What we're watching: Kawakami vs. Johnson

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– Tim Hudson versus Josh Johnson would have been tonight’s premier matchup, but the Braves have pushed Hudson back and opted to go with Kenshin Kawakami instead. Kawakami has lost both of his starts against the Marlins this season, amassing an 8.44 ERA in 10 2/3 innings. The last loss was in a matchup against Johnson on July 29. Including that win, Johnson is 6-1 in his last eight starts. His ERA, though, did creep over 3.00 for the first time all year when he gave up three runs in six innings against the Mets last week.
– Rich Harden reportedly will stick with the Cubs and face Roy Oswalt and the Astros tonight. With his 1.80 ERA and even more impressive 0.82 WHIP since the break, Harden has been one of the NL’s best pitchers lately. Oswalt is 1-1 with a 5.25 ERA in four starts since returning from a back injury. The last two starts, though, were much better than the first two. The Cubs are the one NL Central team that Oswalt isn’t over .500 against in his career. He’s 12-12 with a 3.86 ERA against them.
Game of the Night
Chicago vs. Minnesota – One of the AL Central rivals will make up some ground on Detroit tonight after the Tigers lost their afternoon game against the Rays. Gavin Floyd will start for the skidding White Sox, who have lost seven of their last eight games. He’s 7-3 with a 2.77 ERA in 16 starts since the beginning of June. Twins starter Nick Blackburn, on the other hand, has gotten a whole lot worse as the season has progressed. He entered the All-Star break at 8-4 with a 3.06 ERA, yet is 0-5 with an 8.22 ERA since. He’s gone 2-1 with a 3.15 ERA in his three starts against the White Sox this year, but all of those came in the first half.

Clayton Kershaw could return on September 1

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Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw has been out since July 24 with a lower back strain. He’s slated to throw a three-inning simulated game in Pittsburgh on Monday, per Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register. Plunkett adds that if all goes well, the earliest Kershaw could return is August 31 against the Diamondbacks, but September 1 is more likely against the Padres.

Kershaw, 29, hit the disabled list on a pace to win his fourth Cy Young Award. He’s 15-2 with a 2.04 ERA and a 168/24 K/BB ratio in 141 1/3 innings.

The Dodgers have managed just fine without Kershaw. The club is 19-4 since July 24. At 87-35, the Dodgers own baseball’s best record, well ahead of the second-best Astros at 76-48.

Ian Kinsler was fined for ripping umpires publicly. Brad Ausmus says it’s the largest fine he’s seen in 25 years.

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Last week, Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler was ejected from a game against the Rangers after giving home plate umpire Angel Hernandez a look after a pitch was thrown outside for a ball. Kinsler was apparently unhappy with calls Hernandez had made earlier. Manager Brad Ausmus, too, was ejected.

After the game, Kinsler said that Hernandez “needs to find another job.” He added, “…he needs to stop ruining baseball games.”

Kinsler was fined by Major League Baseball for his remarks, Mlive’s Evan Woodbery reports. According to Ausmus, the fine levied on Kinsler was the largest one he’s seen in nearly 25 years in baseball. Kinsler said, “I said what I felt and what I thought. If they take offense to that, then that’s their problem.” Ausmus said, “To single out one player as a union is completely uncalled for.”

As Ashley noted on Saturday, the umpires wore white wristbands to protest “escalating attacks on umpires.” The umpires agreed to drop their protest on Sunday after commissioner Rob Manfred agreed to meet with the umpire union’s governing board, Gabe Lacques of USA TODAY Sports reports.