– 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.
Even while injured, Miguel Cabrera is a force to be reckoned with. The 33-year-old slugger has been playing with a contusion on his knee since Wednesday, according to postgame comments made by Tigers’ manager Brad Ausmus.
That didn’t stop him from whacking a 410-foot home run against Atlanta right-hander Matt Wisler on Friday night, skirting the center field fence to put the Tigers up 3-0 in the first inning. In the third, he lead off the inning with another long drive off of Wisler, targeting his changeup for a 421-foot shot, his 38th home run of the season:
It’s Cabrera’s sixth two-run homer game since the start of the season, and his first against the Braves since 2005. He needs just two more home runs to keep an even 40 on the year, which would return him to the kind of league-leading levels that accentuated his MVP case in 2012 and 2013. If he can do it by the end of this Tigers-Braves game (unlikely, but not unheard of), he’ll be the 15th major leaguer to hit four home runs in a single game.
The Reds will roll with manager Bryan Price for at least one more season. Per MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon, Price has been extended through the 2017 season with a club option for 2018. He won’t be the only familiar face leading the team, as the Reds have reportedly asked the entire coaching staff to return as well.
This is Price’s second consecutive season with 90+ losses since Cincinnati signed him to a three-year contract back in 2014. While he hasn’t been able to replicate the same kind of success that former skipper Dusty Baker found in 2012 and 2013, he’s been saddled with a team that’s still in the throes of rebuilding, not one that looks on the cusp of playoff contention. It is, after all, the same team that has not seen a healthy season from Homer Bailey since Price’s arrival, one that unloaded Jay Bruce for a pair of prospects earlier this year and one whose pitching staff set a single-season record for most home runs given up by a major league team.
Justifying Price’s extension requires a different kind of yardstick, one that measures player development and individual success over the cumulative win-loss record. Here, Price has overseen solid performances from contributors like Adam Duvall, who is batting .244/.297/.506 with 2.9 fWAR in his first full major-league season, as well as young arms like Anthony DeSclafani, Brandon Finnegan, and Michael Lorenzen, among others.
From comments made by Reds’ CFO Bob Castellini, Price’s success within a rough rebuilding process appears to have cemented his place within the club, at least for the time being.
I like the young, aggressive team Walt and Dick have put together with players from within our system and from recent trades. […] Bryan has been here seven seasons now. He’s comfortable with the direction we are heading with our young players, and we are comfortable with him leading us in that direction.