– Baseball’s hottest pitcher, Justin Verlander, will make his first
interleague start of the year against the Cardinals, who will counter
with Adam Wainwright. Verlander is 7-0 with a 1.10 ERA in his last nine
starts, and he’s 8-0 with a 2.30 ERA lifetime during interleague play.
The Cardinals’ lost their series against the Tigers in both 2007 and
2008, though they did win one that mattered more back in 2006.
– In a matchup of the past two World Series losers, the Rays and
Rockies will go at it in Coors Field. Colorado is aiming for a 12th
straight victory, which would top the franchise record of 11
established during the run to the postseason in 2007. Jeff Niemann and
Jorge De La Rosa will be the starters.
– As a result of being swept by the Angels over the weekend, the
Padres have now lost 11 interleague games in a row, tying the mark
established by the Mets in 2003-04. In order to avoid breaking the
record, they’ll probably have to do some damage against the Mariners’
Felix Hernandez, who has allowed three earned runs in his last four
starts. Kevin Correia pitches for San Diego.
– Since Ervin Santana’s troublesome elbow needs a break (and, most
likely, a new ligament), Sean O’Sullivan will make his major league
debut for the Angels against the Giants. O’Sullivan, 21, was 6-4 with a
5.82 ERA, 82 H and 49/15 K/BB in 68 IP between Double-A Arkansas and
Triple-A Salt Lake. Obviously, the Angels would have just as soon left
him in the minors for the rest of the season, but he does have fourth
or fifth starter potential thanks to his command and quality curveball.
Game of the Night
White Sox vs. Cubs – The crosstown rivals enter their first
interleague matchup this year with 30 wins apiece. Both are in third
place in their respective divisions, and both have suffered due to
struggling offenses. In fact, the Cubs just fired their hitting coach
on Sunday. The series opener will feature John Danks and Carlos
Zambrano. Danks has had problems with the long ball, but the Cubs have
hit just nine homers against left-handers all season. Zambrano, who has
lowered his ERA from 4.64 to 3.39 with three straight excellent
outings, is 5-2 with a 4.45 ERA lifetime against the White Sox.
The magic number to clinch a wild card spot is still 1, but the Mets have at least secured a wild card tie after defeating the Phillies 5-1 on Friday night.
Jay Bruce powered the offensive drive, going 3-for-4 with a pair of RBI singles and his 33rd home run of the season, ripped from an Alec Asher fastball in the seventh inning. On the mound, right-hander Robert Gsellman limited the Phillies to seven hits and one run over six frames, striking out seven batters in his eighth appearance of the year. Behind him, a cadre of Mets relievers turned out three scoreless innings to preserve the lead and anchor the Mets in the wild card standings.
The Cardinals aren’t out of the race quite yet, and can still force a tiebreaker with the Mets if they manage to win the remainder of their games this weekend and the Mets lose the rest of theirs. Any other scenario will ensure the Mets’ exclusive rights to a wild card spot next week. While a wild card clinch is unlikely to happen tonight, with St. Louis leading Pittsburgh 7-0 through 7.5 innings and just entering a rain delay, it remains a distinct possibility over these next two days.
In a season that boasts the likes of Max Scherzer (he of the 20-strikeout masterpiece) and Clayton Kershaw (he of nine separate games with at least 10 strikeouts), there hasn’t been anyone who’s done exactly what Carlos Rodon did this week.
During Friday’s series opener against the Twins, Rodon retired seven consecutive batters via strikeout. His streak — and the beginnings of a perfect game, if you can call it that after just 2 ⅓ frames — ended on a Logan Schafer double that found right field well before Rodon managed to put up two strikes. With seven consecutive strikeouts, Rodon became the first American League pitcher to strike out seven batters to start a game since right-hander Joe Cowley did it for the Sox back in 1986. Had Schafer whiffed on a couple more fastballs, Rodon would have tied Mets’ starter Jacob deGrom for most strikeouts to start a game in major league history.
Not only did Rodon manage to quell the first seven batters in Minnesota’s lineup, but he extended his strikeout streak to 10 consecutive batters dating back through his last start against the Cleveland Indians. Per MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger, the last major league pitcher to do so was reliever Eric Gagne, who accomplished the feat for the 2003 Dodgers during his first and only Cy Young Award-winning season.
Any way you slice it, this is an impressive look: