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.

Giants interested in John Lackey

John Lackey
AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast
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Ben Cafardo of the Boston Globe speculated on Sunday that there might be a connection between the Giants and veteran free agent right-hander John Lackey, and now FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reports that San Francisco is indeed in pursuit.

Rosenthal says the Giants, “like most clubs seeking pitching, [are] examining [a] wide range of options” in this starter-heavy free agent market. Lackey would make a ton of sense for any contender on something like a two-year deal. His free agency is tied to draft pick compensation, but that shouldn’t be much of a deterrent.

The 37-year-old right-hander registered a career-best 2.77 ERA across 218 innings (33 starts) this past season for the National League Central-champion Cardinals and he was St. Louis’ most reliable starter during the playoffs.

It’s well known that he wants to remain in the National League.

Angels sign catcher Geovany Soto to one-year contract

Geovany Soto
AP Photo/Alex Gallardo
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As first reported by beat writer Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times, the Angels have signed free agent catcher Geovany Soto to a one-year major league contract. MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez says the deal is worth $2.8 million guaranteed.

Soto will offer some veteran presence at catcher for the Halos alongside 25-year-old Carlos Perez, who hit .250/.299/.346 as a rookie in 2015.

Soto slashed .219/.301/.406 with nine homers in 78 games this summer for the White Sox.

The 32-year-old backstop is a .246/.331/.434 career hitter at the major league level.

White Sox acquire right-hander Tommy Kahnle from Rockies

Tommy Kahnle
AP Photo/David Zalubowski
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According to the official Twitter account of the Chicago White Sox, the club acquired right-hander Tommy Kahnle from the Rockies on Tuesday evening in exchange for minor league pitcher Yency Almonte.

Kahnle was designated for assignment by the Rockies last week in a flurry of moves made in preparation of next month’s Rule 5 Draft. The 26-year-old former fifth-round pick posted an ugly 4.86 ERA, 1.77 WHIP, and 39/28 K/BB ratio in 33 1/3 innings this past season for Colorado and he wasn’t much better at Triple-A Albuquerque.

Almonte, 21, had a 3.41 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, and 110/38 K/BB ratio in 137 1/3 innings this past season between Low-A Kannapolis and High-A Winston-Salem.

It’s a straight one-for-one deal of two non-prospects, and the timing of it — in the evening, with Thanksgiving approaching — has our Craig Calcaterra wondering whether an executive was just trying to get out of some family responsibilities …

Mark McGwire to become the Padres bench coach

Los Angeles Dodgers batting coach Mark McGwire roams the field during practice for the National League baseball championship series Thursday, Oct. 10, 2013, in St. Louis. The Dodgers are scheduled to play the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 1 of the NLCS on Friday in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

The other day Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune reported that the Padres were in discussions with former Dodgers hitting coach Mark McGwire about their bench coach job. Today Jon Heyman reports that the deal is done and will soon be announced.

McGwire has been the hitting coach for Los Angeles for the past three seasons. When his contract was not renewed following the end of 2015 he was rumored to be up for the Diamondbacks’ hitting coach job. He likely view staying in Southern California to be a plus, as he makes his home in Irvine, which is around 90 miles from Petco Park. That’s a long commute, but Mac can afford the gas, I guess.