What we're watching – June 12

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– Tommy Hanson’s second big-league outing will come against the Orioles
in Baltimore. He started off in fine fashion against the Brewers five
days ago, only to end up allowing three homers and seven runs in six
innings. This could be a tougher assignment, as the Orioles lead
baseball with a .294 average at home and are tied for fourth with 39
homers. The Orioles are set to start Jason Berken, who was picked over
David Hernandez to remain in the rotation with Koji Uehara back. Berken
is 1-2 with a 7.04 ERA in three starts.

– My hopes of seeing Lance Berkman reach 300 homers, 1,000 RBI,
1,500 hits and 5,000 at-bats at the same time were dashed Thursday,
when he reached 5,000 at-bats in his final plate appearance. He’s still
at 299 homers, 994 RBI (with just one in his last seven games) and
1,499 hits. It won’t be easy to add to the totals with the Astros
facing Dan Haren tonight, but maybe we’ll see Berkman get 1,500 hits
and Miguel Tejada reach 2,000 (he’s at 1,999) in the same game.

– Roy Halladay, the major league leader in victories and winner of
seven straight, will go for his 11th win versus the Marlins on Friday.
Florida will counter with Ricky Nolasco, who was effective in his
return to the majors last week. The Marlins are 14-4 against the Jays
all-time, but this will be the first time they’ve faced off since 2006.

– The Subway Series kicks off with Livan Hernandez and Joba
Chamberlain on the mound. Hernandez is working on a streak of four
straight victories, but he hasn’t had to face any American League teams
this year and he hasn’t pitched in any ballparks like new Yankee
Stadium. In fact, not one of his five wins this year has come against a
team currently over .500. He’s 0-3 with a 6.37 ERA in five career
starts against the Bombers. Chamberlain will be making his first ever
start against the Mets. He’s 3-1 with a 3.79 ERA this season.

Game of the Night

Boston vs. Philadelphia – A showdown between the teams with the
second- and third-best records in baseball highlights the interleague
schedule tonight. The Red Sox will begin the series with Jon Lester,
who has lowered his ERA from 6.07 to 5.09 while allowing two runs in 15
innings and striking out 23 over his last two starts. He beat the
Phillies last June by throwing seven scoreless innings. Phillies
starter Joe Blanton is also much improved recently. He’s lowered his
ERA from 7.11 to 5.46 by giving up just five runs over his last three
starts. The former Athletic is 3-2 with a 3.75 ERA in eight starts
against the Red Sox.

Jorge Soler diagnosed with strained oblique, Opening Day in doubt

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Royals outfielder Jorge Soler has been diagnosed with a strained oblique, making it likely that he begins the regular season on the disabled list, Rustin Dodd of The Kansas City Star reports.

The Royals acquired Soler from the Cubs in December in exchange for reliever Wade Davis. Over parts of three seasons with the Cubs, Soler hit .258/.328/.434 with 27 home runs and 98 RBI in 765 plate appearances.

When he’s healthy, Soler is expected to find himself in the Royals’ lineup as a right fielder and occasionally as a designated hitter.

Report: Cardinals, Yadier Molina making “major progress” on contract extension

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Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reports that the Cardinals and catcher Yadier Molina are making “major progress” on a contract extension. Molina told the team he won’t discuss an extension during the season, hence the rapid progress.

Molina is entering the last guaranteed year of a five-year, $75 million contract signed in March 2012. He and the Cardinals hold a mutual option worth $15 million with a $2 million buyout for the 2018 season. The new extension would presumably cover at least the 2018-19 seasons and likely ’20 as well.

Molina is 34 years old but is still among the most productive catchers in baseball. Last season, he hit .307/.360/.427 with 38 doubles, 58 RBI, and 56 runs scored in 581 plate appearances. Though he has lost a step or two with age, Molina is still well-regarded for his defense. The Cardinals also value his ability to handle the pitching staff.