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.

Wade Davis? Greg Holland? Who needs ’em?

KANSAS CITY, MO - AUGUST 21: Joakim Soria #48 of the Kansas City Royals throws in the eighth inning against the Minnesota Twins at Kauffman Stadium on August 21, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
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The story of the two-time defending AL champion and current defending World Series champ Kansas City Royals cannot be told without talking at length about their bullpen.

In 2014, Wade Davis, Greg Holland and Kelvin Herrera formed a shutdown brigade that not only made it next to impossible for the opposition to mount late rallies, but managed something which seemed utterly impossible before 2014: they turned Ned Yost into a tactical genius. Indeed, the only time Yost got criticism at all that fall was when he messed with the autopilot formula that had that three-headed monster handling the 7th, 8th and 9th innings.

Much the same happened in 2015, of course, despite Holland’s sharp decline and eventual injury. Davis and Herrera continued their dominance. They were joined by Ryan Madson and a cast of other effective relievers who, along with timely hitting, great defense and good health, helped propel the Royals to the title.

This year had not been quite the same story. Holland has been out all year and Davis, while effective when he’s pitched, has missed time due to injury. As has longtime contributor and presumptive next-man-up Luke Hochevar. Herrera is basically still Herrera, but Ned Yost has been presented with a decidedly different set of choices. Lots of choices and Ned Yost don’t always go together well, but lately that hasn’t mattered.

Last night the Royals’ bullpen came in to a close game and tossed three scoreless innings. That set a franchise record with 32 straight scoreless frames, besting the previous record set back in the club’s inaugural season in 1969. The streak is a huge part of why the Royals have won nine games in a row.

Unlike the success of 2014-15, the streak is not a three-man show. As Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star notes, eight different relievers have appeared for Kansas City during the streak, with Joakim Soria and Matt Strahm leading the crew with five and a third innings pitched. Herrera has tossed five scoreless. Otherwise it’s been a group effort with even Peter Moylan offering a couple of scoreless frames. And here you thought Moylan was, I dunno, gearing up for the upcoming Brisbane Bandits season. Nope.

The Royals are still not, in my view anyway, a lock to make the postseason. It’s a a crowded field right now. They’re seven and a half back in the AL Central and four back in the Wild Card with a bunch of teams in front of them. But they’re certainly playing themselves back into the conversation. They’re interesting. And they’re doing it in much the same way they’ve done it the past two years. Only with different dudes doing the do.

Video: Mookie Betts made a ridiculous throw last night

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Mookie Betts was an infielder once upon a time and the knock on him both then and since his move to the outfield was that maybe his arm was not fantastic. As an infielder there was talk that he was better suited to the right side than the left. As an outfielder people were saying that, with work, his arm could be average and/or serviceable. Not bad, of course, but not anything to write home about.

Maybe we need to reassess that, because last night he uncorked one from right field that would make Dwight Evans says “dang, man.”

 

And the throw mattered, as Kiermaier represented the tying run in a game that, at the time, the Sox were leading 2-1.

Betts is a dangerous middle-of-the-order bat at age 23. And now he shows that he’ll nail a fast runner with a frozen rope if he has to. The guy is going to win an MVP award some day. And maybe not just one.