– 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.
Lefty reliever Jonny Venters was among a handful of players the Rays signed to minor league contracts, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports.
Venters, 32, hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2012 and has logged just 27 2/3 innings in the minors in the meantime due to a continuous battle with his elbow. According to David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Venters has undergone four — four! — Tommy John surgeries.
When he was healthy, Venters was a fearsome late-game option for the Braves. He posted a 1.95 ERA with 93 strikeouts in 83 innings in 2010, and a 1.84 ERA with 96 strikeouts in 88 innings in 2011. His first-half performance in 2011 earned him a spot on the National League All-Star roster.
Venters has spent the last two years in the Rays’ system and he’ll try to make it a third.