What we're watching – June 29

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– Roy Halladay returns from the disabled list to face the Rays for the
first time this season. He’s won seven in a row since his only loss of
the year on April 21, but the Rays have often challenged him. He went
just 2-3 with a 4.11 ERA against Tampa Bay last year, leaving him 11-7
in his career against a team that’s typically resided in the cellar.
Jeff Niemann will oppose Halladay. The Rays have scored at least eight
runs in eight of his last nine starts.

– The AL West’s top two teams will face off for the second time this
season, with the Angels again playing in Texas. They were swept in
Arlington back in May, but they’re playing far better baseball now, as
they finished with a MLB-best 14-4 record during interleague play. Sean
O’Sullivan and Vicente Padilla are the scheduled starters.

– Colorado’s Ubaldo Jimenez actually entered this season 4-0 against
the Dodgers in his career, but he’s gone 0-3 with a 10.20 ERA against
the NL West leaders in 2009. In his other 12 starts this season, he’s
6-4 with a 2.66 ERA. Jimenez will face L.A. for a fourth time tonight
and a second time with the Dodgers minus Manny Ramirez. The Dodgers
will use Randy Wolf, who is 0-2 with a 5.74 ERA in June after pitching
extremely well during the first two months.

Game of the Night

San Francisco vs. St. Louis – Tim Lincecum will have to go through
Albert Pujols as he attempts to earn his ninth victory. The 25-year-old
has won all three of his previous starts against the Giants, allowing
five runs over 19 innings in the process. Pujols is 2-for-5 with a walk
and two strikeouts against him. The Cardinals will throw Brad Thompson,
who has gone 2-2 with a 4.61 ERA in five starts since joining the
rotation. A solid week would help his case for keeping the spot over
Todd Wellemeyer when Kyle Lohse returns.

Video: Adrian Beltre and Carlos Beltran give signs from the dugout

OAKLAND, CA - SEPTEMBER 23:  Adrian Beltre #29 of the Texas Rangers stands in the dugout before their game against the Oakland Athletics at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on September 23, 2016 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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The Rangers got a bit of a breather on Saturday after clinching the division lead during Friday night’s win. Naturally, it was also a prime opportunity for another of Adrian Beltre‘s well-documented antics, as he spent his off day directing the Rangers’ infield defense with a series of signs. Even with Carlos Beltran‘s help, no one, least of all those playing the infield, appeared to have any idea what Beltre’s gestures were intended to convey.

You can add this to the list of in-game oddities Beltre has become so well-known for over the years, running the gamut from the way he kicked a ball over the foul line to his histrionics every time someone comes close to touching his head. If nothing else, it’s a convincing audition reel for the third baseman’s future in major league coaching — a career path that, I’d imagine, would end up looking something like this:

Yordano Ventura exits game with back tightness

DETROIT, MI - SEPTEMBER 24: Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals pitches against the Detroit Tigers during the first inning at Comerica Park on September 24, 2016 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images)
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Royals’ right-hander Yordano Ventura was pulled in the fifth inning of Saturday’s matinee against the Tigers with an apparent injury. After throwing four pitches to start the fifth and serving up a Justin Upton double, Ventura was visited on the mound by head trainer Nick Kenney. Per Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star, he’s day-to-day with back spasms and lower back tightness.

It’s just another bump in the road for the defending champions, who currently sit 6.5 games back of a postseason spot with seven left to play. Through 176 innings in 2016, Ventura posted a 4.35 ERA and 1.2 fWAR, a considerable downgrade from the 4.08 ERA and 2.7 fWAR he contributed during last season’s championship year despite a moderate bounce-back in the second half.

Prior to his early exit from Saturday’s game, Ventura went four innings for the Royals, giving up three runs on 10 hits and two walks and striking out six of 24 batters faced.