What we're watching: Rays vs. Red Sox

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Seattle‘s Brandon Morrow will make his first major league appearance since July 10 when he starts against the Rangers.  The 25-year-old was being used carefully in Triple-A Tacoma, though he did throw a nine-inning shutout on Aug. 14.  In four starts since, he had pitched 19 1/3 innings and allowed six earned runs.  He had a 4.55 ERA in six starts for the Mariners before being sent down.  Texas will start Kevin Millwood, whose 2010 option would vest at $12 million if he throws eight innings tonight.

 

– The Giants have fallen 4 1/2 games behind the still surging Rockies in the wild card, so it’s be a great time for Matt Cain to pick up his first win against the Dodgers as the two teams begin a three-game series.  Cain has a respectable 3.97 ERA versus L.A. in 12 career starts, but that’s resulted in an 0-6 record.  Cain finally prevailed last week against the Brewers to snap a seven-game winless streak.  His opponent in this one will be Hiroki Kuroda, who came off the DL to allow three earned runs over five innings in a loss to the Padres on Sunday.

 

Game of the Night

 

Tampa Bay vs. Boston – In a freefall that started when they lost two out of three to the Red Sox at home, the Rays can only play spoiler now.  Still, they will have that chance this weekend in Boston and in two weeks when they play in Texas.  The Red Sox are currently two games up on the Rangers in the wild card, and they have Jon Lester on the mound tonight.  Tampa Bay will start James Shields, who saw his ERA jump over 4.00 for the first time since April when he gave up six runs last time out against the Tigers.  Lester is 4-1 with a 2.70 ERA since the break, and he’s turned in two gems against the Rays during that time.

Bud Norris exits outing with right knee soreness

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Angels’ right-handed reliever Bud Norris made his 23rd appearance of the season on Friday, and after just three pitches, he was done for the night. He worked a 2-1 count to Marlins’ Dee Gordon in the eighth inning, then promptly exited the field after experiencing some tightness in his right knee. Neither Norris nor manager Mike Scioscia believe the injury is cause for major concern, and the 32-year-old right-hander admitted that it may have had something to do with his lack of stretching before he took the mound. For now, he’s day-to-day with right knee soreness, with the hope that the issue doesn’t escalate over the next few days.

While the Angels are lucky to have avoided serious injury, they’ll need Norris to pitch at 100% if they want to stay competitive within the AL West. They currently sit a full nine games behind the league-leading Astros, and haven’t been helping their cause after taking five losses in their last eight games. Friday’s 8-5 finale marked their third consecutive loss of the week.

 

When healthy, Norris has been one of the better arms in the Angels’ bullpen. Through 23 2/3 innings, he’s pitched to a 2.66 ERA, 3.4 BB/9 and an outstanding 11.8 SO/9 in 23 outings. The righty hasn’t allowed a single run in four straight appearances, recording three saves and helping the club clinch four wins in that span. This is his second setback of the year after sustaining a partial fingernail tear on his pitching hand during spring training.

Video: Max Scherzer sets record with 13-strikeout outing

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Max Scherzer is a force to be reckoned with. The Nationals’ right-hander delivered a season-high 13 strikeouts against the Padres on Friday, locking down his fifth win and his fourth double-digit strikeout performance of the year.

More remarkably, it was also the 53rd double-digit strikeout performance of Scherzer’s career, tying Clayton Kershaw for the most 10+ strikeout appearances by an active major league pitcher. Chris Sale is a distant third, with 43 to his name, though he’s been making considerable strides to catch up so far this spring.

Scherzer took the Padres to task on Friday night, whiffing 13 of 31 batters during his 108-pitch outing. He started strong, catching Allen Cordoba swinging on a 1-2 count to start the game and keeping the game scoreless until Ryan Schimpf unleashed a home run in the fourth inning. That was the first and final run the Padres managed off of Scherzer, who retired 14 consecutive batters following the blast and came one out shy of a complete game in the ninth inning. (Fittingly, Koda Glover polished off the win with a final strikeout, bringing the total to 14 on the night.)

It’ll take more than one stellar start to advance Scherzer and Kershaw on the all-time list, however. Their 53-game record ranks 13th, about 159 games behind second-place Hall of Fame hurler Randy Johnson and a full 162 games shy of the inimitable Nolan Ryan.