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MLB Previews, Articles, Info. Saturday 9/26/15

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    Five To Follow MLB Betting: Saturday, September 26, 2015 Opening Line Report
    by Alan Matthews

    Saturday afternoon’s Bay Area interleague game between the Giants and A’s in Oakland means nothing in terms of the playoff race. But it’s by far the most interesting game on the schedule thanks to a cool move by the A’s. That’s because former A’s teammates Tim Hudson and Barry Zito — part of Oakland’s terrific Big 3 in the early 2000s with Mark Mulder — will square off. Hudson has been a part of the Giants’ rotation all season and is retiring after this year. Zito, who left Oakland for San Francisco in 2007, hadn’t pitched in the majors since 2013 until being called up from the minors on Sept. 16. He has thrown one inning of relief but will start here and throw around 50 pitches. It’s presumed he will retire after the year as well. Oakland plans to honor its former Big 3 in a pregame ceremony on Sunday.

    Giants at A’s (+120, 8.5)

    Mulder will join Hudson and Zito to throw out first pitches before Saturday’s game. They all remain great friends. Zito and Hudson never pitched together on the Giants as Hudson signed on before the 2014 season and won his first World Series ring. Zito, the 2002 AL Cy Young winner, was largely a bust with the Giants but was still a very popular player with his carefree attitude. Zito said that before A’s GM Billy Beane told him about this plan and being called up from Triple-A that Zito was sending “RIP” texts to friends bemoaning the end of his baseball career. Neither guy should pitch an inning again after Saturday. Perfect way to go out. Hudson (8-8, 4.20), at age 40, is going great right now at 2-0 with a 0.96 ERA since coming off the disabled list Sept. 1. But he says there’s not changing his mind about retirement. He leads all active players with 222 wins. Hudson is not a Hall of Famer but wasn’t too far off. From a betting perspective, keep in mind the Giants add the DH, but half their team is done for the season.

    Key trends: The Giants are 1-9 in their past 10 against a lefty. The “over/under” has gone under in four of San Francisco’s past five on Saturday. The under is 12-4 in Oakland’s past 16 on Saturday.

    Early lean: Giants and under.

    Rays at Blue Jays (-180, 7.5)

    It’s the current Rays ace against their former one. For Tampa Bay, it’s All-Star Chris Archer (12-12, 2.92), who makes only $1.2 million or so this season by the way. He’s in the Top 5 of the AL in innings, strikeouts, ERA and WHIP. Archer reached the 200-innings plateau for the first time in his career Monday against the Red Sox, allowing a run over five innings. He is 3-1 with a 0.93 ERA this season against Toronto. Jose Bautista is just 3-for-29 off him. Edwin Encarnacion is only 4-for-31 but does have three homers. It’s Jays lefty David Price (17-5, 2.34), who might be your AL Cy Young winner now and makes nearly $20 million. He has been largely dominant since being acquired by the Blue Jays and shut out the Yankees on two hits over seven innings last time out. Price’s only start vs. Tampa this year was his last as a Tiger, allowing five runs over six innings.

    Key trends: The Rays are 2-5 in Archer’s past seven vs. teams with a winning record. The Jays are 4-1 in Price’s past five vs. the AL East. The over is 5-1 in Archer’s past six. The under is 5-0 in Price’s past five at home.

    Early lean: Blue Jays and under.

    Mets at Reds (+150, 7.5)

    Normally when you see Mets ace Matt Harvey on the mound, obviously you should back them. But Harvey (12-7, 2.80) is on a strict innings limit and this will be his final start of the regular season almost surely. He dominated the Yankees over five innings on Sunday but that’s only as long as the Mets would let him go. Expect the same here. The Reds’ Zack Cosart is 4-for-8 off him with two doubles. Joey Votto is 2-for-6 with a homer. Cincinnati goes with yet another of its rookie pitchers in lefty John Lamb, who came over in the Johnny Cueto deal. Lamb (1-3, 4.60) comes off his best start thus far, shutting out the Cardinals over six innings. He hasn’t faced the Mets.

    Key trends: The Mets are 5-1 in Harvey’s past six vs. teams with a losing record. The over is 5-0 in his past five. The over is 6-1 in the Reds’ past seven on Saturday.

    Early lean: Mets and under.

    Phillies at Nationals (-263, 7)

    Two teams with nothing to play for here but nice matchup of young pitchers. The Phillies had said they were going to shut down their future ace, rookie Aaron Nola (6-2, 3.84), but here he is again. This could be his finale, however. Nola has largely been good but two starts ago wasn’t against the Nationals, allowing six runs and nine hits over five innings. Bryce Harper, Anthony Rendon and Jayson Werth all went yard off him. Washington’s Stephen Strasburg (10-7, 3.81) has had a disappointing year but seems to be putting it together now. He has allowed only four earned runs over his past three starts and struck out 37 in that stretch, at least 10 in each. Strasburg has largely been a different guy since coming off the DL. He is 3-1 with a 2.77 ERA this season against the Phillies.

    Key trends: The Nats are 7-0 in Strasburg’s past seven vs. teams with a losing record. The over is 7-3-1 in Nola’s past 11. The over is 4-0 in Strasburg’s past four at home. The Nats are 7-2 in Strasburg’s past nine vs. Philly.

    Early lean: Nationals and under.

    Mariners at Angels (-105, 7)

    Here’s something that surprised me until I read it and looked it up: Mariners ace and former Cy Young winner Felix Hernandez has never won 20 games in a season. That year he won the Cy, in 2010, he was just 13-12. King Felix (18-9, 3.54) thus has something to pitch for in his final two starts. He will be on extra rest after leaving his last start Sunday with a stiff elbow. Bit surprised the Mariners are even risking it. Hernandez is 3-1 with a 1.59 ERA in five starts against the Angels this year. Mike Trout hits .349 career off him with four homers but 20 strikeouts in 63 at-bats. Albert Pujols hits only .196 in 51 at-bats. Angels lefty Andrew Heaney (6-3, 3.30) has faced Seattle once this year and it was probably his best start, shutting out the M’s on five hits over seven innings.

    Key trends:The Mariners are 1-5 in Hernandez’s past six with five days of rest. The Angels are 6-2 in Heaney’s past eight vs. teams with a losing record. The under is 4-0 in Hernandez’s past four vs. the Angels.

    Early lean: Angels — they need it more and I’m not sure Hernandez is 100 percent — and let’s complete the under sweep.


    Preview: Rangers at Astros

    Current Conditions – Houston
    P/SUNNY 90 °F
    Wind: SSW 7
    5-Day Forecast GAME: Texas Rangers (84-69) at Houston Astros (80-74)
    DATE/TIME: Saturday, September 26 – 1:05 PM EST
    WHERE: Minute Maid Park, Houston, Texas

    The Houston Astros seem to be trying their best to play their way out of a postseason spot, and the American League West title is all but gone already. The Astros will try to hang onto the second AL wild card when they host the Texas Rangers in the second of a three-game series on Saturday.

    Houston dropped its third straight on Friday to fall 4 1/2 games behind the first-place Rangers in the AL West and has lost 12 of the last 17 to see its lead over the Los Angeles Angels for the second wild card trimmed to a half game. The Astros are 4-13 against Texas, including 0-5 in the last 12 days, and have to go on the road for the final six of the regular season after finishing up against the Rangers over the weekend. Texas is moving in the opposite direction with wins in fourth straight and 10 of 12 and has put up at least five runs in each of those 10 wins. Houston send Collin McHugh to the mound in an effort to slow down that offense on Saturday while the Rangers counter with Derek Holland.

    TV: 1:05 p.m. ET, FOX

    PITCHING MATCHUP: Rangers LH Derek Holland (3-3, 4.75 ERA) vs. Astros RH Collin McHugh (17-7, 3.93)

    Holland has wilted after a promising return from the disabled list last month and is 0-2 with 17 runs allowed in 17 innings over his last three turns. The 28-year-old had his worst outing against Seattle on Sunday, when he was rocked for seven runs on seven hits and five walks in 4 1/3 innings. Holland was bailed out by his offense and did not factor in the decision despite surrendering five runs and 10 hits over 5 2/3 frames against the Astros on Sep. 15.

    McHugh has not lost since Aug. 20 and dominated Oakland on Sunday, allowing one run and four hits in eight innings to earn the win. That marked a bounce back for the 28-year-old, who was even worse than Holland on Sep. 15 as he allowed five runs and eight hits in 3 2/3 innings at Texas. McHugh survived without a decision in that turn and is 3-0 with a 3.57 ERA in four career starts against the Rangers.


    1. Astros 2B Jose Altuve left Friday’s game following a collision with SS Carlos Correa and is day-to-day.

    2. Rangers CF Delino DeShields scored at least one run in six straight contests.

    3. Texas 3B Adrian Beltre has recorded multiple hits in four straight games and 10 of the last 13.

    PREDICTION: Astros 5, Rangers 3


    Preview: Pirates at Cubs

    Current Conditions – Chicago
    SUNNY 77 °F
    Wind: NNW 12
    5-Day Forecast GAME: Pittsburgh Pirates (94-60) at Chicago Cubs (89-64)
    DATE/TIME: Saturday, September 26 – 1:05 PM EST
    WHERE: Wrigley Field, Chicago, Illinois

    The Pittsburgh Pirates are closing in on locking up home-field advantage in the National League wild-card game – unless they win the NL Central – and they’re doing it with dominant play on the road. The Pirates aim for an eighth consecutive win – all away from home – when they face the Chicago Cubs in the second of a three-game series Friday.

    The Cubs missed out on their chance to clinch a postseason berth and celebrate with their fans when they left the tying run at third base in the ninth inning of a 3-2 loss in the series opener, but clinched later Friday when San Francisco lost in Oakland 5-4. Chicago will have to make up 4 1/2 games on the Pirates to avoid going to Pittsburgh – or St. Louis – for the NL wild-card game Oct. 7. The Pirates, who trail the Cardinals by three games, hand the ball to left-hander Francisco Liriano, who is 7-3 with a 2.47 ERA in 13 road starts this season and is 3-1 with a 2.00 ERA in four career outings at Wrigley Field. He will oppose Cubs right-hander Jason Hammel, who is 5-4 with a 3.86 ERA in 11 games (10 starts) against Pittsburgh.

    TV: 1:05 p.m. ET, Fox

    PITCHING MATCHUP: Pirates LH Francisco Liriano (11-7, 3.41 ERA) vs. Cubs RH Jason Hammel (9-6, 3.79)

    Liriano has won seven of his last eight decisions, including the past two, thanks in part to strong run support. The 31-year-old is coming off a solid outing, as he held the Los Angeles Dodgers to two runs and struck out nine over seven innings in a win last Saturday, but he hasn’t posted consecutive quality starts since July. Liriano is 4-2 with a 2.56 ERA in 10 career starts against the Cubs, including a no-decision April 21 in which he allowed three runs and struck out nine over five frames.

    Hammel has posted a 5.43 ERA and allowed opponents to hit .281 since the All-Star break, but he continues to grind through starts without his best stuff. The 33-year-old picked up his second win in his last three outings Monday against Milwaukee, allowing four runs (three earned) in five innings. Hammel’s best outing of the season came against the Pirates on April 27, when he struck out seven and allowed four hits over eight scoreless frames.


    1. Pittsburgh is 81-1 when leading after eight innings and 0-49 when trailing through eight.

    2. The Cubs have lost consecutive home games for the first time since Aug. 18-19 and are trying to avoid their first three-game home skid since July 24-26.

    3. Pirates OF Starling Marte has recorded at least one RBI in a career-high six consecutive games.

    PREDICTION: Pirates 4, Cubs 3


    Preview: Rays at Blue Jays

    Current Conditions – Toronto
    P/SUNNY 75 °F
    Wind: NW 15
    5-Day Forecast GAME: Tampa Bay Rays (75-79) at Toronto Blue Jays (88-65)
    DATE/TIME: Saturday, September 26 – 1:07 PM EST
    WHERE: Rogers Centre, Toronto, Ontario

    It will be marquee matchup of mentor and protege when David Price leads Toronto into the middle game of a three-game set with Chris Archer and Tampa Bay on Saturday. Archer has taken his game to ace-worthy levels this year for the Rays, filling the void left behind by Price, who won a Cy Young Award and was a four-time All-Star in his seven years in Tampa Bay before being traded to Detroit last year.

    Price enters the outing leading the American League in ERA with a 2.34 mark (Archer is fifth at 2.92) and could be the Cy Young winner a second time as he flourishes for the Blue Jays. The lefty is 8-1 with 1.95 ERA in 10 starts since joining Toronto and is coming off a scoreless seven-inning outing in a win over the New York Yankees on Monday. The Blue Jays took the series opener 5-3 on Friday to open up a four-game lead on the Yankees in the AL East with nine to play. The Rays saw their three-game winning streak snapped with Friday’s defeat and are nearing elimination, as they sit five games behind Houston for the second wild-card spot.

    TV: 1:07 p.m. ET, SNET (Toronto)

    PITCHING MATCHUP: Rays RH Chris Archer (12-12, 2.92 ERA) vs. Blue Jays LH David Price (17-5, 2.34)

    Since a shutout at Houston on Aug. 20, Archer has failed to finish seven innings in six straight starts, lasting just five in a no-decision at Boston on Monday. He struck out three – tied for a season low – while issuing a season-high five walks. Archer, who turns 27 on Saturday, has dominated Toronto’s power trio of Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion, who are a combined 9-for-73 against him.

    Price has gone five straight games without allowing a home run and has lasted at least seven frames in all but two of his 10 outings with Toronto. He last faced Tampa Bay on July 28 in his final start with Detroit, giving up five runs in six innings of a 10-2 loss. The former No. 1 pick is 10-1 with a 3.14 ERA in 14 career starts in Toronto.


    1. Blue Jays CF Kevin Pillar homered Friday and is 6-for-10 with two home runs and two doubles in his last three games.

    2. Rays 3B Evan Longoria is batting .414 during his seven-game hitting streak.

    3. Toronto has won 51 home games for the first time since 1998.

    PREDICTION: Blue Jays 3, Rays 2


    Preview: Giants at Athletics

    Current Conditions – Oakland
    CLOUDY 60 °F
    Wind: CLM 0
    5-Day Forecast GAME: San Francisco Giants (79-74) at Oakland Athletics (65-89)
    DATE/TIME: Saturday, September 26 – 4:05 PM EST
    WHERE: Coliseum, Oakland, California

    Barry Zito and Tim Hudson were two of the so-called Big Three in the dominant Oakland Athletics’ starting rotation of the early 2000s and will be joined by Mark Mulder in a pregame ceremony Sunday. But first, Zito and Hudson will be the starting pitchers Saturday when the San Francisco Giants — Hudson’s team for the past two seasons — visit the Athletics in the second contest of a three-game series at a sold-out Coliseum.

    “It’ll be cool just to be on the same field with him,” the 40-year-old Hudson, who will retire at season’s end, told reporters. “We hung out for a little bit in spring training and caught up a little bit. It’ll be nice to see him in an A’s uniform again. I know it’s something I think would be special. I hope that he’d probably feel the same way. It’s going to be really cool to get back out there and pitch at a place where my career started.” Zito took 2014 off after completing a seven-year, $126-million contract with San Francisco, but the baseball bug bit and the 37-year-old returned to the game, going 8-7 with a 3.46 ERA in 24 games (22 starts) with Triple-A Nashville this season. “I’ll be their mortal enemy on Saturday, and then I’ll probably be their friend again on Sunday,” Zito told reporters. There is little on the line team-wise as the Giants (79-74) are on the verge of being eliminated in the National League West while the Athletics (65-89) own the worst record in the American League.

    TV: 4:05 p.m. ET, MLB Network, CSN Bay Area (San Francisco), CSN California (Oakland)

    PITCHING MATCHUP: Giants RH Tim Hudson (8-8, 4.20 ERA) vs. Athletics LH Barry Zito (0-0, 18.00)

    Hudson allowed four hits over six shutout innings in San Francisco’s 5-1 victory over Arizona on Sunday and is 2-0 with just two earned runs in his last three starts. The Georgia native has won his past three decisions, the first of which was a 4-3 verdict over Oakland on July 26 when he permitted three runs and seven hits in five innings. Hudson, who was a sixth-round selection in the 1997 draft by Oakland, is 222-132 with a 3.48 ERA in 17 seasons — 92-39, 3.30 in six years with the Athletics.

    Zito thought a one-inning relief stint in Omaha on Sept. 7 might have been his last appearance as a professional pitcher, but Oakland general manager Billy Beane called and told him he would join the Athletics for the final two weeks of the regular season. The Las Vegas native and No. 9 overall pick of the 1999 draft by Oakland allowed two runs in one inning of relief in the Athletics’ 5-1 loss to Houston on Sunday in his only big league appearance this season. Zito, the 2002 American League Cy Young winner, is 165-143 with a 4.03 ERA in 16 seasons — 102-63, 3.56 in his first seven years with Oakland.


    1. Zito (2010, 2012) and Hudson (2014) each won World Series titles with the Giants.

    2. CF Billy Burns belted a two-run homer to help the Athletics prevail 5-4 on Friday and leads AL rookies with 146 hits.

    3. San Francisco trails the Los Angeles Dodgers by eight games with nine to play.

    PREDICTION: Giants 3, Athletics 2


    Preview: Orioles at Red Sox

    Current Conditions – Boston
    CLOUDY 77 °F
    Wind: SE 5
    5-Day Forecast GAME: Baltimore Orioles (76-77) at Boston Red Sox (73-80)
    DATE/TIME: Saturday, September 26 – 4:05 PM EST
    WHERE: Fenway Park, Boston, Massachusetts

    The three-four combination of Xander Bogaerts and David Ortiz has been a very bright spot in the midst of another down season for the Boston Red Sox, and the two are streaking to the finish line. Bogaerts and Ortiz will try to lead the Red Sox to a series win when they host the Baltimore Orioles in the second of a three-game set on Saturday.

    Bogaerts and Ortiz combined to go 6-for-8 with four doubles and four RBIs during Friday’s 7-0 triumph in the series opener, and both have topped 30 doubles on the season. Ortiz is up to 104 RBIs and 36 homers at the ripe old age of 39 while Bogaerts (.325) is second in the American League in batting and doesn’t turn 23 until next week. The pair is a combined 12-for-42 and each have one homer off Wei-Yin Chen, who gets the start for the Orioles on Saturday opposite the Boston bullpen. Baltimore (76-77) had a three-game winning streak come to an end with Friday’s loss and will be attempting to get back to .500.

    TV: 4:05 p.m. ET, MLB Network, MASN (Baltimore), NESN (Boston)

    PITCHING MATCHUP: Orioles LH Wei-Yin Chen (10-7, 3.36 ERA) vs. Red Sox LH Craig Breslow (0-3, 4.53)

    Chen is coming off back-to-back wins and allowed a total of three runs in 14 innings without walking a batter against Kansas City on Sept. 13 and at Tampa Bay last Saturday. The Taiwan native has issued a total of two walks in his last five outings. Chen surrendered five unearned runs in a loss at Boston in April and is 6-4 with a 3.78 ERA in 14 career starts against the Red Sox.

    Breslow has made 522 career relief appearances in the major leagues but will start for the first time on Saturday, when Boston lets the bullpen handle the game. The 35-year-old Yale product will be limited to around 40 pitches. Breslow owns a 1-0 record with a 2.01 ERA in 38 career relief appearances against Baltimore, covering a total of 44 2/3 innings.


    1. Orioles 2B Jonathan Schoop is 1-for-19 in his last five games.

    2. Boston RH Clay Buchholz (flexor tendon) threw off a mound without pain on Friday but will not pitch in a game again this season.

    3. Baltimore CF Adam Jones (back spasms) sat out his fourth straight game on Friday and remains day-to-day.

    PREDICTION: Orioles 8, Red Sox 4


    Preview: White Sox at Yankees

    Current Conditions – Bronx
    CLOUDY 84 °F
    Wind: CLM 0
    5-Day Forecast GAME: Chicago White Sox (73-81) at New York Yankees (84-69)
    DATE/TIME: Saturday, September 26 – 4:05 PM EST
    WHERE: Yankee Stadium, Bronx, New York

    With three losses in their last five contests, the New York Yankees appear to be running out of steam in their bid for the American League East crown. The Yankees look to get back on track on Saturday as they play the third contest of their four-game series versus the visiting Chicago White Sox.

    Didi Gregorius had a two-run single in Friday’s 5-2 loss to improve to 4-for-13 (.308) with six RBIs in five career contests versus the White Sox. The setback snapped New York’s nine-game winning streak against Chicago, dropping it to four games behind first-place Toronto with nine remaining on its schedule – although it still holds a comfortable lead on Houston for the top wild-card spot. Chicago’s Melky Cabrera is 5-for-12 (.417) with a homer, three RBIs and as many runs scored in his last three contests and is batting .319 (45-for-141) against his former team. Adam Eaton has also torched the Yankees, going 18-for-38 (.474) in nine career meetings while posting a .386 average (22-for-57) over his last 13 games overall.

    TV: 4:05 p.m. ET, MLB Network, CSN Chicago, WPIX (New York)

    PITCHING MATCHUP: White Sox LH John Danks (7-13, 4.59 ERA) vs. Yankees RH Adam Warren (6-7, 3.46)

    Danks fell to 1-5 in his last eight starts on Sunday despite allowing three runs in five innings of a 6-3 setback to Cleveland. The 30-year-old has struggled to keep the ball in the park, permitting nine homers in his last six outings. Danks improved to 3-3 in his career versus New York after yielding one run on three hits in 5 2/3 frames of an 8-2 triumph on Aug. 1.

    Making his second start in place of the injured Nathan Eovaldi, Warren suffered the loss after allowing three runs on five hits in 3 1/3 innings of a 4-2 setback on Monday. The 28-year-old hasn’t distinguished himself versus the White Sox, posting an 0-1 mark with a 7.30 ERA and 1.86 WHIP while allowing the club to bat .339. Warren yielded two runs on four hits in 2 1/3 frames in a no-decision versus Chicago in his last meeting on July 31.


    1. New York DH/3B Alex Rodriguez is 0-for-6 in the series and 2-for-23 (.087) in his last nine games overall.

    2. Chicago 1B Jose Abreu is 2-for-23 with eight strikeouts in the last six contests.

    3. White Sox 3B Mike Olt, who grew up approximately 90 minutes away in New Haven, Conn., belted a solo homer on Friday and has hits in two straight following a 1-for-15 stretch in his previous five games.

    PREDICTION: Yankees 7, White Sox 3


    Preview: Phillies at Nationals

    Current Conditions – Washington
    CLOUDY 88 °F
    Wind: NW 3
    5-Day Forecast GAME: Philadelphia Phillies (58-96) at Washington Nationals (78-75)
    DATE/TIME: Saturday, September 26 – 4:05 PM EST
    WHERE: Nationals Park, Washington, District of Columbia

    It’s time to pronounce last rites for the Washington Nationals, who can officially be eliminated from postseason contention as they continue their three-game series against the visiting Philadelphia Phillies. Washington has dropped four games in a row and sits 8 1/2 games behind the first-place New York Mets in the National League East with nine to play.

    The Nationals went down meekly in the series opener to the major league-worst Phillies, who cranked out four homers to push Washington to the brink of elimination. Aaron Altherr clubbed two of those homers and added a historical touch with the first inside-the-park grand slam in the majors since October 1999. Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper, the favorite for NL MVP honors, is 0-for-10 in his last four games – his longest stretch of games without a hit this season. Washington sends Stephen Strasburg to the mound to oppose Phillies rookie standout Aaron Nola on Saturday.

    TV: 4:05 p.m. ET, CSN Philadelphia, MASN2 (Washington)

    PITCHING MATCHUP: Phillies RH Aaron Nola (6-2, 3.84 ERA) vs. Nationals RH Stephen Strasburg (10-7, 3.81)

    Nola will look to atone for an ugly performance against the Nationals on Sept. 14, when he was knocked around for six runs on nine hits over five innings in a no-decision. The 22-year-old Nola struck out a season-high eight in that game but was also victimized by the long ball, surrendering three homers. He bounced back with a strong effort Sunday, limiting Atlanta to one run on five hits over seven innings in another no-decision.

    Strasburg is winding up an injury-plagued season with a flourish, producing 37 strikeouts over 22 1/3 innings during his past three starts. He fanned 10 and limited the Miami Marlins to two runs (one earned) on seven innings last time out after dominating the Phillies in his previous turn, striking out 14 and permitting one hit over eight overpowering innings. Strasburg is 7-2 with a 2.27 ERA in 15 starts versus Philadelphia.


    1. Nationals closer Jonathan Papelbon was suspended three games for throwing at Baltimore’s Manny Machado, but is appealing the ban.

    2. Phillies LF Cody Asche is 6-for-14 with two homers and four RBIs in his last four games.

    3. Nationals LF Jayson Werth went 2-for-4 with a homer in the series opener to halt a 1-for-18 rut.

    PREDICTION: Nationals 3, Phillies 2


    Preview: Mets at Reds

    Current Conditions – Cincinnati
    M/CLOUDY 80 °F
    Wind: N 9
    5-Day Forecast GAME: New York Mets (87-67) at Cincinnati Reds (63-90)
    DATE/TIME: Saturday, September 26 – 4:10 PM EST
    WHERE: Great American Ball Park, Cincinnati, Ohio

    The New York Mets can capture their first National League East title since 2006 when Matt Harvey takes the mound on Saturday in the third contest of a four-game series versus the host Cincinnati Reds. New York, which has won 10 in a row on the road, can claim the division crown with either its 12th victory in 14 outings versus Cincinnati on Saturday or if second-place Washington falls to Philadelphia.

    Lucas Duda crushed a pair of three-run homers in Friday’s 12-5 triumph to improve to 5-for-9 with eight RBIs in his last three contests after a 3-for-26 stretch in his previous eight games. Yoenis Cespedes also rebounded from a difficult run (0-for-16) to go 9-for-22 (.409) in his last five contests for the Mets, who own an 8 1/2-game lead over the Nationals. While New York is ready to pop the champagne, Cincinnati might wish to drink away its troubles after losing six in a row and 28 of 40. Joey Votto has reached base safely in a career high-tying 42 consecutive games and is 2-for-6 (.333) in his career versus Harvey.

    TV: 4:10 p.m. ET, SNY (New York), FSN Ohio (Cincinnati)

    PITCHING MATCHUP: Mets RH Matt Harvey (12-7, 2.80 ERA) vs. Reds LH John Lamb (1-3, 4.60)

    Harvey allowed just one hit and struck out seven in five scoreless innings to lift his season total to 176 2/3, but the early exit against the Yankees and a massive collapse by the Mets’ bullpen provided plenty of fodder in the New York tabloids. The 26-year-old will tune up for the postseason versus Cincinnati, against which he permitted one run on four hits in six innings but settled for a no-decision in his last meeting on June 27. Harvey owns a 4-0 mark in his last nine starts and hasn’t tasted defeat since a 7-2 setback to Washington on July 20.

    Lamb turned in his second scoreless outing in three trips to the mound, but only has one win to show for it. After scattering three hits in an 11-0 victory over St. Louis on Sept. 10, the 25-year-old permitted five hits and struck out six in as many innings of a no-decision versus the Cardinals on Monday. Lamb has kept the ball in the park in three of his last four outings after surrendering a homer in each of his previous four.


    1. New York 2B Daniel Murphy is 14-for-30 (.467) with two homers and seven RBIs during his eight-game hitting streak.

    2. Cincinnati RF Jay Bruce is 2-for-19 (.105) – albeit with a pair of solo homers – in his last five contests.

    3. Mets 3B David Wright is 15-for-43 (.349) with seven RBIs in his last 11 contests.

    PREDICTION: Mets 6, Reds 1


    Preview: Twins at Tigers

    Current Conditions – Detroit
    P/SUNNY 76 °F
    Wind: WNW 12
    5-Day Forecast GAME: Minnesota Twins (78-75) at Detroit Tigers (72-81)
    DATE/TIME: Saturday, September 26 – 7:08 PM EST
    WHERE: Comerica Park, Detroit, Michigan

    Hanging onto a four-run lead and managing more than two hits against a last-place team are a couple things the Minnesota Twins will need to fix if they hope to stay in the race for the second American League wild card. The Twins will attempt to avoid a third straight setback when they visit the Detroit Tigers in the second contest of a three-game series Saturday.

    Minnesota sits 1 1/2 games behind the Houston Astros in the race for the second AL wild card and missed a chance to knock a game off that deficit when the bullpen let a 4-0 lead slip away in Friday’s series opener. The Twins got a three-run triple from Eddie Rosario in the loss but managed only Brian Dozier’s single as the other hit to fall for the seventh time in the last 10 games. The Tigers are trying to knock the division rivals out of the playoff race and already took one series at Minnesota earlier this month. Detroit has no idea what it will get from Alfredo Simon from start-to-start but will send the right-hander to the mound Saturday to face off against rookie Tyler Duffey.

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

    PITCHING MATCHUP: Twins RH Tyler Duffey (4-1, 3.15 ERA) vs. Tigers RH Alfredo Simon (13-10, 5.21)

    Duffey is up to 183 2/3 innings across three levels this season and is being watched closely by the coaching staff and the front office as the team heads into the final nine games. The Texas native had his best outing since coming up to the majors on Aug. 5 when he held the Los Angeles Angels scoreless on three hits in seven innings on Sunday to earn a victory. Duffey surrendered one run and seven hits in 6 1/3 innings to beat Detroit on Sept. 14 and has not given up a home run in any of his last four starts.

    Simon managed a quality start in a win at Minnesota on Sept. 15 but followed it up by getting hammered for eight runs on 13 hits and three walks in 4 1/3 innings against Kansas City on Sunday. The Dominican Republic native yielded five or more runs in five of his last nine turns. Simon is 1-1 with a 4.96 ERA in three starts against the Twins in 2015, surrendering a total of 24 hits in 16 1/3 innings.


    1. Tigers SS Jose Iglesias (finger) is unlikely to play again this season.

    2. Rosario’s triple was his 15th of the season and fourth in the last 10 games.

    3. Detroit OF Rajai Davis is 7-for-13 with four runs scored and three RBIs in the last three games.

    PREDICTION: Tigers 9, Twins 7


    Preview: Indians at Royals

    Current Conditions – Kansas City
    SUNNY 74 °F
    Wind: ENE 8
    5-Day Forecast GAME: Cleveland Indians (76-76) at Kansas City Royals (89-64)
    DATE/TIME: Saturday, September 26 – 7:10 PM EST
    WHERE: Kauffman Stadium, Kansas City, Missouri

    While the Kansas City Royals are making their plans for the postseason, the Cleveland Indians are trying to stay alive in the race for the second wild card in the American League. Cleveland can move above the .500 mark for the first time since the third game of the season when it resumes a three-game series against the host Royals on Saturday night.

    The Indians are three games behind Houston for the second wild card with nine games to play but finish the season with seven in a row at home. Kansas City wrapped up the AL Central title on Thursday night but still has something to play for, holding a one-game lead over Toronto for the best record in the league. Indians right fielder Michael Brantley has missed three games with an ailing shoulder and is expected to sit out again on Saturday. Cleveland’s Josh Tomlin looks to continue his late season revival when he matches up against Royals right-hander Kris Medlen.

    TV: 7:10 p.m. ET, STO (Cleveland), FSN Kansas City

    PITCHING MATCHUP: Indians RH Josh Tomlin (6-2, 2.43 ERA) vs. Royals RH Kris Medlen (5-1, 3.51)

    Tomlin won for the sixth time in seven starts when he struck out eight and blanked the Chicago White Sox on four hits over 5 2/3 innings last time out. His only loss in the last seven turns came against Kansas City on Sept. 15 despite a superb complete-game effort by Tomlin, who gave up two runs on four hits. Tomlin has pitched well away from home this season with a 3-1 mark and 2.25 ERA in four starts.

    Medlen won his second straight start by holding the Detroit Tigers to three runs (zero earned) on five hits over five innings on Sunday. The 29-year-old Medlen turned in the best outing of his abbreviated season in his previous turn, blanking Cleveland on five hits over a season-high 6 1/3 innings. Medlen has won both of his career starts against the Indians while not allowing a run in 13 1/3 innings.


    1. Royals RF Alex Rios had his team’s lone hit Friday and has hit safely in 13 of his last 14 games.

    2. Indians 2B Jason Kipnis is 10-for-28 over his last seven games.

    3. Kansas CIty is 9-8 against Cleveland this season.

    PREDICTION: Indians 4, Royals 3


    Preview: Braves at Marlins

    Current Conditions – Miami
    Wind: S 5
    5-Day Forecast GAME: Atlanta Braves (62-92) at Miami Marlins (67-87)
    DATE/TIME: Saturday, September 26 – 7:10 PM EST
    WHERE: Marlins Park, Miami, Florida

    As Dee Gordon closes out his first season with the Miami Marlins, the second baseman can enter the offseason knowing he did everything he could have hoped for to make the Marlins contenders. Gordon enters Saturday’s middle-contest of a three-game home series against the Atlanta Braves needing seven hits in his final eight games to become the third Miami player to reach 200 hits in a season.

    Gordon is hitting .332 on the season, ranking second to Washington’s Bryce Harper (.336) in the race for the National League batting crown, and his 54 stolen bases sits three behind league leader Billy Hamilton of Cincinnati. He got plenty of offensive help in the series opener as Miami banged out 20 hits – one off its season high – as the Marlins outslugged Atlanta in a 12-11 shootout. Freddie Freeman stayed hot for the Braves as Atlanta lost for the first time in seven contests at Marlins Park this season. Freeman improved to 9-for-22 with five runs scored, two homers and 10 RBIs in his past seven games while Atlanta third baseman Hector Olivera collected three hits and is 8-for-22 in his last six contests.

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

    PITCHING MATCHUP: Braves RH Julio Teheran (10-7, 4.20 ERA) vs. Marlins LH Justin Nicolino (3-4, 4.50)

    Teheran has been outstanding in four September starts, posting a 1.67 ERA in continuing his overall strong second half. He carried a perfect game into the seventh inning Sunday against the Phillies, getting a no-decision after allowing one run on five hits in 8 1/3 innings. Teheran is 1-0 with a 2.45 ERA in three starts versus Miami this season and is 5-1 against the Marlins in 11 career starts with a 2.69 ERA.

    Nicolino has averaged six innings per appearance in his first 10 major-league starts but has struggled since opening September with a victory over the Braves. He gave up five runs on nine hits in 4 1/3 innings Sept. 7 against Milwaukee and surrendered seven runs on seven hits in 5 2/3 innings Sunday at Washington. Nicolino pitched six shutout innings Sept. 1 in Atlanta, holding the Braves to six hits.


    1. Atlanta rookie 3B/OF Adonis Garcia doubled home two runs in the eighth inning Friday and has 12 doubles, eight homers and 23 RBIs while batting .278 in 169 at-bats.

    2. Marlins 1B Justin Boer broke his 0-for-28 skid with a homer, double and single Friday.

    3. Freeman has belted 10 homers and driven in 41 runs in 87 career appearances against Miami.

    PREDICTION: Braves 4, Marlins 2


    Preview: Brewers at Cardinals

    Current Conditions – St. Louis
    Wind: NNW 10
    5-Day Forecast GAME: Milwaukee Brewers (65-89) at St. Louis Cardinals (97-57)
    DATE/TIME: Saturday, September 26 – 7:15 PM EST
    WHERE: Busch Stadium, St. Louis, Missouri

    While Jhonny Peralta, Matt Carpenter and the St. Louis Cardinals have tormented the Milwaukee Brewers throughout the season, Khris Davis has gotten his licks in as well. After belting the game-winning homer on Friday, Davis and the sputtering Brewers look to throw a wrench in the Cardinals’ bid for their third straight division title on Saturday when the National League Central rivals play the third contest of their four-game series at Busch Stadium.

    Davis, who went deep in Friday’s 4-3 triumph, is 12-for-43 (.279) with four homers and seven RBIs versus St. Louis this season – although he is just 1-for-6 with a pair of strikeouts against Saturday starter Jaime Garcia. Milwaukee’s third victory in 14 outings snapped the Cardinals’ five-game winning streak and trimmed the latter’s lead over second-place Pittsburgh to just three games. Peralta collected three hits on Friday to improve to 5-for-7 with a homer and three RBIs in the series and 23-for-64 (.359) with two blasts and 10 driven in versus the Brewers this season. Not to be outdone, Carpenter has recorded 16 hits in his last 10 contests overall and is 24-for-71 (.338) against Milwaukee in 2015.

    TV: 7:15 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1

    PITCHING MATCHUP: Brewers RH Tyler Wagner (0-0, 12.27 ERA) vs. Cardinals LH Jaime Garcia (9-5, 2.45)

    Promoted with five others from Double-A Biloxi on Tuesday, Wagner is prepared to make his second start of the season for Milwaukee as he takes the place of Wily Peralta. The Southern League’s Most Outstanding Pitcher didn’t get out of the blocks in his first start in the majors on May 31, allowing five runs on nine hits in 3 2/3 innings before escaping with a no-decision versus Arizona on May 31. Wagner posted an 11-5 mark with a 2.25 ERA and 120 strikeouts in 152 1/3 innings for the Shuckers, who were eliminated by Chattanooga in the Southern League Championship Series on Monday.

    Garcia rebounded from a pair of less-than-stellar outings with an impressive one on Monday, but settled for a no-decision despite allowing one run on five hits in seven innings against Cincinnati. The 29-year-old has won six of his last seven decisions, with two victories over Milwaukee in the process. Garcia improved to 8-4 in his career versus the Brewers after scattering two hits over seven scoreless innings on Aug. 8 before allowing four runs in 6 1/3 innings of a 5-4 triumph over Milwaukee on Sept. 16.


    1. St. Louis rookie 1B/LF Stephen Piscotty has collected eight RBIs in seven games versus Milwaukee.

    2. Brewers 1B Adam Lind is 1-for-12 in his last four contests following a 6-for-12 stretch in his previous three games.

    3. Cardinals CF Tommy Pham, who struck out four times on Friday, has fanned on 13 occasions in his last nine contests.

    PREDICTION: Cardinals 4, Brewers 1


    Preview: Dodgers at Rockies

    Current Conditions – Denver
    M/CLOUDY 69 °F
    Wind: WSW 8
    5-Day Forecast GAME: Los Angeles Dodgers (87-66) at Colorado Rockies (64-90)
    DATE/TIME: Saturday, September 26 – 8:10 PM EST
    WHERE: Coors Field, Denver, Colorado

    The Colorado Rockies are hoping to prevent the visiting Los Angeles Dodgers from clinching the National League West at Coors Field and look to defeat them for the second straight night Saturday. The Rockies halted a five-game losing streak with a 7-4 victory in the opener that leaves the Dodgers eight games ahead of the San Francisco Giants with nine contests remaining.

    Los Angeles certainly isn’t finishing the division race in style as it has lost five of its last seven games. The Dodgers have been outscored 23-8 in their last three defeats and continue to be a suspect road team with a 35-40 mark. Rockies left fielder Corey Dickerson went 3-for-4 with a homer and three RBIs on Friday and is 10-for-18 with two homers over the past five games. Dickerson is batting .333 with three homers in 48 at-bats since coming off the disabled on Sept. 8 after missing 5 1/2 weeks because of fractured ribs.

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

    PITCHING MATCHUP: Dodgers LH Brett Anderson (9-9, 3.52 ERA) vs. Rockies RH Kyle Kendrick (6-13, 6.37)

    Anderson was roughed up by Arizona in his last turn when he gave up five runs and 10 hits in 4 2/3 innings. He has been solid on the road by going 6-4 with a 2.59 ERA in 13 outings. Anderson received a no-decision against the Rockies on Sept. 15 and is 1-0 with a 2.20 ERA in three career starts versus his former team.

    Kendrick served up four homers in four innings against San Diego in his last turn when he allowed six runs and six hits. He has given up 32 homers – most in the majors – and opponents are slugging .568 against him. Kendrick is 0-3 with a 6.35 ERA in three starts against the Dodgers this season and 5-9 with a 6.44 ERA in 16 career appearances (13 starts).


    1. Dodgers SS Jimmy Rollins had three hits in the opener and is 5-for-10 with three walks in his last three games.

    2. Colorado RF Carlos Gonzalez ended a 13-game homerless drought by belting his 38th on Friday.

    3. Los Angeles INF Corey Seager (leg) has sat out back-to-back games but could return Saturday.

    PREDICTION: Dodgers 8, Rockies 5


    Preview: Diamondbacks at Padres

    Current Conditions – San Diego
    CLOUDY 70 °F
    Wind: W 7
    5-Day Forecast GAME: Arizona Diamondbacks (74-80) at San Diego Padres (72-82)
    DATE/TIME: Saturday, September 26 – 8:40 PM EST
    WHERE: Petco Park, San Diego, California

    The Arizona Diamondbacks robbed the San Diego Padres of whatever chance they had of finishing over .500 in their last time out. The Padres look to pay back the Diamondbacks in kind by making sure Arizona can do no better than the break-even mark and claim the season series Saturday when the National League West rivals continue their three-game set in San Diego.

    The Padres (72-82) entered this series with wins in three of their previous four to temporarily put off their fifth consecutive losing season, but Arizona scored all of its runs in the first two innings to ruin Casey Kelly’s first big-league start in nearly three years en route to a 6-3 win. A.J. Pollock continued his breakout season with his first grand slam and a career-high five RBIs, giving him 19 homers and 75 RBIs for the season. The Diamondbacks (74-80) also held off San Diego for third place in the division with the victory, but must win their remaining eight games if they hope to finish above .500 for the first time since 2011. Arizona also must get a sweep this weekend to avoid losing the season series to the Padres after winning 12 of their 19 meetings last year.

    TV: 8:40 p.m. ET, FSN Arizona, FSN San Diego

    PITCHING MATCHUP: Diamondbacks RH Jeremy Hellickson (9-10, 4.73 ERA) vs. Padres LH Robbie Erlin (0-1, 21.00)

    Hellickson lost for the second time in as many turns since coming off the disabled list due to a hamstring injury, yielding two runs in five frames during Sunday’s 5-1 setback at San Francisco. The 28-year-old Iowa native was roughed up for five runs (three earned) in an inning of work six days earlier during a 37-pitch outing against San Diego. Hellickson, who has made five of his six career starts versus the Padres this season, is 1-3 with an 8.31 ERA against them and has struggled to retire Justin Upton (5-for-11, two homers).

    Erlin had a forgettable season debut last Saturday, getting roughed up for seven runs on nine hits and a walk over three innings en route to a 10-2 loss at Colorado. The third-round selection in the 2009 draft didn’t fare much better in the minors prior to his promotion, going 7-6 with a 5.60 ERA in 24 turns with Triple-A El Paso. Erlin was dominant in his only two career starts against Arizona in 2013, however, posting a 1-0 record and 2.08 ERA with a 0.92 WHIP and .196 batting average against.


    1. Diamondbacks 1B Paul Goldschmidt needs one more RBI to tie Chris Young (408) for fourth place on the club’s all-time RBI list while Padres RF Matt Kemp needs one more RBI to become the 14th player in franchise history with 100.

    2. San Diego 3B Yangervis Solarte (right hamstring cramp), who is batting .300 against Arizona the season, sat out the opener but could return Saturday.

    3. Diamondbacks closer Brad Ziegler’s 26 straight saves is the longest active streak in the majors and two shy of matching J.J. Putz’s club record for consecutive saves.

    PREDICTION: Diamondbacks 6, Padres 5

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