What we're watching – Cards look to sweep

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– Ricky Nolasco has pitched well in two starts since returning from the
minors, but he has a tough assignment ahead of him in Boston tonight.
Jon Lester, who has fanned 34 and allowed three runs in his last three
starts, will get the ball as the Red Sox try to complete a home sweep
of the Marlins. They’re a major league-best 23-8 in home games this
season.

– With Mike Hampton down, Brandon Backe will make his first start of
the year against the Rangers. He’s allowed 12 runs and 17 hits in nine
innings out of the pen since coming off the DL, so it looks like it
could be a big night for Texas hitters. Backe has given up eight homers
and 21 runs in 24 1/3 innings lifetime against the Rangers.

– Vin Mazzaro, who opened his career with 17 2/3 scoreless innings
before giving up three runs to the Giants last time out, takes on the
Dodgers tonight. Los Angeles will counter with Randy Wolf, in what
would seem to be a pretty easy matchup for the left-hander. However,
the A’s hitters who have faced Wolf have tended to be very successful
against him. Jason Giambi has homered in both of his at-bats against
Wolf. Orlando Cabrera is at .316/.372/.500 in 38 at-bats, and Nomar
Garicaparra is 7-for-14 with two homers. Matt Holliday is 3-for-11 with
one homer and five RBI.

Game of the Night

Detroit vs. St. Louis – Two of the game’s top groundball pitchers will
face off with Rick Porcello and Joel Pineiro on the mound tonight. The
Cardinals are going for a sweep of the three-game series after
withstanding a pair of Curtis Granderson homers to win 4-3 on
Wednesday. For it to happen, Pineiro will have to snap a string that’s
seem him take losses in each of his last four starts. He’s 5-7 with a
3.99 ERA for the season, but he has gone 6-1 with a 2.82 ERA lifetime
against the Tigers. Porcello is 7-4 with a 3.71 ERA.

Phillies sign outfielder Michael Saunders

CLEVELAND, OH - MAY 3: Michael Saunders #21 of the Toronto Blue Jays runs to first after being walked during the third inning against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field on May 3, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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The Phillies have signed free agent outfielder Michael Saunders.

Saunders was an All-Star in 2016 due to his wonderful start, but he cratered in the second half of the season. Overall is numbers looked good — he hit 24 homers and posted a line of .253/.338/.478, but his second half line was .178/.282/.357 in 58 games. He’s not the best defender around either.

The Phillies could use him, however, and if he has another red hot first half, there’s a decent chance they could flip him if they wanted to.

Jose Bautista and the Blue Jays nearing a two-year, $35-40 million deal

Toronto Blue Jays Jose Bautista flips his bat after hitting a three-run homer during seventh inning game 5 American League Division Series baseball action in Toronto on Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2015. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
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It was first reported that the Blue Jays and Jose Bautista were close to a deal last night. Now Ken Rosenthal reports that the deal is near completion. It will likely a two-year contract in the $35-40 million range.

Bautista had a tough 2016, hitting .234/.366/.452 with 22 home runs and 69 RBI, and some clubs likely considered a long-term deal for the 36-year-old too risky, this leading to the relative lack of reported interest in Bautista by other clubs. But back-to-back ALCS appearances by the Jays and the success and popularity Bautista has experienced in Toronto make his re-signing there a pretty sensible move for all involved.

The Jays, who already lost Edwin Encarnacion to free agency, get their slugger back on a short term deal. Unlike anyone else, they don’t have to give up the draft pick attached to him via the qualifying offer. Bautista, in turn, will make, on average, more than he would’ve made on the qualifying offer if he would’ve accepted it and a raise over the $14 million he made in 2016.