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What to watch for in today's games

The race for the American League East has taken a sudden twist over the last two weeks, as the Blue Jays swept the Yankees and have reeled off an 11-game win streak to take control of the division. New York will get the chance to strike back today, when the two teams begin a three-game weekend series.

The Blue Jays will start lefty David Price in the opener, and he's been untouchable in two starts since arriving in a deal at the non-waiver Trade Deadline. Price is 2-0 with a 0.60 ERA in his first two outings with the Blue Jays, and he held the Yankees scoreless through seven innings in a win last week.

New York will counter with right-hander Ivan Nova, who has made eight starts this season after missing much of last year due to reconstructive surgery on his pitching elbow. Nova has completed six innings in half of his eight starts, and he's held the opposition to fewer than three runs five times.

Here are a few other matchups and games to look forward to today.

Playoff preview -- PIT @ NYM, 7:10 p.m. ET
The Pirates actually have a better record than the National League East-leading Mets, but they're playing for the NL's top Wild Card slot because of the torrid play of the Cardinals. Pittsburgh has the second-best record in the NL but has posted a losing record away from home.

The Mets, by contrast, are one of just two NL teams -- along with the Cardinals -- with more than 40 wins at home. New York will hand the ball to veteran Bartolo Colon today, and the 42-year-old will be looking to improve on his 10-11 record and 4.76 ERA. He has just one no-decision in 22 starts.

The Pirates will go with left-hander J.A. Happ, who started his season with the Mariners and was acquired by Pittsburgh at the Deadline. Happ is 4-7 with a 4.78 ERA in 21 outings this season but was lit up for eight hits and four earned runs in 4 1/3 innings in his Pirates debut.

Home cooking -- DET @ HOU, 8:10 p.m. ET
Left-hander Dallas Keuchel earned an All-Star nod based on his overall numbers this season, but he has been especially good at Minute Maid Park. Keuchel is 10-0 with a 1.26 ERA in 12 starts at home this season, and he's held opposing hitters to a .179 batting average and a .211 slugging percentage.

Coincidentally, the Astros are among the AL's best home teams, notching a 38-18 record at home and 24-35 outside Houston. The surprising Astros maintain a narrow lead over the Angels in the AL West, and they're one of just five AL teams with more than 500 runs scored.

The high-octane Tigers are also among that select fraternity, and are trying to regain their footing after falling below .500 over the last month. The Tigers last had a winning record (44-43) on July 11. Alfredo Simon will try to get them back on track. Simon is 10-6 with a 4.74 ERA this season.

Wild Cards -- WAS @ SF, 10:15 p.m. ET
Both the Nationals and Giants are in second place in their respective divisions and jockeying for position for the NL's second Wild Card slot. Both have plenty of time to catch the leaders in their division, but they'll be watching each other carefully as the Wild Card picture solidifies over the next month.

Max Scherzer will start for the Nationals, and he'll be trying to end an eight-start skid that has seen his ERA go up by more than half a run. Scherzer had a 1.79 ERA at the end of June but a 3.83 mark over his last eight outings, and the Nationals have lost five of those games.

San Francisco right-hander Matt Cain, a three-time All-Star, began his season late due to injury and has had trouble finding his best form. He has completed six innings three times in his first seven starts and has given up at least four earned runs five times. He has allowed six homers in seven starts.

Spencer Fordin is a reporter for