicago White Sox. The Yankees prevailed 3-2 in the series opener to pull within three games of first-place Toronto in the American League East.

    While Sabathia ended a nine-start winless drought in his last outing, he’s had his way against Chicago throughout his career. Sabathia’s winning percentage against the White Sox (19-4, .826) is his best against any opponent and the wins match his high versus any team. White Sox center fielder Adam Eaton collected three hits Thursday and is 21-for-52 over his last dozen games. Chicago will send 22-year-old left-hander Carlos Rodon to the mound to oppose Sabathia.

    TV: 7:05 p.m. ET, CSN Chicago, YES (New York)

    PITCHING MATCHUP: White Sox LH Carlos Rodon (8-6, 3.78 ERA) vs. Yankees LH CC Sabathia (5-9, 4.80)

    Rodon continued his string of solid late-season outings by giving up one run on six hits over 7 2/3 innings at Cleveland last time out to win his second straight start against the Indians. Last year’s No. 3 overall draft pick, Rodon limited Cleveland to one run on five hits over seven innings in his previous turn. Rodon is 3-1 over his last four starts, permitting a total of six runs and 19 hits over 26 2/3 innings.

    Sabathia has pitched well since coming off the 15-day disabled list due to a knee injury, surrendering a combined two earned runs over his last three outings. The 35-year-old came up big in a matchup against the crosstown rival Mets last time out, allowing one run on five hits while striking out seven over six innings. Despite Sabathia’s dominance against Chicago, Gordon Beckham has been a nemesis with 10 hits in 23 at-bats.


    1. Yankees DH Alex Rodriguez joined Hank Aaron as the only players with 3,000 hits and 2,000 runs scored.

    2. Eaton is 17-for-33 in eight career games against New York.

    3. Yankees RF Carlos Beltran has homered three times in six games to move past Graig Nettles for 60th place on the all-time list with 391.

    PREDICTION: Yankees 5, White Sox 3


    Preview: Rays at Blue Jays

    Current Conditions – Toronto
    P/SUNNY 75 °F
    Wind: NW 15
    5-Day Forecast GAME: Tampa Bay Rays (75-78) at Toronto Blue Jays (87-65)
    DATE/TIME: Friday, September 25 – 7:07 PM EST
    WHERE: Rogers Centre, Toronto, Ontario

    The Tampa Bay Rays are standing in the way as the Toronto Blue Jays attempt to clinch a playoff spot for the first time in 22 years. The Blue Jays lead the second-place New York Yankees by three games in the American League East and will meet the Rays six times in the final 10 contests of the regular season, starting with the first three in Toronto beginning Friday.

    Toronto’s magic number to clinch at least a wild card is two and the Blue Jays have not played a postseason game since 1993, when they won the World Series. AL MVP front-runner Josh Donaldson, who leads the majors with 120 RBIs, looks to help turn around his team’s fortunes around against Tampa Bay. The Rays come in off taking three of four at Boston and own eight victories in 13 games against Toronto in 2015 after winning the season series six of the previous seven years. Tampa Bay’s Evan Longoria is 11-for-25 during a six-game hitting streak and is batting .349 against the Blue Jays this season.

    TV: 7:07 p.m. ET, Sun Sports (Tampa Bay), Sportsnet (Toronto)

    PITCHING MATCHUP: Rays RH Jake Odorizzi (8-8, 3.38 ERA) vs. Blue Jays RH R.A. Dickey (10-11, 4.05)

    Odorizzi allowed four runs and eight hits across 5 2/3 innings without factoring into the decision against Baltimore last time out after winning his previous two starts. The 25-year-old has had more problems with command than usual of late with 10 walks in his past five outings after issuing 31 in his first 21 turns. Jose Bautista is 0-for-11 against Odorizzi, who is 2-1 (1-1 in 2015) with a 3.45 ERA in five career starts versus Toronto.

    Dickey is winless in his last three starts, but allowed two or fewer runs in two of them after going 7-0 in the previous 10 starts. John Jaso is 3-for-7 and Asdrubal Cabrera 6-for-16 with two homers versus the 40-year-old knuckleballer, who is 0-3 with a 4.94 ERA in four starts against the Rays this season. Dickey has been outstanding at home this season, posting an 8-3 record with a 3.15 ERA and a .199 batting average against.


    1. Tampa Bay INF Tim Beckham is 10-for-26 with a pair of homers and seven RBIs in nine games against the Blue Jays in 2015.

    2. Bautista has five hits – four of them homers – in 33 official at-bats against the Rays this season.

    3. The Rays are 38-37 on the road this season – 4-3 at Toronto – and stand only 37-41 at home.

    PREDICTION: Blue Jays 5, Rays 3


    Preview: Twins at Tigers

    Current Conditions – Detroit
    P/SUNNY 76 °F
    Wind: WNW 12
    5-Day Forecast GAME: Minnesota Twins (78-74) at Detroit Tigers (71-81)
    DATE/TIME: Friday, September 25 – 7:08 PM EST
    WHERE: Comerica Park, Detroit, Michigan

    The Detroit Tigers are sitting in last place in the American League Central but are stilling playing a role in the AL postseason race. The Tigers will try to knock Minnesota out of wild card contention when they host the Twins in the opener of a three-game series on Friday.

    Detroit has been out of the running for a playoff spot for at least the last month but is still playing hard and already made its presence in the race felt with series wins over the Kansas City Royals and the Twins in the last two weeks. Minnesota had a three-game winning streak come to an end with a 6-3 loss to the Cleveland Indians on Thursday that dropped it 1 1/2 games behind the Houston Astros in the race for the second AL wild card. The Twins are opening a seven-game road trip with the Tigers before closing out the regular season by hosting the first-place Royals in a three-game series. Minnesota will send Mike Pelfrey to the mound on Friday while Matt Boyd searches for back-to-back quality starts for Detroit.

    TV: 7:08 p.m. ET, FSN North (Minnesota), FSN Detroit

    PITCHING MATCHUP: Twins RH Mike Pelfrey (6-10, 4.16 ERA) vs. Tigers LH Matt Boyd (1-5, 7.40)

    Pelfrey is winless in his last six outings but snapped a string of five straight starts failing to complete six innings against the Los Angeles Angels on Saturday. The Wichita State product scattered four runs and nine hits over six frames to absorb the loss in that outing. Pelfrey is 1-2 with a 4.19 ERA in three starts against Detroit in 2015.

    Boyd picked up a win in his first start with the Tigers on Aug. 5 but is winless in eight outings since. The Oregon State product surrendered a pair of solo home runs among three hits in six innings against Kansas City last Saturday and struck out six without factoring in the decision. Boyd is making his first start against Minnesota and is 1-1 with a 3.38 ERA in four home starts since joining Detroit.


    1. Twins RHP Ricky Nolasco (ankle) is with the team and could be activated Friday for the first time since June 1.

    2. Tigers 1B Miguel Cabrera (lower back) sat out on Wednesday and is day-to-day.

    3. Detroit OF Rajai Davis is 5-for-9 with three runs scored and a pair of triples in his last two games.

    PREDICTION: Twins 7, Tigers 5


    Preview: Orioles at Red Sox

    Current Conditions – Boston
    CLOUDY 77 °F
    Wind: SE 5
    5-Day Forecast GAME: Baltimore Orioles (76-76) at Boston Red Sox (72-80)
    DATE/TIME: Friday, September 25 – 7:10 PM EST
    WHERE: Fenway Park, Boston, Massachusetts

    A week ago the Baltimore Orioles were in danger of dropping below the Boston Red Sox and into last place in the American League East. Wins in three straight and 11 of 15 have brought the Orioles back to .500, and they will try to continue the hot month when they visit the Red Sox for the opener of a three-game series on Friday.

    Baltimore has not been above .500 since heading into play on Aug. 24 at 62-61, but battled its way out of a funk to pull within 3 1/2 games of the AL’s second wild card. The Orioles wrapped up a three-game sweep of the rival Washington Nationals with a 5-4 win on Thursday, highlighted by Matt Wieters’ two-run, go-ahead home run in the eighth inning. Baltimore avoided dipping into last place by taking two of three from Boston at home Sep. 14-16, and the Red Sox dropped the final three of a four-game set against the Tampa Bay Rays to open the homestand this week and cement their place at the bottom of the AL East. The Red Sox will try to bounce back behind surprising lefty Rich Hill while the Orioles counter with Kevin Gausman.

    TV: 7:10 p.m. ET, MASN (Baltimore), NESN (Boston)

    PITCHING MATCHUP: Orioles RH Kevin Gausman (3-6, 4.26 ERA) vs. Red Sox LH Rich Hill (1-0, 1.93)

    Gausman was reached for four runs and eight hits in six innings without factoring in the decision at Tampa Bay on Sunday. The LSU product surrendered a total of one run in 11 innings during his previous two appearances, including a six-inning, two-hit, no-run effort in a win over Boston on Sep. 14. Gausman is 2-0 with a 2.12 ERA in nine career games – four starts – against the Red Sox.

    Hill is in a major league rotation for the first time since 2009 and is taking advantage of the opportunity with back-to-back dominating efforts. The 35-year-old struck out 10 in each of his first two starts and yielded a total of three runs in 14 innings while walking one. Hill has never made a start against Baltimore in his career but owns a 1.50 ERA in 10 career relief appearances.


    1. Red Sox 3B Pablo Sandoval has been out of the lineup since Sunday and was diagnosed with pneumonia.

    2. Baltimore CF Adam Jones (back) underwent an MRI on Thursday that showed only inflammation and is day-to-day.

    3. Boston LF Hanley Ramirez (shoulder) was shut down for the rest of the season.

    PREDICTION: Red Sox 6, Orioles 2


    Preview: Braves at Marlins

    Current Conditions – Miami
    Wind: S 5
    5-Day Forecast GAME: Atlanta Braves (62-91) at Miami Marlins (66-87)
    DATE/TIME: Friday, September 25 – 7:10 PM EST
    WHERE: Marlins Park, Miami, Florida

    The Atlanta Braves are enduring their worst season in a quarter-century, but open a three-game series Friday at the Miami Marlins looking to remain unbeaten in the major league’s southern-most city this season. The Braves opened 2015 with a three-game sweep in Miami and recorded another three-game road sweep against the Marlins in May, before a miserable second half swoon plunged Atlanta toward the bottom of the National League East.

    The Braves lost 43 of their first 58 games after the All-Star break but have played better of late, winning five of six entering Friday’s contest. First baseman Freddie Freeman, who came off the bench and contributed a two-run double and a three-run homer in the series finale against the Mets, is expected to return to the lineup after not starting Wednesday due to a sore right wrist. One difference for the Marlins will be the presence of Jose Fernandez. The Miami ace, who starts the series opener, did not pitch during Atlanta’s early-season sweeps as he recovered from Tommy John surgery but has been dominant at Marlins Park and is aiming to set a major-league record with his 17th home victory without a loss to start a career.

    TV: 7:10 p.m. ET, FSN South (Atlanta), FSN Florida (Miami)

    PITCHING MATCHUP: Braves RH Ryan Weber (0-1, 3.26 ERA) vs. Marlins RH Jose Fernandez (5-0, 2.18)

    Given an opportunity to join the Atlanta rotation because of injuries to Manny Banuelos and Mike Foltynewicz, Weber has grabbed the Braves’ attention with three solid outings. The 25-year-old gave up two runs on four hits in six innings Sep. 8 at Philadelphia in losing his big-league debut, then after surrendering four runs on five hits against the Mets five days later, he held the Phillies to one run on two hits in seven innings Sep. 19. Weber has held opponents to a .177 batting average.

    Fernandez strained his right biceps Aug. 7 against the Braves in Atlanta and missed a month, but the 23-year-old has yet to allow more than three earned runs since returning from Tommy John surgery July 2. He pitched five shutout innings against the Nationals on Sep. 12 in his first start since the biceps injury, and gave up two runs on five hits in 5 2/3 innings against Washington six days later. Fernandez is 16-0 with a 1.11 ERA in 25 career home starts, and 3-1 with a 1.32 ERA in five career outings against the Braves.


    1. Miami SS Adeiny Hechavarria is expected to play Friday after being sidelined since Sept. 2 with a hamstring injury.

    2. Atlanta P Arodys Vizcaino has struck out seven of the past 16 hitters he has faced over his past four outings, recording three saves.

    3. Marlins C J.T. Realmuto tripled home the game’s only run in Miami’s 1-0 victory over Philadelphia on Thursday and has seven triples this season – the most ever by a Miami catcher.

    PREDICTION: Marlins 3, Braves 1


    Preview: Mets at Reds

    Current Conditions – Cincinnati
    M/CLOUDY 80 °F
    Wind: N 9
    5-Day Forecast GAME: New York Mets (86-67) at Cincinnati Reds (63-89)
    DATE/TIME: Friday, September 25 – 7:10 PM EST
    WHERE: Great American Ball Park, Cincinnati, Ohio

    The New York Mets have been stumbling down the stretch, but a meeting with the Cincinnati Reds always seems to right the ship for the representatives from Queens. With a magic number of three to clinch their first National League East title since 2006, the Mets vie for their 11th victory in their last 13 contests against the host Reds when they continue their four-game series Friday.

    Daniel Murphy improved to 12-for-26 with two homers and six RBIs during his seven-game hitting streak after collecting a run-scoring triple and two singles in Thursday’s 6-4 triumph in the series opener. David Wright is 13-for-39 with seven RBIs in his last 10 contests for New York, which owns a 7 1/2-game lead over second-place Washington with nine to play. While the Mets are preparing for the postseason, the reeling Reds likely have an eye on the offseason after dropping their fifth in a row to remain in the cellar of the NL Central. Joey Votto has recorded four multi-hit performances in his last seven contests and has reached base safely in a career high-tying 41 consecutive games, but is 0-for-3 versus Friday starter Noah Syndergaard.

    TV: 7:10 p.m. ET, SNY (New York), FSN Ohio (Cincinnati)

    PITCHING MATCHUP: Mets RH Noah Syndergaard (8-7, 3.39 ERA) vs. Reds RH Anthony DeSclafani (9-11, 3.79)

    Syndergaard suffered his first loss since Aug. 8 after getting blitzed for five runs on seven hits – including two homers – in six innings of a 5-0 setback to the New York Yankees on Saturday. The 23-year-old has been taken deep 11 times in his last eight outings after surrendering just six homers in his previous 11. Syndergaard handcuffed the Reds in their lone previous meeting on June 26, allowing one run on five hits in eight frames to pick up the win.

    DeSclafani’s two-game winning streak went by the boards as he yielded five runs on eight hits in 4 1/3 innings to take the loss in an 8-4 setback to Milwaukee on Sunday. The 25-year-old had been pitching well by permitting one run in three of his previous four outings. DeSclafani will look to rebound versus New York, against which he struggled mightily by allowing 10 runs on 11 hits in 4 2/3 innings with Miami last season.


    1. New York RF Curtis Granderson is 7-for-18 with two homers and four RBIs in four games versus Cincinnati this season.

    2. Reds RF Jay Bruce has belted six homers in his last 10 contests.

    3. Mets 1B Lucas Duda is 3-for-5 with three doubles in his last two games after going 6-for-39 previously in September.

    PREDICTION: Mets 5, Reds 3


    Preview: Dodgers at Rockies

    Current Conditions – Denver
    M/CLOUDY 69 °F
    Wind: WSW 8
    5-Day Forecast GAME: Los Angeles Dodgers (87-65) at Colorado Rockies (63-90)
    DATE/TIME: Friday, September 25 – 8:10 PM EST
    WHERE: Coors Field, Denver, Colorado

    The Los Angeles Dodgers look to move closer to sewing up the National League West crown on Friday when they open a three-game road series against the Colorado Rockies. The Dodgers hold a eight-game lead over the San Francisco Giants with just 10 games remaining.

    Los Angeles followed up a four-game skid with back-to-back victories over Arizona and is looking to wrap up the division during the weekend set. The Dodgers had a surprise hero in Thursday’s 6-3 win over the Diamondbacks as spare outfielder Chris Heisey (.173 average) belted a grand slam during a six-run fifth inning. Colorado suffered a four-game sweep against the red-hot Pittsburgh Pirates and has lost five straight overall. The Rockies have given up nine or more runs in three of the defeats while being outscored 43-21.

    TV: 8:10 p.m. ET, SportsNet LA (Los Angeles), ROOT (Colorado)

    PITCHING MATCHUP: Dodgers RH Mike Bolsinger (6-4, 3.26 ERA) vs. Rockies RH David Hale (4-5, 6.32)

    Bolsinger has pitched five or fewer innings in each of his past four starts and has a 5.50 ERA during the stretch. He lost to Pittsburgh in his last turn when he gave up four runs (three earned) and five hits in 4 1/3 innings. Bolsinger is 1-0 with a 3.27 ERA in two starts against the Rockies this season and has a 4.50 ERA in three career outings.

    Hale is drawing the start in place of Yohan Flande, who is dealing with knee and ankle issues. He is making his 11th start this season and has been touched up for 14 homers in 68 1/3 innings. Hale is 1-1 with a 3.86 ERA in five career appearances (one start) against Los Angeles and the win came when he pitched a scoreless inning of relief in Colorado’s 16-inning victory on Sept. 15.


    1. Rockies 3B Nolan Arenado (head) returned from a one-game injury absence and had two hits and two RBIs on Thursday to raise his NL-leading RBI count to 117.

    2. Los Angeles 2B Howie Kendrick is just 3-for-19 in five games since returning from a hamstring injury.

    3. Colorado OF Brandon Barnes (hamstring) is expected to miss the series and possibly the rest of the season.

    PREDICTION: Dodgers 11, Rockies 6


    Preview: Rangers at Astros

    Current Conditions – Houston
    P/SUNNY 90 °F
    Wind: SSW 7
    5-Day Forecast GAME: Texas Rangers (83-69) at Houston Astros (80-73)
    DATE/TIME: Friday, September 25 – 8:10 PM EST
    WHERE: Minute Maid Park, Houston, Texas

    If the Houston Astros have any shot at overcoming the Texas Rangers and jumping back into first place in the American League West, then a strong performance this weekend is necessary. The Astros host the Rangers in the opener of a three-game series on Friday and sit 3 1/2 games back in the division.

    Houston was in first place in the West until a disastrous series at Texas from Sep. 14-17, in which the Astros were outscored 33-13 and dropped all four games. Houston still leads the race for the second AL wild card by 1 1/2 games but squandered an opportunity to put some distance between itself and the field by dropping two of three to the Los Angeles Angels this week, falling to 3-3 on the nine-game homestand. Texas suffered a bit of a letdown with a series loss to the Seattle Mariners after taking the four from Houston but bounced back with a three-game sweep at Oakland by a combined 26-10 and has won nine of its last 11 overall to pull away in the division. The Astros will send their best pitchers to the mound in the series, starting with Scott Kazmir going up against Rangers righty Yovani Gallardo on Friday.

    TV: 8:10 p.m. ET, ESPN2, FSN Southwest (Texas), ROOT (Houston)

    PITCHING MATCHUP: Rangers RH Yovani Gallardo (12-11, 3.41 ERA) vs. Astros LH Scott Kazmir (7-10, 2.73)

    Gallardo is trying to bounce back from consecutive losses and surrendered eight runs and 15 hits over 9 1/3 innings in those outings. The Mexico native had won his previous five decisions but has not recorded an out in the seventh inning since going 8 1/3 at Toronto on June 27. Gallardo was slammed for five runs and seven hits in four innings in his last start at Houston on July 19.

    Kazmir finally got some run support in his last start but couldn’t stick around long enough to enjoy it while allowing three runs on five hits and three walks in 3 2/3 innings against Oakland. The Houston native started the series opener at Texas on Sep. 14 and yielded three runs – two earned – on five hits in seven innings but did not factor in the decision in a game the Astros went on to lose 5-3. Kazmir is 2-1 with a 1.60 ERA in five starts against the Rangers this season.


    1. Astros CF Carlos Gomez (strained intercostal) is unlikely to be available over the weekend.

    2. Texas owns a 12-4 record in the season series.

    3. Houston 2B Jose Altuve is 6-for-13 with three doubles, a triple and four runs scored in the last three games.

    PREDICTION: Rangers 4, Astros 2


    Preview: Indians at Royals

    Current Conditions – Kansas City
    SUNNY 74 °F
    Wind: ENE 8
    5-Day Forecast GAME: Cleveland Indians (75-76) at Kansas City Royals (89-63)
    DATE/TIME: Friday, September 25 – 8:10 PM EST
    WHERE: Kauffman Stadium, Kansas City, Missouri

    The Kansas City Royals are division champions for the first time since 1985 as they enter Friday’s opener of a three-game series against the visiting Cleveland Indians. The Royals clinched the American League Central crown when they completed a 10-4 victory over the Seattle Mariners on Thursday, not long after the Minnesota Twins lost to the Indians.

    Kansas City is aiming to reach the World Series for the second straight season but received a blow Thursday when former shut-down closer Greg Holland (elbow) was shut down for the season and probably facing Tommy John surgery. “It sucks, but it’s baseball,” Holland told reporters. “It’s pretty difficult with the situation we’re in, but it’s what’s best for the team and best for me.” Cleveland, which is four games behind Houston for the AL’s second wild card, hopes to get left fielder Michael Brantley back in the lineup at some point during the series. Brantley has missed the past two games after injuring his right shoulder while attempting a diving catch Tuesday.

    TV: 8:10 p.m. ET, STO (Cleveland), FSN Kansas City

    PITCHING MATCHUP: Indians RH Carlos Carrasco (13-11, 3.62 ERA) vs. Royals RH Edinson Volquez (13-8, 3.62)

    Carrasco, who is four strikeouts away from fanning 200 for the first time, has allowed two or fewer earned runs in seven of his last eight outings. He has excelled on the road by compiling an 8-4 mark, 2.73 ERA, 0.92 WHIP and an AL-low .191 batting average against in 14 starts. Carrasco is 5-4 with a 4.05 ERA in 15 career appearances (10 starts) against the Royals.

    Volquez has struggled over his past four starts and is saddled with a 6.43 ERA during the stretch. He has been strong at home with an 8-3 record and 3.41 ERA in 15 starts. Volquez allowed four runs and seven hits in five innings while losing to the Indians on Sept. 14 and is 2-3 with an 8.88 ERA in six career starts.


    1. Indians rookie SS Francisco Lindor went 6-for-13 in a three-game series against Minnesota and is batting .366 in September.

    2. Kansas City 3B Mike Moustakas went 3-for-3 with a homer, three RBIs and three runs scored Thursday but is only 2-for-15 against Carrasco.

    3. Cleveland 1B Carlos Santana has three homers and nine RBIs over the past six games.

    PREDICTION: Indians 4, Royals 0


    Preview: Brewers at Cardinals

    Current Conditions – St. Louis
    Wind: NNW 10
    5-Day Forecast GAME: Milwaukee Brewers (64-89) at St. Louis Cardinals (97-56)
    DATE/TIME: Friday, September 25 – 8:15 PM EST
    WHERE: Busch Stadium, St. Louis, Missouri

    The St. Louis Cardinals are making short work of their fellow National League Central representatives and, as a result, are inching closer to their third straight division title. The Cardinals vie for their sixth consecutive victory overall and 13th in 17 meetings with the visiting Milwaukee Brewers this season when the rivals play the second contest of their four-game series on Friday.

    Rookie Stephen Piscotty didn’t share the same sentiment after going 0-for-8 in two meetings with Milwaukee last week and 4-for-19 in five contests in 2015 before belting a three-run homer and adding a pair of RBI singles in St. Louis’ 7-3 victory on Thursday. Tommy Pham is 15-for-37 (.405) with four blasts and 12 RBIs in his last 10 contests for the Cardinals, who own a four-game lead over second-place Pittsburgh with nine to play. Residing at the other end of the division is Milwaukee, which has dropped 11 of 13 to sit a half-game in front of Cincinnati for the honor of staying out of the basement. Jason Rogers collected three hits in the series opener and is 11-for-22 (.500) in his last 10 games.

    TV: 8:15 p.m. ET, FSN Wisconsin (Milwaukee), FSN Midwest (St. Louis)

    PITCHING MATCHUP: Brewers RH Ariel Pena (2-0, 3.50 ERA) vs. Cardinals RH Carlos Martinez (14-7, 3.01)

    Pena picked up the victory on Sunday after allowing two runs for the third time in four outings and four hits for the second straight trip to the mound in an 8-4 triumph over Cincinnati. The 26-year-old Dominican has worked five innings in each of his last three starts but was taken deep for the first time in four outings (18 innings). Pena pitched well in his lone career meeting with St. Louis, surrendering one run on four hits in five frames for a no-decision.

    Martinez posted his first victory since Aug. 27 after allowing two runs on four hits in 6 2/3 innings of a 4-3 triumph over the Chicago Cubs on Sunday. The 24-year-old Dominican has yielded just three runs in his last two outings after surrendering at least that total in each of his previous eight trips to the mound. Martinez was saddled with a hard-luck no-decision in his last meeting with Milwaukee on Sept. 15 despite striking out nine and surrendering just one run on four hits in eight innings.


    1. St. Louis SS Jhonny Peralta is 20-for-60 (.333) with two homers and 10 RBIs versus Milwaukee this season.

    2. Brewers CF Logan Schafer is 0-for-12 with five strikeouts in his last three contests and fanned 10 times in his last six.

    3. The Cardinals are 43-27 against their fellow NL Central rivals.

    PREDICTION: Cardinals 6, Brewers 1

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