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.

Will Middlebrooks carted off field with injury

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Phillies third baseman Will Middlebrooks suffered a serious injury during Saturday’s Grapefruit League contest against the Orioles. The infielder was chasing down a pop fly in the eighth inning when he ran into left fielder Andrew Pullin, who inadvertently trapped Middlebrooks’ ankle under his leg. Middlebrooks was unable to put weight on his leg following the collision and was carted off the field and taken to a local hospital for X-rays.

Per MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki, not much is known yet about the severity of the ankle injury or the recovery time it will require, though it appears serious enough to set Middlebrooks back considerably as he seeks a backup/bench role with the team this spring.

The 29-year-old is currently seeking another opportunity to extend his six-year major-league career in 2018. He’s coming off of two down years with the Brewers and Rangers, during which he slashed a cumulative .169/.229/.262 with four extra bases through 70 plate appearances.