– 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.
We’ve got some potential craziness building in the American League Wild Card race with one day left in the regular season.
After dropping both halves of a doubleheader on Saturday in Baltimore, the Yankees are now just one game up for the first spot — hosting duties. Houston, currently in the second spot, won again Saturday in Arizona behind two Colby Rasmus homers and a very good start from Collin McHugh. Anaheim won Saturday in Arlington, Texas in maybe the wildest game of the year to stay one game back of the ‘Stros.
This also touches the still-undecided American League West, where the Rangers only have a one-game lead on the Astros and will face a fired-up Angels team on Sunday afternoon. By design, the start times for all these games that matter are the same: 3:05 p.m. ET. Only the Cardinals and Braves will play at a different time (due to Saturday’s rainout).
Buckle up, people. Get your popcorn ready. All that.
Your box scores and AP recaps from Saturday …
Yankees 2, Orioles 1 (Game 1)
Nationals 3, Mets 1 (Game 1)
Marlins 7, Phillies 6 (Game 1)
Yankees 3, Orioles 4 (Game 2)
Nationals 2, Mets 0 (Game 2)
Marlins 5, Phillies 2 (Game 2)
Facing an elimination number of one, the Astros staved off elimination in the AL West by beating the Diamondbacks on Friday night by a 6-1 margin. The Rangers suffered a heartbreaking loss to the Angels on Saturday afternoon, which temporarily put the Astros’ fate in their own hands.
Colby Rasmus hit a pair of solo homers and Jose Altuve added a solo shot of his own. Starter Collin McHugh tossed seven innings of one-run ball, limiting the Diamondbacks to six hits and a walk with six strikeouts. Reliever Will Harris allowed a solo home run to Paul Goldschmidt in the eighth, but Luke Gregerson closed out the game with a scoreless ninth.
The Astros trail the Rangers by one game in the AL West and lead the Angels by one game for the second AL Wild Card slot. The Rangers can clinch the AL West on Sunday afternoon with a win or an Astros loss. The Astros can clinch the second AL Wild Card on Sunday afternoon with a win or an Angels loss.
The Yankees lost both ends of Saturday’s doubleheader against the Orioles and lead the Astros by only one game for the first AL Wild Card slot.
If the Astros win and the Rangers lose on Sunday, they will play an AL West tiebreaker in Texas. The winner will win the second AL Wild Card if the Yankees win on Sunday, or the first AL Wild Card if the Yankees lose on Sunday.
If the Astros lose and the Angels win on Sunday, the two teams will be tied for the second AL Wild Card. They would play a tiebreaker in Houston, and the winner would play the Yankees in New York in the Wild Card game.