– After struggling through 4 2/3 innings against the Royals in his debut last week, Chris Tillman will get the Tigers in his second major league start tonight. It’s not as much of a step up as it seems, though, as the Tigers have scored more than five runs just twice in 16 games since the All-Star break. The bigger problem is that he’ll be going head-to-head against Justin Verlander, who leads the AL with 172 strikeouts and is 4-0 with a 1.85 ERA lifetime against Baltimore.
– With Jason Marquis stumbling in the seventh inning of his start Sunday, Matt Cain can become the NL’s first 13-game winner. He’d seem to have a pretty easy assignment against an Astros lineup that badly misses Lance Berkman. The team has scored three runs or fewer in eight of its last nine games. Houston’s starter tonight, Mike Hampton, hasn’t turned in a quality start in his last four tries.
Game of the Night
Milwaukee vs. L.A. Dodgers – Clayton Kershaw will attempt to continue his remarkable run against a fading Brewers team. Kershaw has allowed a total of six runs — five earned — in his last nine starts. He’s 5-0 during that span and has lowered his ERA from 4.50 to 2.76. The Brewers will counter with a lefty of their own, Manny Parra. Since returning from Triple-A, Parra has gone 2-0 with a 3.75 ERA in four starts. However, only the first two were strong outings and he’s given up nine runs and eight walks over 11 innings his last two times out. Making his assignment tougher is that the Dodgers, even with Manny Ramirez sidelined for 50 games, have an OPS 66 points higher against left-handers than versus righties this season.
Bourn, 34, joined the Orioles last year in a trade from the Diamondbacks on August 31. Though he compiled a meager .669 OPS with the Diamondbacks, Bourn hit a solid .283/.358/.435 in 55 plate appearances with the O’s through the end of the season.
Bourn, a non-roster invitee to camp, will try to play his way onto the Orioles’ 25-man roster. If he does make the roster, Bourn will receive a $2 million salary, Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports points out.
Diamondbacks starter Shelby Miller had about as bad a season as one can have. He was the headliner in the trade that sent 2015 No. 1 overall pick Dansby Swanson, All-Star outfielder Ender Inciarte, and highly-regarded pitching prospect Aaron Blair to the Braves. It was a trade that was pilloried at the time and continues to be pilloried to this day.
Miller didn’t do then-GM Dave Stewart any favors with his 2016 performance. He went 3-12 with a 6.15 ERA and a 70/42 K/BB ratio over 101 innings. That included a bout with mechanical failure, as he kept hitting the mound with his follow-through. He went on the disabled list. And after that, he was demoted to Triple-A. After getting fired, Stewart expressed remorse over acquiring Miller — or, more accurately, giving up Swanson to do so.
So, the 26-year-old Miller heads into 2017 without any momentum. To his credit, though, he’s going into the new season with a very positive perspective. Via Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports:
I’m just in a really happy place, away from the field, on the field. […]
Maybe it’s just the way I go about everything, trying to be positive in every single aspect of life. Baseball’s not perfect. I’m not perfect. I know bumps in the road are going to happen. Last year was obviously not just a bump, but a huge mountain. Right now, that’s completely behind me. I’m not worried about any of that.
I’m really ready for this year, ready to redeem myself so much.
Even pitching coach Mike Butcher sees the change in Miller’s mentality. “He’s not a different guy. But you can see there’s a presence in him. That’s what we need. Just be Shelby Miller. You don’t have to live up to anything. Just be yourself.”
Manager Torey Lovullo, too, praised Miller. “I saw a guy who had spent a lot of time taking care of his business in the weight room — he looks fantastic, in fantastic shape,” he said.
It sounds like Miller is not only in great mental shape, but great physical shape, too. Is it the “best shape of his life”? Only time can tell.