What we're watching: Niemann vs. Halladay

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– Jeff Niemann could further his Rookie of the Year case by outdueling Roy Halladay as the Rays and Jays play tonight.  Niemann has already done it once this season by limiting Toronto to one run over 7 1/3 innings in a 4-1 victory on June 29.  Halladay is coming off his shortest start of the year, that coming against the Red Sox, but he beat the Rays by pitching eight strong innings 10 days ago.  He’s 13-6 with a 2.78 ERA, while Niemann is 11-5 with a 3.71 ERA.

 

– After losing the first game, the Rockies have bounced back to win the middle contests of a four-game series against the Giants and build a three-game lead in the wild card chase.  Now they’ll go for three out of four with 14-game winner Jason Marquis on the mound.  Marquis is 1-1 with a 3.60 ERA in his two starts versus San Francisco this year.  The Giants are starting Barry Zito, who has a 2.36 ERA in seven starts since the break.  He pitched seven scoreless innings in his lone start against the Rockies.

 

Game of the Night

 

Detroit vs. Los Angeles – A pair of 13-game winners will face off in Anaheim, with Justin Verlander and Jered Weaver going at it.  Verlander has bounced back from two mediocre efforts to allowed three runs in 16 innings over his last two starts.  He’s the AL leader with 204 strikeouts.  Weaver was actually on a far worse run than Verlander before righting the ship with a complete-game shutout against the Indians five days ago.  He had a 7.07 ERA in his previous 11 starts.  The winner tonight, assuming that it’s a starter, will move into a tie with Josh Beckett (and perhaps Halladay) for second place in the AL in victories, one behind CC Sabathia.

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.