What we're watching – June 16

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– 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.

Video: Adrian Beltre belts a walk-off home run on Monday against the Athletics

ARLINGTON, TX - JULY 25:  The Texas Rangers celebrate the two-run walk off homerun by Adrian Beltre #29 against the Oakland Athletics at Globe Life Park in Arlington on July 25, 2016 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
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The Rangers found themselves in a 5-1 hole after three innings against the Athletics on Monday, but scratched out some runs in the middle innings. That allowed them to enter the bottom of the ninth inning trailing by only one run, 6-5, facing A’s closer Ryan Madson.

Adrian Beltre, who hit a solo home run in the seventh inning, stepped to the plate with a runner on first base and two outs. He was the Rangers’ last hope to keep the game alive. The veteran third baseman swung at Madson’s first pitch, a 96 MPH fastball, and drilled it to left-center field for a walk-off two-run home run.

Beltre now has nine walk-off home runs in his career. While the 37-year-old isn’t quite the offensive dynamo he was even two years ago, his numbers are still respectable. He’ll head into Tuesday’s action batting .281/.334/.468 with 16 home runs and 63 RBI in 392 plate appearances.

Jay Bruce: “This is such a fleeting game. It’s so unforgiving.”

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JULY 25:  Jay Bruce #32 of the Cincinnati Reds swings and watches the flight of his ball as he hits a two-run homer against the San Francisco Giants in the top of the fourth inning at AT&T Park on July 25, 2016 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
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Outfielder Jay Bruce was the catalyst in the Reds’ 7-5 victory over the Giants on Monday night, drilling a pair of two-run home runs. It’s good timing for the Reds, as the trade deadline is six days away. The Reds might prefer to get a prospect or two for Bruce rather than pick up his $13 million club option for 2017 or buy him out for $1 million and let him walk into free agency.

It was only a year ago that it seemed like the Reds would have to settle for next-to-nothing to get rid of Bruce. He posted career-lows across the board in 2014, including a .654 OPS and 18 home runs. He improved last season, returning to 26 home runs, but came with an uninspiring .729 OPS.

This year is another story. Bruce is currently hitting .272/.326/.564 with 23 home runs and a league-best 77 RBI. He’s on pace to set career-bests in a lot of categories if he’s able to stay healthy.

Bruce was honest about his resurgence, though, admitting that he doesn’t know why he’s so much better this year as Zach Buchanan of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports.

This is such a fleeting game. It’s so unforgiving. You’re never settled. You’ve never got it. You’ve never figured it out. It’s like a puzzle that never has all the pieces to it. You might get close and feel pretty good about your progress, but you never are going to have the puzzle put together.

Bruce, who welcomed a child into the world back in April, also discussed the difficulties of hearing his name bandied about in trade rumors once again.

It’s harder this year. I have a family I have to focus on now. Logistically, it’s much more intricate. I know the skit. I know how it goes. But it will be nice when it’s passed because we’ll have a plan of attack on whether my family is staying where they are in Cincinnati or elsewhere.

This is a point of view that is not often covered. This time of the year can be very difficult for players who may be traded, as they await a phone call that could send their lives into upheaval. It may mean being away from their families for three months. It means living out of a hotel room or finding a place to live on very short notice. Even Bruce’s comments about his success this year are illuminating about the mental strain of the game.

As usual, great reporting by Buchanan. His full article is worth your time.