What we're watching: Untouchable Kershaw faces Brewers

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– 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.

Brandon McCarthy wins final spot in Dodgers’ rotation

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We learned on Monday that Hyun-Jin Ryu won one of the final two spots in the Dodgers’ starting rotation. Brandon McCarthy has won the other, Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register reports. Alex Wood was McCarthy’s competitor for the spot.

McCarthy, 33, posted a 4.85 ERA across four appearances spanning 13 innings this spring, yielding seven earned runs on 14 hits and a walk with seven strikeouts. Wood, a southpaw, gave up five earned runs in six innings against the Reds on Tuesday, which might have factored into the decision.

Last season, McCarthy made nine starts and one relief appearance, posting a 4.95 ERA with a 44/26 K/BB ratio in 40 innings. In the event McCarthy falters, the club has Wood as well as Julio Urias and the injured Scott Kazmir as potential replacements.

Yankees re-sign Jon Niese to a minor league deal

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The Yankees have re-signed pitcher Jon Niese to a minor league contract, George A. King III of the New York Post reports. Niese was released on Sunday, but he’ll stick around and provide rotation depth for the Yankees.

Niese had knee surgery last August and got a late start to spring training as a result. In six spring appearances lasting an inning each, the lefty gave up three earned runs on five hits and a walk with five strikeouts.

Niese, a veteran of nine seasons, put up an aggregate 5.50 ERA with an 88/47 K/BB ratio in 121 innings last season between the Pirates and Mets.