What we're watching: Kershaw to duel Haren

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– The pitching matchup of the night pits Clayton Kershaw against Dan Haren as the Dodgers take on the Diamondbacks in Arizona. Kershaw currently ranks seventh in the NL in ERA, two spots behind Haren. The two are going in opposite directions, though. Kershaw has a 1.55 ERA since the beginning of June and a 1.10 ERA since the beginning of July. Haren, who entered the All-Star break as the major league leader in ERA, has given up 16 earned runs in his last four starts. He’s 1-1 with a 2.08 ERA in two starts against the Dodgers this year, while Kershaw has yet to face the Diamondbacks.
– The Phillies and Braves are both coming off series sweeps as they face off in Atlanta tonight. Philadelphia just took three straight from the Cubs. Atlanta has won five straight against the Dodgers and the previously surging Nationals. Tonight’s game will feature two rather unlucky starters, at least as far as wins and losses go. Joe Blanton has allowed three runs or fewer in 12 of his last 13 starts, yet he’s just 7-6 for the season. Jair Jurrjens is 9-8 with a 3.01 ERA. The Braves have scored a total of 10 runs in his losses.
Game of the Night
Boston vs. Texas – The AL wild card leaders will begin a three-game series in Texas tonight. The Red Sox, who are a half-game out in front, will send Jon Lester to the mound, while the Rangers counter with Kevin Millwood. Both starters are 9-7 with ERAs in the mid-3.00s, though Lester has been the far better pitcher lately. Millwood has just one win in his last seven starts. However, that did come against the Red Sox back on July 20. The Rangers will have Ian Kinsler back at second base tonight after he missed 16 days with a strained hamstring,

Another interestingly named player is promoted by the Pirates

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When you promote a player from the minors, the first and foremost consideration is whether or not he can help your ball club. But, assuming that’s taken care of, teams should really, really make it a priority to call up dudes with cool sounding names because it makes life more interesting for the rest of us.

The Pirates are doing that. The other night Dovydas Neverauskas made his big league debut. In addition to being the first Lithuanian born-and-raised player in major league history, it’s a solid, solid name. Now the Pirates are making another promotion: Gift Ngoepe.

Yep, Gift Ngoepe. He’s an infielder from South Africa, making the leap to the bigs due to David Freese‘s hamstring injury. Ngoepe, 27, was batting just .241/.308/.379 through 66 plate appearances this season with Triple-A Indianapolis, his ninth in the minors, so he’s not exactly a prospect. But man, that’s a killer name.

It’s also worth mentioning that Gift and Neverauskas were arrested together in a bar fight last August in Toledo, so there is already a good basis for some bonding here.

Good luck, Gift. Gift Ngoepe. Mr. Ngoepe. G-Ngo. Man, I could do this all day.

Manny Machado teaches us to never give up

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The Rays beat the Orioles last night, but the play of the game belonged to an Oriole defender.

Evan Longoria was batting and he chopped a ball foul down the third base line. At least it started out foul. As we all know, however, it doesn’t matter where the ball starts, it matters where it is when it crosses the bag.

Manny Machado knows this and didn’t give up on the ball despite it starting several feet in foul territory. He watched it come back, stayed with it and threw out Longoria who, unlike Machado, did give up on it, assuming he’d merely get a strike and another hack. Watch:

Longoria would get Machado back, however, fielding a ball Machado smoked to third base in the ninth inning, recording the second to last out of the game.