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.

NL Wild Card Game: Cubs vs. Pirates lineups

Jake Arrieta

Here are the Cubs and Pirates lineups for tonight’s Wild Card game in Pittsburgh:

CF Dexter Fowler
RF Kyle Schwarber
LF Kris Bryant
1B Anthony Rizzo
3B Tommy La Stella
2B Starlin Castro
C Miguel Montero
SS Addison Russell
SP Jake Arrieta

Cubs manager Joe Maddon wanted Tommy La Stella in the lineup over Jorge Soler or Chris Coghlan, so he starts at third base and Kris Bryant shifts to left field. Bryant started just four games in left field all season, compared to 136 starts at third base. Also of note: After batting Addison Russell ninth–behind the pitcher–116 times this season Maddon has him in the more traditional eighth spot tonight.

RF Gregory Polanco
3B Josh Harrison
CF Andrew McCutchen
LF Starling Marte
C Francisco Cervelli
2B Neil Walker
SS Jordy Mercer
1B Sean Rodriguez
SP Gerrit Cole

Pedro Alvarez started 119 games at first base for the Pirates and with right-hander Jake Arrieta on the mound he was the presumed starter tonight, but instead manager Clint Hurdle has benched the 27-homer slugger in favor of utility man Sean Rodriguez. Alvarez is vastly superior to Rodriguez offensively, especially versus a righty, but he’s also very shaky defensively. During the regular season Rodriguez started a grand total of one game at first base against a right-hander, so this qualifies as a hunch by Hurdle.

The Cardinals are optimistic about Yadier Molina’s status

St. Louis Cardinals' Yadier Molina celebrates as he arrives home after hitting a solo home run during the fourth inning of a baseball game against the San Francisco Giants Monday, Aug. 17, 2015, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
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Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com reports that Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina‘s bum thumb responded well after participating in baseball activities Tuesday, including catching, hitting, blocking balls and the like.

This morning Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said that he’s now even more optimistic that Molina will be on the NLDS roster. The Cards’ first game will be Friday against the winner of tonight’s Cubs-Pirates tilt.

Having Molina would obviously be a boon for the Cardinals on the field. For a look at what Molina means to the Cardinals off the field, however, take some time to go read Derrick Goold’s excellent story about what Molina’s teammates think of him. Short version: the world. It’s worth your time, even if you’re not a citizen of Cardinals Nation.