What we're watching: Lincecum aims for 13th win, 200 Ks

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– Matt Cain and Jason Marquis have both failed twice and Johan Santana and Adam Wainwright once apiece, so now Tim Lincecum will have a shot at becoming the first NL pitcher to reach 13 victories.  He’ll be facing the Reds for the first time in 80 career starts.  I’m not positive about this, but with nine strikeouts tonight, it looks like he’ll be the earliest to get to 200 in a season since Randy Johnson’s 334-strikeout campaign in 2002.  Erik Bedard got their on Aug. 15 in 2007.

 

– The Braves will attempt to recover from a devastating loss Thursday tonight in the second game of a four-game series in Los Angeles.  The Braves led 4-2 going into the bottom of the ninth on Friday, only to see Rafael Soriano give up a walkoff homer to Andre Ethier.  Tonight’s game will be a rematch of the contest five days ago in Atlanta, which the Dodgers won 9-1.  Chad Billingsley threw five scoreless innings in that one before leaving with a hamstring cramp.  Jair Jurrjens surrendered four runs in five innings to take his first loss in five starts.  He’s 9-8 with a 2.85 ERA, while Billingsley is 11-6 with a 3.82 ERA.

 

– Carlos Lee will aim again for his 300th homer, this time against the Brewers’ Carlos Villanueva.  He has four extra-base hits in his last three games, but all were doubles.  He’s 4-for-13 with a homer against Villanueva in his career.

 

Game of the Night

 

Boston vs. New York – Having fallen to 8-1 against the Yankees, the Red Sox are terribly desperate for a win, what with there only being 45 games left and them being a mere two games up in the wild card (even if that is the same lead they held 10 games ago).  With the season on the line, they’ll send Josh Beckett to the mound.  He’s 2-0 in three starts against the Yankees, despite having a 5.82 ERA.  Burnett has been roughed up in both of his outings versus Boston, compiling a 12.91 ERA in 7 2/3 innings. 

James Paxton will “nerd out big-time” to stay healthy next year

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To the surprise of, well, very few, the Mariners didn’t make the cut for the postseason this year. While they threw their hats in the ring for a wild card berth, their pitching staff just couldn’t stay healthy, from the handful of pitchers who contracted season-ending injuries in spring training to Felix Hernandez‘s shoulder bursitis to structural damage in Hisashi Iwakuma‘s right shoulder. Left-hander James Paxton missed 79 days with a lingering head cold, strained left forearm and pectoral strain. Heading into the 2018 season, the lefty told MLB.com’s Greg Johns that he plans to “nerd out big-time” in order to prepare for a healthy, consistent run with the club.

So far, Johns reports, that entails a new diet and workout program, hot yoga sessions and blood testing. “I just think there’s more I can do,” Paxton said. “I haven’t done the blood testing before. Finding out if there’s something I don’t know about myself. It’s just about learning and trying to find what works for me.”

When healthy, the 28-year-old southpaw was lights-out for the Mariners. He helped stabilize the front end of the rotation with a 12-5 record in 24 starts and supplemented his efforts with a 2.98 ERA, 2.4 BB/9 and 10.3 SO/9 through 136 innings. Despite taking multiple trips to the disabled list, he built up 4.6 fWAR — the most wins above replacement he’s compiled in any season of his career to date. Had he not been felled by a pectoral injury in mid-August — one that came with a five-week trip to the disabled list — the club might have been been able to make a bigger push for the playoffs.

Of course, even if Paxton manages to stay healthy next season, the Mariners still have the rest of the rotation to worry about. They cycled through 17 starters in 2017 and tied the 2014 Rangers with 40 total pitchers over the course of the season. Per GM Jerry Dipoto, their top four starters (Paxton, Hernandez, Iwakuma, and Tommy John candidate Drew Smyly) only contributed 17% of total innings pitched, just a tad below the 40% average. Finding adequate big league arms and compensating for injured aces (both current and former) will be tough. Still, getting a healthy, dominant Paxton back on the mound for 30+ starts would be a huge get for the team — whether or not the postseason is in their future next year.