What we're watching: Carpenter vs. Haeger

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– Francisco Liriano will attempt to build on a strong effort against the Royals when he faces the AL wild card-leading Rangers in Texas.  It will be his second start in Arlington in a month, as he allowed three runs — two earned — in six innings in a no-decision on July 19.  The Rangers will counter with Tommy Hunter, who just shut out the Indians for 7 2/3 innings last time out.  The 2007 supplemental first-round pick is 5-2 with a 2.26 ERA.

 

– Ted Lilly will rejoin the Cubs’ rotation tonight after missing four starts due to left shoulder inflammation and a knee injury that required minor surgery.  It looks like he’ll be able to ease back into action against a Padres team that has been especially weak against left-handers (.229/.300/.368).  Lilly is 5-2 with a 3.55 ERA against San Diego in his career.

 

Game of the Night

 

St. Louis vs. Los Angeles – The NL’s two winningest teams will begin a three-game series with a rather lopsided pitching matchup.  Cardinals ace Chris Carpenter is 12-3 with a 2.27 ERA that ranks second in the majors.  Dodgers knuckleballer Charlie Haeger is 1-2 with a 6.35 ERA in a career that includes one start and 18 relief appearances.  It will be his debut for the team after he went 11-6 with a very impressive 3.55 ERA for Triple-A Albuquerque.  Away from the offensive paradise the Isotopes play in half of the time, he had a 2.44 ERA.

Video: Jake Arrieta hits a 465-foot home run off of Zack Greinke

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Jake Arrieta‘s bat is in midseason form already. The Cubs’ ace swatted a solo home run to center field off of Zack Greinke in Thursday afternoon’s Grapefruit League exhibition game, his first homer of the spring.

The blast went 465 feet, according to MLB.com’s Daren Willman.

Arrieta has hit two home runs in each of the past two seasons. Madison Bumgarner (eight) and Noah Syndergaard (four) are the only other pitchers to match or exceed his output in that department.

Greinke, meanwhile, is hoping to bounce back after a miserable 2016 season. He finished with an uncharacteristic 4.37 ERA in 26 starts in his first year with the Diamondbacks.

Luis Valbuena to miss four to six weeks with a strained right hamstring

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Angels first baseman Luis Valbuena will miss the next four to six weeks with a strained right hamstring, Pedro Moura of the Los Angeles Times reports.

Valbuena, 31, signed a two-year, $15 million contract with the Angels in January and was on track to get the lion’s share of the playing time at first base. While he’s out, however, C.J. Cron will handle first base on a regular basis. When Valbeuna returns, the two will likely form a platoon.

Last year with the Astros, Valbuena hit a solid .260/.357/.459 with 13 home runs and 40 RBI in 342 plate appearances.