Sunday Slate: Halladay vs Lester, Yankees Old-Timer's Day, Young Guns in Cincy

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Quick peek at the best pitching match-ups on Sunday:

Red Sox at Blue Jays: Could it be Roy Halladay’s
final start as a Blue Jay? Guessing that if he gets traded, it’ll be
closer to the deadline, so probably not. He’s struggled (all relative)
lately, going 0-2 with a 4.50 since a DL stint, and had a rough time in
the All-Star Game. It’s his first start against Boston this year, after
dominating them in 2008 (2.56 in 5 starts). Meanwhile, Jon Lester
has found it in a big way, rocking a silly 1.48 ERA in his last 8
outings, including 69 Ks in 54 2/3 innings. He’s also 2-0 against the
Jays this year, giving up a total of 2 runs.

Brewers at Reds: The Battle of Red Hot But Now Struggling Youngsters. Both Yovani Gallardo and Johnny Cueto
were dealing for the first 3 months of the year before opponents
started soiling their All-Star credentials in July. Gallardo has given
up 9 runs in his last 10 innings. Cueto didn’t make it out of the 1st
inning against the Phillies (very embarrassing), and then got lit up by
the Mets (even more embarassing). Interesting albeit useless fact: they
were born 12 days apart in February, 1986.

Giants at Pirates: Zach Duke and Matt Cain
are linked because the former took the latter’s place on the All-Star
roster because of an injury. Duke faces a terrorizing G-Men lineup that
has scored 1 run in 23 innings this series. To be fair, the Pirates
have only scored 4. If Cain doesn’t come through today, you can bank on
Chris “Mad Dog” Russo’s Monday radio show to be even more animated than his rant from a couple weeks ago when he “fired” his whole staff. Go Buccos.

Tigers at Yankees: Sure, the two starters are intriguing (Edwin Jackson vs Joba “5 and a third” Chamberlain). But I gotta think everyone headed to the Stadium today for Old-Timer’s Day is just itching to see Pat Kelly put on the pinstripes again. I guess Alvaro Espinoza wasn’t available?

Angels at A’s: Be sure to tune in as John Lackey helps out his ERA in healthy doses against the woeful Oakland offense. At least the A’s have Brett Anderson on the hill, who is only 138 outs shy of Orel Hershiser’s consecutive scoreless innings record.

You can follow me on Twitter at mattcasey9.

Alex Rodriguez credits Tom Ricketts and Theo Epstein with Cubs’ turnaround

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 13:  Tom Ricketts, owner of the Chicago Cubs, celebrates after the Chicago Cubs defeat the St. Louis Cardinals in game four of the National League Division Series to win the NLDS 3-1 at Wrigley Field on October 13, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. The Chicago Cubs defeat the St. Louis Cardinals with a score of 6 to 4.  (Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)
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It isn’t difficult to see the fingerprints left by Cubs’ president Tom Ricketts and general manager Theo Epstein on the club’s remarkable 2016 season. In a piece for, former Yankee Alex Rodriguez highlighted the duo’s effectiveness in liberating the Cubs from a five-year losing streak and six-year postseason drought, citing both the unrelenting work ethic and passion that Ricketts and Epstein brought to the club as major factors in their success.

Rodriguez’s first brush with sabermetric savant and all-around baseball wizard Theo Epstein came in 2003, when the then- 27-year-old All-Star was eyeing a deal with the Red Sox. The Major League Baseball Players Association eventually nixed the trade, and the Rangers’ young shortstop was sent to the Yankees shortly thereafter, but not before Rodriguez glimpsed the inner workings of Epstein’s mind.

What I remember best about that time was watching Theo furiously scribbling out the Red Sox lineup for the upcoming season on a room-service napkin. That’s when I saw Theo’s baseball mind at work. I saw he had a passion for the game, a depth of knowledge, and a thirst to be great. Theo’s passion was contagious. We were three 20-somethings convinced we were about to turn baseball upside down together. Though I never got a chance to work with Theo, I knew then that he was going to be a force.

A-Rod also referenced Ricketts’ thorough approach to rebuilding the organization. Ricketts, who purchased the franchise for $875 million in 2009, first made it his mission to transform Wrigley Field into a comfortable and enticing playing environment, then targeted top-tier management to run the show behind the scenes. With Ricketts fully backing Epstein’s transformative approaches — including an overhaul of the Cubs’ farm system, investments in international player development, and a comprehensive understanding and practical application of sabermetric advances — the Cubs’ path to a 97-win season in 2015 seemed a natural consequence of the pair’s hard work.

This year, the attention has been even more intensely focused on the Cubs’ elusive third World Series title. Rodriguez, however, believes that winning a championship is secondary to the strides Ricketts and Epstein have taken with the club.

Together, Ricketts and Epstein have built one of the greatest franchises in baseball and transformed 1060 W. Addison St. It’s a task that no one could quite get right for a hundred years. While four more wins would put a giant exclamation point on five years of focused work and determination, I won’t worry if this team doesn’t win the World Series in the next nine days.

Mets expected to pick up 2017 option for Jose Reyes

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 22:  Jose Reyes #7 of the New York Mets celebrates after hitting a game tying two-run home run in the bottom of the ninth inning against the Philadelphia Phillies Citi Field on September 22, 2016 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.  (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
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Kristie Ackert of the New York Daily News reports that the Mets are expected to pick up the 2017 option for Reyes, but they haven’t done it yet. The option will be worth the major league minimum salary ($507,500), as the Rockies will continue to pay down the remainder of Reyes’ $41 million remaining on his contract.

The Mets signed Reyes after the Rockies released him in June. He had a .659 OPS in Colorado but improved to a .769 OPS in 279 plate appearances with the Mets, mostly playing third base in place of the injured David Wright. Bringing Reyes back next season will provide them more insurance at the hot corner.

Reyes, 33, served a 51-game suspension due to an offseason domestic violence incident while on vacation in Hawaii with his wife. As a result, he didn’t make his season debut until July 5, having spent some additional time in the minor leagues to get into game shape.