Nearly out of the dog days of summer, and with pennant races heating up, an exciting weekend slate opens on MLB.TV, with all 30 clubs in action.
In the Bronx, the Yankees continue their pursuit of the first-place Red Sox for the top spot in the American League East as part of MLB Network's Showcase coverage. In Phoenix, the Cubs will look to overcome their recent slump against a D-backs club that took two of three from them last week in Chicago. At Tropicana Field, outfielder Jay Bruce will likely make his first Indians start against a Rays club making a run at an AL Wild Card spot. And in Philadelphia, another top Mets prospect makes his big league debut.
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Here's what to watch for (all times ET):
Rivalry renewed in the Bronx: [email protected], 7:05 p.m.
The Red Sox have been one of the Majors' hottest teams, having won eight straight while building a 4 1/2-game cushion over the Yankees in the AL East. Conventionally, they've done so with strong starting pitching.
"We've continued to pitch consistently, and that will be the key for us," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "The way that our starters are now stringing some games together, the run the bullpen has been on for really all year, and more so currently, we set the tone from the mound. And we're going to have to continue to do that as we go into this next series."
Meanwhile, the Yankees have trended in the opposite direction, losing six of their first nine games this month, though they've shown an edge against Boston, outscoring their rivals 38-16 this year. They'll look to continue that trend behind left-hander Jaime Garcia, who will make his second Yankees start.
For Boston, left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez is coming off his best outing since suffering a right knee injury in early June, tossing six innings against Kansas City and giving up two runs. This is his first start against New York this year. He compiled a 3.31 ERA against the Yankees in '16.
Bruce ready to bop for Tribe: [email protected], 7:10 p.m.
The Indians aggressively showed their intentions of pursuing a second straight AL pennant in acquiring slugging outfielder Bruce from the Mets on Wednesday, filling a left-handed void in their lineup and spelling their young outfielders with a veteran presence -- particularly with Michael Brantley and Lonnie Chisenhall on the disabled list. With 29 homers, Bruce is six shy of setting a new career high.
"He's been a consistent power threat," said Chris Antonetti, Indians president of baseball operations. "He's in the midst of having one of the best years of his career in terms of his power output and his slugging, and he's a guy that we think will add to our group on the field and complement our team in the clubhouse."
Bruce will be behind Indians starter Carlos Carrasco, who is coming off a two-start stretch in which batters have hit .375 against him, scoring 10 earned runs in 7 1/3 innings.
For Tampa Bay, right-hander Jacob Faria will look to earn his 10th quality start in 12 outings. He struck out nine in six innings last time out against the Brewers, but took a loss.
Postseason preview?: [email protected], 9:40 p.m.
The Cubs' string of tough losses began against the D-backs last week in Chicago, when they were shut out in a strong start by Zack Godley, and then lost a game a day later when Wade Davis gave up back-to-back homers to Paul Goldschmidt and J.D. Martinez in the ninth inning. They've since dropped two of three to both the Nationals and Giants in ensuing series.
"Be careful with Goldschmidt," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said Wednesday when asked how the club will prepare for the D-backs.
John Lackey has posted a 3.00 ERA since the All-Star break, winning four consecutive starts for the first time since July 2011. He's been much more effective with his arsenal of fastballs in that stretch, as his cutter, two- and four-seamers have accounted for 96.8 percent of his outs since the break, the highest rate among pitchers who've registered at least 50 outs in that stretch.
For Arizona, Taijuan Walker turned in his ninth quality start in 18 tries on Saturday against the Giants, though he started to fall apart in the seventh after giving up consecutive doubles and then a homer to Hunter Pence, eventually finishing with a no-decision. Before that point, he'd struck out six and given up just two hits. With limited run support, Walker hasn't earned a win since June 21.
Welcome to the Show: [email protected], 7:05 p.m.
After trading Bruce and clearing roster space, the Mets continue the rollout of their young talent to see what they have to offer for 2018, when they fully expect to be back in contention. Two weeks after calling up Amed Rosario, the Majors' No. 2 prospect per MLBPipeline.com, the youthful expansion continues today, as the club's No. 2 prospect, Dominic Smith, will make his MLB debut.
"We want to get a look at him beyond just a typical September callup," Mets general manager Sandy Alderson said. "With Bruce going to Cleveland, that's not a direct replacement, but Bruce did play some first base. As the number of veteran players -- potential free agents -- is reduced, we create more playing time."
The club's first-round Draft pick in 2013, Smith was hitting .330 with 16 home runs in 114 games at Triple-A Las Vegas. He will be the Mets' everyday first baseman.