What we're watching – June 24

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– With the Giants already 4-1 against the A’s this season, 301-game
winning Randy Johnson will face one-game winner Gio Gonzalez in
Oakland. Gonzalez, who is filling in for Josh Outman, will be making
his first start of 2009 after pitching in relief twice last month. He’s
1-4 with a 7.59 ERA in seven starts and five relief appearances during
his young career, but he had allowed just one earned run in his last
five starts for Triple-A Sacramento. Johnson beat the A’s earlier this
month by allowing two runs over seven innings. He’s 3-1 with a 2.83 ERA
in his last six starts.

– The Cubs and Tigers lived up to Tuesday’s Game of the Night
billing, with Ryan Raburn hitting a walkoff homer in the bottom of the
ninth to give Detroit a 5-4 victory. There should be another good
matchup tonight, as Rich Harden and Rick Porcello are scheduled to
start. Porcello has won all three of his interleague starts, giving up
five runs — three earned — over 18 2/3 innings in the process. With
right-handers hitting just .190 off him, it’s not going to be easy for
Derrek Lee to extend his hitting streak to 21 games.

– It’s up to Kenshin Kawakami to keep the Braves’ scoreless streak
going after back-to-back shutouts of the Cubs on Monday and the Yankees
last night. Kawakami, who has been part of one shutout this season when
he blanked the Jays for eight innings on May 22, hasn’t allowed more
than three earned runs in any of his last nine starts. The Bombers, now
surely sick of facing pitchers they’ve never seen before, have lost
five of their last six games. Joba Chamberlain will be on the mound as
they try to end the skid.

Game of the Night

Philadelphia vs. Tampa Bay – The series opener in the rematch of
last year’s World Series was over quickly, as the Phillies jumped all
over David Price on their way to a 10-1 win. The Rays will attempt to
bounce back with Matt Garza on the mound, but Garza is winless since
May 16. He’s given up eight homers in his last five starts, which seems
like good news for Ryan Howard and Chase Utley. Joe Blanton, who beat
the Rays in his World Series start last October, is also having
problems with the long ball, with 16 allowed in 76 2/3 innings for the
season. However, he hasn’t taken a loss since May 9.

Max Scherzer still can’t throw fastballs

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 13: Max Scherzer #31 of the Washington Nationals works against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the fifth inning during game five of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park on October 13, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
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The Nationals will be many people’s favorites in the NL East this season. Not everything is looking great, however. For example, their ace — defending NL Cy Young winner Max Scherzer — can’t even throw fastballs right now.

The reason: the stress fracture he suffered last August is still causing him problems and Scherzer is unable to use his fastball grip without feeling pain in his right ring finger. He will throw a bullpen session tomorrow, but will only use his secondary stuff.

Scherzer has not been ruled out for Opening Day — the fact that he is throwing some means that his timetable isn’t totally on hold — but you have to figure, at some point, not being able to air things out and use his heater will lead to some problems in his spring training routine.

The Dodgers asked the Tigers about Justin Verlander this offseason

DETROIT, MI - MAY 18: Justin Verlander #35 of the Detroit Tigers pitches during the first inning of the game against the Minnesota Twins on May 18, 2016 at Comerica Park in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
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File this under “man, that would’ve been cool.” Or, if you’re a Tigers fan, file it under “man, that would’ve signaled several years of misery.” However you fall on the matter, however, know that, according to Jon Heyman, the Dodgers inquired about trading for Justin Verlander over the winter.

It never went anywhere, but it’s not like it was silliness for the Dodgers to ask. As you may recall, the Tigers were reported to be willing to listen to offers on any and all players back in November, as GM Al Avila contemplated a tear-down. That never came to pass — the Tigers had a quiet offseason and are keeping the team together to make another run at the playoffs with the Verlander/Miguel Cabrera core — but it couldn’t hurt to ask.

Verlander, who is coming off a resurgent season which saw him return to form as one of baseball’s best pitchers, has 10-5 rights, allowing him to veto any trade. He’s married to an actress/model, however, owns a home in L.A., and the Dodgers are a clear contender, so there’s a good chance he would’ve allowed such a trade to happen. Heck, dude even loves pitchers batting, so a chance to do it all the time would be right up his alley.

The bigger issue likely would’ve been Verlander’s $28 million salary. The Dodgers already pay the luxury tax so taking on that commitment would cost them more than the sticker price. And, of course, if the Tigers are going to ever give up one of the best players in franchise history, it would take the motherlode of prospects to do it.

So, no, a Verlander-to-L.A. trade wasn’t ever a strong possibility. But even the slight possibility seems exciting in hindsight. It was a boring as hell offseason.