What we're watching – June 10

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– Detroit’s Justin Verlander, arguably baseball’s hottest pitcher,
takes on his nemesis tonight in the fourth game of a five-game series
with the White Sox. Verlander has won six in a row since April 27,
posting a 1.12 ERA during that span, but he’s 2-9 with a 5.90 ERA
lifetime against the Pale Hose. That’s a full quarter of his 36 career
losses coming against one team. The struggling John Danks will get the
ball for the White Sox.

– I’m rooting for Lance Berkman to drive in five runs with a pair of
doubles tonight, setting things up perfectly for Thursday. He’s
currently sitting at 299 homers, 994 RBI, 1,497 hits and 4,993 at-bats.

– It figured that the Pirates would want to Charlie Morton a look
soon after acquiring him in the Nate McLouth deal, but to have him
pitch against his former team just a week following the deal certainly
wasn’t the ideal scenario. He’s taking Jeff Karstens’ place against the
Braves tonight after Karstens was needed in Monday’s 15-inning game.

Game of the Night

N.Y. Yankees vs. Boston – Chien-Ming Wang wasn’t exactly eased back
into the Yankee rotation: after facing the Rangers in his first start
since coming off the disabled list, he gets to pitch in Fenway tonight.
Wang is 6-5 with a 4.82 ERA lifetime against the Red Sox. Boston will
go to Tim Wakefield, who didn’t pitch in either of the first two series
against the Bombers this year. The knuckleballer went 1-1 with a 4.98
ERA in four starts against the Yankees in 2008 and is 10-17 with a 5.03
ERA lifetime against the team. Alex Rodriguez has hit .276 with seven
homers in 76 at-bats against him. The Red Sox will hope for another
strong night from David Ortiz, who has hit .444 with two homers in 36
at-bats versus Wang.

Imagining Theo Epstein in politics

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“When Alexander saw the breadth of his domain, he wept for there were no more worlds to conquer.”

Or: “When Theo Epstein won World Series championships with the two most championship-starved franchises in baseball history, he got bored, and decided to run for the Senate or something.”

That latter bit is the premise of a Politico piece speculating that the Cubs president could go into politics one day. The story features an interview with former Obama chief strategist David Axlerod, who thinks Theo has what it takes. Mostly what he has is fame, popularity, good looks and money. No idea what his positions on issue are, but that other stuff goes a long way in politics these days.

Bonus: given what we just elected last fall, a guy who once had a little temper tantrum and dressed up in a gorilla suit is just as viable a candidate as anyone.

Another interestingly named player is promoted by the Pirates

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When you promote a player from the minors, the first and foremost consideration is whether or not he can help your ball club. But, assuming that’s taken care of, teams should really, really make it a priority to call up dudes with cool sounding names because it makes life more interesting for the rest of us.

The Pirates are doing that. The other night Dovydas Neverauskas made his big league debut. In addition to being the first Lithuanian born-and-raised player in major league history, it’s a solid, solid name. Now the Pirates are making another promotion: Gift Ngoepe.

Yep, Gift Ngoepe. He’s an infielder from South Africa, making the leap to the bigs due to David Freese‘s hamstring injury. Ngoepe, 27, was batting just .241/.308/.379 through 66 plate appearances this season with Triple-A Indianapolis, his ninth in the minors, so he’s not exactly a prospect. But man, that’s a killer name.

It’s also worth mentioning that Gift and Neverauskas were arrested together in a bar fight last August in Toledo, so there is already a good basis for some bonding here.

Good luck, Gift. Gift Ngoepe. Mr. Ngoepe. G-Ngo. Man, I could do this all day.