This weekend brings several intriguing division matchups on MLB.TV, but it will be tough to top tonight's NL West showdown in San Francisco.Those matchups include Stephen Strasburg and the Nationals welcoming the Phillies to D.C., the Cardinals taking on Gerrit Cole in Pittsburgh and the Rangers and Mariners fighting for
This weekend brings several intriguing division matchups on MLB.TV, but it will be tough to top tonight's NL West showdown in San Francisco.
Those matchups include Stephen Strasburg and the Nationals welcoming the Phillies to D.C., the Cardinals taking on Gerrit Cole in Pittsburgh and the Rangers and Mariners fighting for American League West supremacy in Seattle. It all leads up to a duel between Clayton Kershaw and Johnny Cueto, as the Dodgers try to cut into the Giants' National League West lead.
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Here is a look at what to watch for today in the Majors (all times ET):
Aces by the Bay: LAD@SF, 10:15 p.m.
The Dodgers have an opportunity to cut into the Giants' four-game division lead as they open this three-game set at AT&T Park, where San Francisco took three of four from them early this season. L.A. will have to contend with right-hander Johnny Cueto, who has allowed two runs or fewer in six straight starts, posting a 0.79 ERA over that span. Cueto also will be working with two extra days of rest. Meanwhile, Kershaw enters the day with a league-leading 1.46 ERA -- including 0.81 since the start of May -- and an 18.2 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Despite not being at the top of his game, the lefty held the Braves scoreless over six innings in his last outing.
"I wasn't great tonight," Kershaw said afterward. "Physically I felt fine, but the ball just wasn't coming out. One of those days where it was a grind. Thankfully, I made it through six."
Stat that matters: In 15 career starts at AT&T Park, Kershaw has allowed more than two runs only once while throwing four shutouts and producing a 1.23 ERA.
Streaking Strasburg: PHI@WSH, 7:05 p.m.
The Nationals, who are 5-4 against the Phillies this season, return home to open a six-game stand tonight. Washington, which leads the NL East by 2 1/2 games over the Mets, sends Strasburg to the mound in the opener against Jeremy Hellickson. The Nats right-hander has won his last 12 decisions, going back to last year, and just passed 1,000 career strikeouts -- setting team records in both cases. A right leg cramp forced Strasburg from his most recent outing, last Saturday in Cincinnati, after 5 1/3 innings, three runs and 10 Ks. However, the issue was not considered serious.
"He was kinda short-legging it. You could sorta see it. It's kinda self-explanatory," Nats manager Dusty Baker said after the game. "He was grabbing it and rubbing it so it was time to go. I think he had 90 pitches so he was pretty close to his limit anyway. It was just time to take him out."
Stat that matters: Strasburg has six starts with double-digit strikeouts this season, trailing only Kershaw.
Bucs in control: STL@PIT, 7:05 p.m.
The Pirates have had the Cardinals' number this year, winning five of their six meetings, including a season-opening three-game sweep in Pittsburgh. Now St. Louis returns to PNC Park with the two clubs tied for second in the NL Central at 32-28. The Cardinals have been playing better ball of late, however, winning eight of their last 12, while the Bucs have dropped nine out of 13. On the other hand, St. Louis needs right-hander Michael Wacha to turn it around, as he has posted an 8.38 ERA in 29 innings over his past six outings. Wacha opposes Cole (2.85 ERA), who has allowed more than three earned runs in only one of his 11 starts.
Stat that matters: Cole's season high in strikeouts is seven, and he has recorded five or fewer seven times. His strikeout rate, which was above 24 percent each of the previous two seasons, is 18.6 percent.
You again? TEX@SEA, 10:10 p.m.
These clubs are not strangers, as this will be their 10th meeting already in 2016. The Rangers are 6-3 thus far, including a sweep at Globe Life Park last weekend, part of a stretch in which they have won 15 of 19 without dropping consecutive games. Since May 28, Texas has jumped from a half-game behind Seattle to four games ahead at 37-23, the best mark in the AL. However, the Rangers are only at .500 on the road (13-13) as they open this three-game set at Safeco Field, the first part of a 10-game trip. The pitching matchup is a repeat of Sunday's game, in which Texas lefty Derek Holland and Seattle righty Hisashi Iwakuma both went seven innings, Holland allowing two runs and Iwakuma three (one earned).
Stat that matters: When Iwakuma gets to two strikes, opponents have chased 54.5 percent of the pitches he's thrown out of the zone, the third-highest rate among qualified pitchers.
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Andrew Simon is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB.