What we're watching: Beckett aims for 15th victory

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– Josh Beckett can become the first major leaguer to 15 wins this year by beating Toronto and Ricky Romero tonight. He’s gone at least seven innings in six straight starts, allowing nine runs in the process. His ERA, which stood at 7.22 at the end of April, is now 3.10, the sixth-best mark in the AL, and he ranks third in WHIP and fifth in strikeouts. This will be his first start against the Jays in 2009. He went 0-2 with a 16.71 ERA in his two starts against the club last year.
– Pedro Martinez got a ton of support to beat the Cubs last week in his return to the majors. His second start will come against the Diamondbacks, a team he’s dominated in five career starts (3-1, 1.36 ERA). The opponent is also worth watching. Jon Garland, who still might find himself on a contender later this month, has gone at least six innings in 14 straight starts and allowed no more than three earned runs in eight of the last nine.
– Freddy Garcia will make his first major league start this year against the surging Royals, winners of three of their last seven games. Garcia, who has been robbed of velocity by shoulder problems, had a 1.80 ERA and a 19/1 K/BB ratio in 20 innings in the minors for the White Sox. In his lone Triple-A start, he gave up eight hits, walked none and struck out nine in six innings. If his command remains so strong in the majors, perhaps he’ll be able to hold his own for the White Sox. Little more can be expected.
Game of the Night
Seattle vs. Detroit – 23-year-old Felix Hernandez and 20-year-old Rick Porcello will duel for the first time tonight. King Felix, coming off his second 10-strikeout game of the year and first against an AL team since April 27, 2008, will be trying to improve to 13-4. He’s beaten Detroit twice this year to improve to 5-2 with a 2.91 ERA lifetime against the club. Porcello pitched just one-plus innings in his last start after Kevin Youkilis made his own contribution towards keeping the youngster’s workload in check. Two of his 10 wins this year have come against the Mariners.

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)
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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.