What we're watching: Dice-K returns vs. Halos

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– Now up five games over the Rangers in the loss column, the Red Sox have some margin for error in the wild-card chase. However, making tonight’s game particularly important is that Daisuke Matsuzaka will be rejoining the rotation and facing likely ALDS opponent Los Angeles. Matsuzaka last pitched in the majors on June 19, when he lost to the Braves to fall to 1-5 with an 8.23 ERA. Dice-K is expected to make four starts as he auditions for a spot in the postseason rotation, which is currently slated to include Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz. The Red Sox would also surely like to stay in John Lackey’s head. The Angels ace is 3-6 with a 5.54 ERA against Boston in the regular season and 0-2 with a 3.66 ERA in three postseason starts.
– Adam Wainwright can take another step forward in his Cy Young bid by beating the Marlins. If he can notch his 19th win, he’d go three ahead of teammate Chris Carpenter for the NL lead. He’s gone 6-0 in his last seven starts. Trying to put up a fight for the Marlins will be big left-hander Sean West. The Marlins have won the 23-year-old’s last four starts, though all came against second-division teams. He’s 6-5 with a 4.81 ERA in 17 starts this season. His only win over a postseason contender came on June 8, when he shut out the Giants for eight innings.
Game of the Night
Colorado vs. San Francisco – Tim Lincecum’s impressive outing Monday allowed the Giants to pick up their second game on the Rockies in two days, but tonight’s matchup would seem to favor Colorado, assuming that Ubaldo Jimenez’s hamstring is sound. Jimenez, who was pushed back three days because of the injury, is turning in perhaps the strongest season ever for a Rockies starter. He’s 6-1 in his last eight starts and 13-10 with a 3.32 ERA for the season. Against the Giants this year, he’s gone 2-2 with a 2.48 ERA. Starting for San Francisco will be Barry Zito, who allowed two runs — one earned — over 14 1/3 innings in back-to-back starts against Colorado on Aug 24 and 29. Unfortunately, he hasn’t been as sharp since. In two starts this month, he’s allowed five runs and walked seven in nine innings.

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.