Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 13:58 PM
Friday's Diamond Notes
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Hottest team: Indians (6-0 last six)
After back-to-back 13-0 losses against the Orioles, the Tribe closed out June with a shutout in Baltimore and then rolled in Kansas City and Cincinnati to get to 50 wins by the break. Starting pitching has delivered during the run, while Francisco Lindor has been on a tear. The Indians will be playing at home for the first time since June 26 and have won five of their last six at Progressive Field, home of Tuesday’s All-Star Game.
Cleveland is 25-18 there this season, the fifth-best home record in the American League, and would be the second wild card if the playoffs started today. It sends Mike Clevinger to the mound against the AL Central-leading Twins, who counter with Kyle Gibson. Clevinger (2-2, 4.44 ERA) lost his first two outings upon returning from the injured list after an ankle sprain but struck out nine Royals and pitched six scoreless innings in a 4-0 triumph in Kansas City on July 3. Clevinger has yet to allow a run in 12 innings at home this season and has gone 15-7 there over his career, winning eight of his last 11 decisions. Minnesota righty Kyle Gibson (8-4, 4.09) pitched one inning on short rest last time out (July 7) because the team didn’t want him too have too long a break in between starts. This will be his first outing against the Indians this season. Lindor and Jason Kipnis are a combined 27-for-67 (.402) with a home run against Gibson. Minnesota leads Cleveland by 5.5 games entering this key series. The teams have split their six matchups so far this season.
Coldest team: Rockies (0-6 last six, 4-11 last 15)
The Rockies have been on a rollercoaster most of the season and have yet to win this month, dropping home games against the Dodgers and Astros in addition to suffering a three-game sweep at the hands of the Diamondback to slip back below .500 just before the All-Star break. Colorado opens a seven-game homestand against the Reds and then welcomes the Giants into town, so it should be favored in every game until leaving for New York and a three-game interleague series in the Bronx on July 19. Colorado will be facing Cincinnati for the first time this season and is looking to get back on track offensively after scoring just seven runs over its last four losses.
The Reds send Sonny Gray (5-5, 3.59) to the mound to follow up his most effective start of the season after striking out a dozen Brewers over eight innings in a 3-0 shutout win on July 3. This will be his first-ever start at Denver’s Coors Field after years pitching for American League teams. He’s only faced Rockies catcher Chris Iannetta, Ian Desmond and Daniel Murphy, who are a combined 3-for-28 against him in career at-bats, so we’ll see how he fares in high altitude. Jon Gray (9-6, 3.92), no relation, had won four straight starts prior to a 4-2 loss to the D-backs on July 6 and has surrendered three or fewer runs in his last four starts. He’s 4-1 with a 3.35 ERA in seven appearances at home this season.
Hottest pitcher: Gerrit Cole, Astros (9-5, 3.09 ERA)
Since getting roughed up at home by the White Sox on May 22, Cole has allowed two or fewer earned runs in eight straight starts, striking out 70 batters while walking just 13. Houston has won seven of those eight contests, all of which have seen Cole work at leas six frames. The Rangers have beaten Cole twice this season, but lost 11-4 on Mary 11, the last time they faced him after roughing him up twice in April. Cole has a 6.61 ERA over 16.1 innings against Texas, striking out 29 Rangers. He’ll look to help Houston bounce back from a 5-0 defeat in the series opener on Thursday night. Jesse Chavez (3-4, 3.34), who is working as a conventional starter after initially serving as an opener after beginning the season in the bullpen, has given up four runs in five innings over three appearances against the Astros this season. Despite Thursday’s 5-0 loss, Cole’s presence has led to Houston being Friday’s second-heaviest favorite (-190 at Westgate Superbook).
Coldest pitcher: Aaron Sanchez (3-12, 6.16 ERA)
The Yankees (-270) are Friday’s largest MLB ‘chalk’ as they send Domingo German (10-2, 3.67) to the mound at Yankee Stadium, where he’s won four of five decisions while posting just a 2.03 ERA. He’s opposed by Toronto’s Sanchez, who has been one of baseball’s worst starters so far, dropping 11 consecutive decisions, including eight in succession. He hasn’t won since April 27 and has pitched in only one Blue Jays’ victory over his last 12 appearances After posting a June ERA of 12.00 in dropping all six of his starts last month, Sanchez opened July in promising fashion, giving up just two runs over five frames in a 4-1 loss to Baltimore. He’s only faced New York once this season, surrendering seven runs in a 10-8 loss in the Bronx on June 24. Sanchez has struggled most with Didi Gregorius and Aaron Hicks, who are a combined 10-for-25 (.400) against him with a homer and four RBI. Sanchez has won only once in nine career appearances at Yankee Stadium, prevailing back in 2014, his rookie season.
Biggest OVER run: Pirates (6-1 last seven)
The Bucs took two of three from the Brewers just before the break, which included a 12-2 outburst on Saturday. Rookies Kevin Newman and Bryan Reynolds have continued the hot start to their major-league careers in serving as catalysts while MVP candidate Josh Bell continues to rank among the leading run producers in the game. With less than five games separating the first and last-place teams in the NL Central, Pittsburgh is in the thick of a divisional race, just 2.5 games behind the Cubs and a half-game behind the Cardinals, who they’ll visit after this opening series at Wrigley. Chris Archer faces Yu Darvish to open the series as Pittsburgh looks to get back to .500 if they can post a third straight win. The Pirates beat Chicago in three of four at home to open July, which included an 18-5 rout on the first of the month.
Biggest UNDER run: Marlins (6-0 last six)
The Fish have dropped six of seven and have only scored more than three runs in a game once in July, struggling to mount much offense against the Nats and Braves on the road. They’ll be back home to open action post-All-Star, but games against the Mets in South Florida often feature more New York fans making their voices heard at Marlins Park, although the Mets were swept there from May 17-19, getting shut out in their last two games. Lefties Caleb Smith and Jason Vargas will square off here and the total (8), looks substantial enough to try and get in on the low-side in Friday’s lone matchup featuring a pair of southpaws.
Matchup to watch: Dodgers at Red Sox
Boston has worked its way back into the thick of the playoff race following its brutal start but needs to reverse the trend of losing the majority of its “statement” games. Against rival New York, the Red Sox are 1-6, having dropped both high-profile games in London. The Astros came into Fenway Park and took two of three, then did the same back in Houston when the teams played in May .
The Red Sox look to get the better of a fellow championship contender with the Dodgers in town for a three-game set in a rematch of last year’s World Series. L.A. owns the best record in baseball, getting to 60 wins first thanks to its brilliant starting pitching and one of baseball’s most productive lineups. The NL MVP is Cody Bellinger’s to lose, and you can imagine he’s itching to rebound after going 1-for-16 against Boston pitching in the Fall Classic, striking out six times and getting caught stealing the only time he managed to get on base. It was a nightmare of a series for the Dodgers’ star, who has managed to reach Mike Trout territory in terms of WAR with 70 games remaining.
Eduardo Rodriguez (9-4, 4.65) will get the ball first to try and get the Sox off to a strong start and has helped the team win 13 games in his last 16 outings. He hasn’t faced Bellinger and has just two quality starts since May 15, but only David Price has been sharper among Boston starters. Rodriguez pitched against L.A. in three of the five games in last year’s World Series, allowing four runs in 6.1 innings. The Dodgers counter with Kenta Maeda, who hasn’t won since May 31 but has only given up more than three runs in a single start once in his last 10 appearances. He pitched three scoreless innings in relief against the Red Sox last October.
Betcha didn’t know: Atlanta starters Dallas Keuchel and San Diego’s Dinleson Lamet will be relied upon heavily over the final 70 games and should have fresher arms after starting the season late. Lamet is coming off Tommy John surgery but proved he's back in nearly touching 100 miles per hour in his return, striking out seven Dodgers over five innings in a 5-1 loss. He hopes to get better run support but could be out of luck given Keuchel's early form.
The former Astros' ace has posted consecutive quality starts and enters his fifth start since signing with Atlanta fresh off his longest outing, throwing 108 pitches in 7.1 innings against the Marlins. Keuchel hasn't pitched in San Diego's Petco Park since 2015, throwing eight innings of one-run ball. Current Padres Manny Machado, Eric Hosmer, Ian Kinsler and Wil Myers are a combined 23-for-76 (.302) with a homer and two RBI, all Kinsler's.
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