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Key things to watch for in today's games

If the Yankees and Rays are going to separate themselves from the rest of the pack in the American League East, they'll have to do it with pitching. Chris Archer has been a constant force at the top of Tampa Bay's rotation, and he'll be matched against Masahiro Tanaka on Friday at Yankee Stadium, 7:05 p.m. ET.

Archer allowed five runs in his last outing, but prior to that game, he had won six straight decisions. The right-hander struck out 10 batters last time out, but he also allowed a season-high three home runs. Even with that last start, Archer logged a 4-1 record and a 2.63 ERA in his six June outings.

Tanaka's road has been a bit rockier. The right-hander started strong in April but missed May while on the disabled list, and he pitched to a 2-2 record and a 4.35 ERA in five June outings. Tanaka has struggled at Yankee Stadium, where he's notched a 5.57 ERA in his first four starts this season.

Here are a few other matchups and games to look forward to on Friday:

Race for the West: LAA @ TEX, 8:05 p.m. ET
The Angels are progressing in the hunt for the AL West title without former general manager Jerry Dipoto, who stepped down earlier in the week. Both Los Angeles and Texas have fought their way over .500, leaving Seattle and Oakland in their wake, and they can see first-place Houston on the horizon.

The Angels will go with Garrett Richards on Friday, who has pitched to an 8-5 record and a 3.54 ERA in his first 14 outings. Richards had a rough June, posting a 4.19 ERA and a 1.34 WHIP in six outings. That number is skewed by one start, though, in which he allowed six earned runs to the Yankees.

Texas rookie Chi Chi Gonzalez has lost three straight decisions, but he's 2-3 with a 2.59 ERA in his first six big league outings. Gonzalez has allowed two runs or fewer in four of his first six starts.

Video: [email protected]: Gonzalez allows three runs over six frames

Feats of Clayton: NYM @ LAD, 10:10 p.m. ET
Clayton Kershaw isn't accustomed to having a losing record. Kershaw, the NL's two-time defending Cy Young Award winner, will go into this game having lost three straight starts for the first time in his career. Kershaw is 5-6 with a 3.20 ERA this season, and he's never logged a losing record in his career.

Kershaw, despite his recent blip of losing results, has actually pitched well in the last month. The Dodgers' ace is 2-3 with a 2.16 ERA in his last six outings, and he has 57 strikeouts in his last 41 2/3 innings. The southpaw is 5-0 with a 1.62 ERA in seven career starts against the Mets.

Rookie Noah Syndergaard will get the ball for New York, and he's gone 3-4 with a 3.59 ERA in his first nine big league starts. Syndergaard has allowed four home runs, but he's also hit one.

Video: Kershaw, Syndegaard set to square off in opener

Spencer Fordin is a reporter for