What we're watching: Halladay set to take on Bombers

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– Still a Blue Jay, Roy Halladay will make the first of what will be back-to-back starts against the Yankees tonight in Toronto. Halladay last year became the first pitcher since Luis Tiant in 1974 to beat the Bombers five times in a season. This year, he’s faced them twice and gone 1-0 with a 3.38 ERA. Starting for the Yankees will be Andy Pettitte, who is 8-6 with a 4.51 ERA for the season after going 0-3 in his last five starts. He is 4-2 with a 3.42 ERA away from Yankee Stadium, with one of those victories coming over the Blue Jays.
– In a rematch of last year’s ALCS Game 7, Jon Lester and Matt Garza will face off with the Red Sox in Tampa Bay. Lester lost both of his starts against the Rays in the postseason last year. He was also handed his worst defeat of 2009 when he gave up eight runs in 4 1/3 innings against Tampa Bay on May 9. However, he has a 2.82 ERA since that date. Garza has faced the Red Sox three times this season, going 2-0 with a 1.66 ERA. Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis, David Ortiz, Mike Lowell, J.D. Drew and Jason Varitek have all hit .200 or worse against him in their careers.
– It will be up to Johan Santana to stop the bleeding after the Mets lost three out of four at home to the Diamondbacks. He’ll get the Cardinals and Joel Pineiro tonight. Pineiro, one of the league’s hottest starters, went 3-0 with a 1.22 ERA in five starts last month. That doesn’t even count the two-hit shutout he pitching the Mets on June 23. Santana has turned in seven scoreless innings in three of his last four starts. He’s 2-0 with a 1.13 ERA in his two career starts against the Cardinals.
Game of the Night
Baltimore vs. Detroit – Sure, there are better teams facing off, but this one will feature one of baseball’s best prospects making his major league debut and one of the AL’s ERA leaders in his first start since being traded. The Orioles’ Brian Matusz is being promoted from Double-A after going 11-2 with a 1.91 ERA in his first season in the minors. Since moving up to Bowie, he was 7-0 with a 1.55 ERA and a 46/11 K/BB ratio in 46 1/3 innings. Jarrod Washburn allowed a total of three runs in his last five starts for the Mariners, a stretch that started when he threw a one-hit shutout against the Orioles on July 6.

Nationals fire reigning Manager of the Year Matt Williams

Washington Nationals' manager Matt Williams looks on from the dugout during a baseball game against the Philadelphia Phillies, Friday, May 2, 2014, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Laurence Kesterson)

Matt Williams was voted the National League Manager of the Year on November 11, 2014, receiving 18 of 30 first-place votes from Baseball Writers Association of America members.

Today the Nationals fired him following a season full of disappointment, reports of clubhouse discontent, and Jonathan Papelbon choking Bryce Harper in the dugout.

Williams went 179-145 (.552) in two seasons in Washington, which is an excellent winning percentage, but when you take over a stacked team the expectations are extremely high and there was seemingly nothing anyone could point to about his actual managing that suggested he was doing a good job.

His in-game tactics and particularly his rigid bullpen usage patterns infuriated fans. His dealings with the local media became increasingly antagonistic. And even setting aside two players literally fighting in the dugout there’s ample evidence that Williams lost the clubhouse a long time ago.

Williams was far from the only thing wrong with the Nationals this season and he’s hardly the primary person to blame for their disappointing record, but it’s also hard to make a strong case for his sticking around–meaningless, beat writer-voted award or not–and general manager Mike Rizzo predictably acted quickly to move on.

Now we’ll see who gets to take the next crack at managing the Nationals to play up to expectations.

Dan Haren plans to retire after the playoffs are over

Dan Haren
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Dan Haren, who said two months ago that he was leaning toward retiring after the season, reiterated those plans following the Cubs’ regular season finale Sunday.

At age 34 he started 32 games for the Marlins and Cubs with a 3.60 ERA and 132/38 K/BB ratio in 187 innings, so Haren would have no problem finding work and a solid paycheck for 2016.

However, he’s not expected to part of the Cubs’ playoff roster and told Jesse Rogers of ESPN Chicago:

That was it for me. If I have to pitch in the postseason, I’ll be ready for sure. Happy the way the last few starts have gone. Being able to contribute to this amazing team. I’m just thankful to be a part of it. If I don’t pitch in the postseason, that’s it. It’s been fun. Hopefully there’s a lot more games to go. … If my name is called, I’ll be ready.

Injuries has lessened Haren’s overall effectiveness in recent years, but he’s remained a solid mid-rotation starter and has pitched 13 seasons in the big leagues with a 3.75 ERA in 2,419 innings. He made three All-Star teams and earned more than $80 million.