What we're watching: Carpenter vs. Haeger

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– Francisco Liriano will attempt to build on a strong effort against the Royals when he faces the AL wild card-leading Rangers in Texas.  It will be his second start in Arlington in a month, as he allowed three runs — two earned — in six innings in a no-decision on July 19.  The Rangers will counter with Tommy Hunter, who just shut out the Indians for 7 2/3 innings last time out.  The 2007 supplemental first-round pick is 5-2 with a 2.26 ERA.

 

– Ted Lilly will rejoin the Cubs’ rotation tonight after missing four starts due to left shoulder inflammation and a knee injury that required minor surgery.  It looks like he’ll be able to ease back into action against a Padres team that has been especially weak against left-handers (.229/.300/.368).  Lilly is 5-2 with a 3.55 ERA against San Diego in his career.

 

Game of the Night

 

St. Louis vs. Los Angeles – The NL’s two winningest teams will begin a three-game series with a rather lopsided pitching matchup.  Cardinals ace Chris Carpenter is 12-3 with a 2.27 ERA that ranks second in the majors.  Dodgers knuckleballer Charlie Haeger is 1-2 with a 6.35 ERA in a career that includes one start and 18 relief appearances.  It will be his debut for the team after he went 11-6 with a very impressive 3.55 ERA for Triple-A Albuquerque.  Away from the offensive paradise the Isotopes play in half of the time, he had a 2.44 ERA.

Hunter Pence is mashing for the Rangers

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Hunter Pence was thought to be on his way to retirement after a lackluster 2018 season with the Giants. As he entered his mid-30’s, Pence spent a considerable amount of time on the injured list, playing in 389 out of 648 possible regular season games with the Giants from 2015-18.

Pence, however, kept his career going, inking a minor league deal with the Rangers in February. He performed very well in spring training, earning a spot on the Opening Day roster. Pence hasn’t stopped hitting.

Entering Monday night’s game against the Mariners, Pence was batting .299/.358/.619 with eight home runs and 28 RBI in 109 plate appearances, mostly as a DH. Statcast agrees that Pence has been mashing the ball. He has an average exit velocity of 93.3 MPH this season, which would obliterate his marks in each of the previous four seasons since Statcast became a thing. His career average exit velocity is 89.8 MPH. He has “barreled” the ball 10.4 percent of the time, well above his 6.2 percent average.

What Pence did to a baseball in the seventh inning of Monday’s game, then, shouldn’t come as a surprise.

That’s No. 9 on the year for Pence. Statcast measured it at 449 feet and 108.3 MPH off the bat. Not only is Pence not retired, he may be a lucrative trade chip for the Rangers leading up to the trade deadline at the end of July.