What we're watching: Beckett, Felix aim for for 12th victories

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– Josh Beckett and Felix Hernandez both have opportunities to become
the AL’s first 12-game winner tonight. Beckett goes first, and one has
to like his chances with a home start against the A’s on the schedule.
He beat the A’s on Oakland on July 7 and is 6-0 with a 2.44 ERA in nine
starts at Fenway this season. King Felix will pitch against the Blue
Jays in a 10 p.m. EDT start. The Marlins have won each of his last
eight starts, even though they’ve average just 4.4 runs per game in
those contests. He’ll be going up against Ricky Romero, who is 8-4 with
a 3.44 ERA.

– The Yankees capitalized on a 10-game homestand to build a 2 1/2-game
lead over the Red Sox. Now they’ll play nine straight on the road,
beginning with a series in Tampa Bay. A.J. Burnett, riding a four-game
winning streak, will take on James Shields in the opener. He’s 1-0 with
a 3.21 ERA in two starts against the Rays this year. Shields hasn’t won
since June 20 and is 1-6 with a 5.73 ERA against the Yankees in his
career. This will be his first start against the Bombers in 2009.

Game of the Night

L.A. Dodgers vs. St. Louis – After falling out of first place in the
NL Central on Sunday, the Cardinals will look to Chris Carpenter to
help them bounce back against the team with the best record in
baseball. Carpenter would be 4-0 this month if not for Ryan Franklin’s
blown save last Wednesday. He’s 3-0 with a 2.42 ERA in four career
starts against the Dodgers. Starting for the Dodgers will be Randy
Wolf, who has turned in 13 quality starts this year — including five
in a row — yet has just five wins to show for his 3.45 ERA.

The Cubs live for another day, but death will come soon

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The Cubs had a nice night last night. Javier Baez finally broke his hitless streak with not one but two homers. Willson Contreras hit a nearly 500-foot homer. Jake Arrieta, possibly pitching for the last time as a Cub, dug down for a gutsy performance, pitching into the seventh inning, working around some walks to allow only one run while striking out nine.

After the game, Cubs players sounded hopeful notes about believing in themselves, taking them one game at a time, getting the series back to L.A. for a Game 6 and Game 7. They’re professional athletes who know better than any of us that to achieve a thing you have to believe you can achieve that thing, so it’d be dumb to expect anything else from them in this situation. Ballplayers, quite admirably, don’t sound a note of defeat until they are actually defeated.

But let’s be realistic there: they’re still a dead team walking.

  • They’re dead because, as we have been reminded oh so many times, only once in 35 tries has a team come back to win a seven game series in which they’ve found themselves down 0-3. That team did so because Dave Roberts worked some magic. Dave Roberts is working for the other team now.
  • They’re dead because their biggest weakness this postseason — their bullpen — is not going to have its best pitcher, Wade Davis, available today in Game 5 after throwing 48 pitches in Game 4.
  • They’re dead because while the Dodgers used five relievers last night, none of them were worked particularly hard and neither Brandon Morrow nor Kenley Jansen were used at all, allowing them to come in and work hard and heavy tonight if need be.
  • They’re dead because the man on the mound to start tonight’s game is Clayton Edward Kershaw. Yes, he has had some less-than-glory-filled moments in the postseason in recent years, but all of those have come at the tail end of starts, when his managers have left him in perhaps an inning too long. See the above bullet point — and Dave Roberts’ early hook in Game 1 — if you think that’ll be a problem tonight.

The Dodgers lost last night, yes, but it was their first loss in the postseason. All teams have lost at least one postseason game since it went to the three-round format, so it was likely inevitable that L.A. would drop one. Heck, maybe they’ll drop two before the NLCS is over, but they’re not going to drop the next three in a row.

Last night’s Cubs win was nice for them, but it only delayed the inevitable.