The Angels made a huge splash Thursday to show they are serious about staying in the American League Wild Card race, acquiring slugger Justin Upton from the Tigers in maybe the most significant late-August trade in MLB history.Upton could end up being a super-rental, as the outfielder has an opt-out
The Angels made a huge splash Thursday to show they are serious about staying in the American League Wild Card race, acquiring slugger Justin Upton from the Tigers in maybe the most significant late-August trade in MLB history.
Upton could end up being a super-rental, as the outfielder has an opt-out clause in his contract that he can exercise after the season. But for now, he's in Los Angeles, and the Angels are right in the thick of the playoff picture. Adding Upton certainly helps them in that regard.
The four-time All-Star is to debut with his new team tonight against the Rangers, when the Angels open a three-game set in Arlington. How big is Upton's debut? It could even upstage the return of Clayton Kershaw, who will make his first start in six weeks, against the Padres, for the Angels' crosstown rivals. And it highlights a full slate of action to begin Labor Day weekend.
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Here's what else to watch for tonight (all times ET):
Rivalry renewed: BOS@NYY, 7:05 p.m.
There isn't a much better or more intense series than Red Sox vs. Yankees in the Bronx. Welcome to the next chapter of this ancient rivalry.
Boston has had New York's number of late, winning consecutive series against the Yankees to drop them further behind Boston in second place in the AL East. Last time the Red Sox were in New York, Rafael Devers introduced himself to the rivalry, smacking a game-tying homer off Albertin Chapman. Boston's 20-year-old rookie will be back on display in this four-game set. Boston's Doug Fister (3-7, 4.53) opposes New York's Sonny Gray (8-8, 3.26).
Midnight for Toronto? TOR@BAL, 7:05 p.m.
Simply put, the Blue Jays need every game they can get against other AL Wild Card contenders to linger, at least in the background, of the playoff picture. That's what makes this interdivisional series so important for Toronto, which entered the weekend behind eight other teams for the second Wild Card spot.
The Orioles are in a better position, but are still crammed amid a bunch of contenders that haven't been able to separate themselves. These two teams faced off in last year's AL Wild Card Game. This season, it looks like there will only be room for one, if either. Toronto's Joe Biagini (3-9, 5.40) is ready to lock with Orioles right-hander Kevin Gausman (10-9, 4.98) in Baltimore.
NL Wild Card contenders battle: ARI@COL, 8:40 p.m.
The National League Wild Card picture is a bit clearer, though the Marlins and Brewers are complicating things a little. Still, if the season ended today, this would be the NL Wild Card matchup: Rockies vs. D-backs.
The D-backs entered the weekend with a 3 1/2-game lead over Colorado for the first Wild Card spot. But a few wins in either direction this weekend could alter the picture significantly, making this series one of the most important in baseball this weekend. The D-backs are coming off a sweep of the Dodgers, becoming the first team to do that this season. The drama starts tonight with Taijuan Walker (7-7, 3.55) starting for Arizona against Kyle Freeland (11-8, 3.81).
Return of the ace: LAD@SD, 10:10 p.m.
Kershaw is slated to make his much-anticipated return to the mound for the Dodgers, as Los Angeles opens a series against the Padres in San Diego. Kershaw (15-2, 2.04) will be making his first start since July 23, having been sidelined since then with a lower back strain. Even without their ace, the Dodgers have gone 22-9 since then, though they are looking to snap a five-game losing streak.
As he returns to the Dodgers' starting rotation just more than a month before the playoffs begin, Kershaw's first test will be the Padres, who took two of three from the Giants earlier in the week. San Diego will send rookie right-hander Dinelson Lamet (7-5, 4.60) to the hill. In five August starts, Lamet posted a 2.54 ERA, though he walked 16 in 28 1/3 innings.
Joe Trezza is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @joetrezz.