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.

Cavaliers will move ring ceremony to avoid conflict with World Series start

CLEVELAND, OH - JULY 11: A general exterior image of the Quicken Loans arena which is next door to Progressive Field where the Chicago White Sox will take on the Cleveland Indians on July 11, 2014 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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In a show of good sportsmanship, the Cleveland Cavaliers have moved their championship ring ceremony start time back to 7 PM EDT to avoid conflicting with the start of the World Series opener on Tuesday. The Indians are set to host Game 1 at Progressive Field on October 25, while the Cavs will open the 2016-17 NBA season against the New York Knicks at the nearby Quicken Loans Arena, preceded by a ceremony recognizing their first franchise title.

In the event that the Indians clinch a World Series title, it’ll be the first time Cleveland has seen two championships in the same calendar year since 1948, when the Indians’ last Series title came on the back of the Cleveland Browns’ All-American Football Conference championship against the Buffalo Bills. The same was true for the Dodgers in 1988, when their World Series win against the Athletics coincided with the Los Angeles Lakers’ 11th championship, while Chicago has yet to see a multi-title year among their NBA, NHL, NFL, and MLB franchises.

Regardless of the Series’ outcome, Cleveland fans will get the chance to revel in one long-awaited championship win on Tuesday before watching the beginning of a nail-biting conclusion to another long-awaited playoff run. The Cavaliers are scheduled for 7 PM EDT on October 25, while the Indians will take the field at 8 PM EDT.

Indians could benefit from long rest before the World Series

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - SEPTEMBER 09: Danny Salazar #31 of the Cleveland Indians delivers a pitch against the Minnesota Twins during the first inning of the game on September 9, 2016 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
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If any team can turn a six-day rest period into an advantage, it’s the Indians. The club polished off their pennant race with another injured starter and an overtaxed bullpen, as Trevor Bauer exited in Game 3 of the ALCS with a laceration on his right pinky finger, leaving the bullpen to shoulder 16 innings through the last three games of the series. On Friday, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian reported that injured starter Danny Salazar could rejoin the rotation in the World Series, though he’ll need at least one more simulated game before Terry Francona determines whether or not he’s fit to return for the team’s last postseason push.

Bauer, who has been under the close watch of hand specialist Dr. Thomas Graham, told the press that he feels confident that he’ll be ready for a World Series start when the final showdown commences on Tuesday. Keeping the wound bandaged is not an option during games, and Bauer said that Dr. Graham decided against additional stitches to keep the laceration from re-opening. Instead, they’re banking on extra days of rest to heal the cut naturally. Should Francona pencil the right-hander into the lineup for Game 3 or 4, he’ll have had 10-11 days to rest his finger between starts — just a hair under the seven games Bauer said he was prepared to pitch.

Salazar, too, has been preparing for a World Series showdown. He’s scheduled to pitch three innings of a simulated game this weekend, and if it goes well, it could land him a spot in the starting rotation alongside Bauer, Corey Kluber, Josh Tomlin, and newcomer Ryan Merritt. Salazar has been sidelined since September 9 with a right forearm strain, and even after undergoing a rigorous throwing program over the last several weeks, any kind of comeback is expected to be curbed by a strict innings limit. Francona has been understandably tight-lipped about his World Series roster, but he hasn’t yet nixed the idea of utilizing Salazar out of the rotation, provided the right-hander remains healthy for another week or so.

The Indians have had to remain flexible throughout their seven-game playoff run after weathering injuries to Corey Kluber and Trevor Bauer, pushing their rotation through several games on short rest and relying heavily on Andrew Miller and Cody Allen‘s one-two punch in the ‘pen to clinch more than a few postseason victories. While history doesn’t always favor the first team to secure their league’s pennant race, an extra week of rest should only benefit Cleveland’s beleaguered pitching staff.