Key things to watch for in today's games

Key things to watch for in today's games

The drama keeps increasing. While plenty of eyes will be trained on the Subway Series between the Mets and Yankees and the potential playoff preview of the Cardinals and Cubs on Friday, the Twins and Angels will be playing with even higher stakes. For these teams, every win is crucial.

The Twins narrowly trail the Astros in the race for the American League's second Wild Card, and the Angels are trying to climb back into contention in the season's final few weeks. Veteran Mike Pelfrey will get the ball for Minnesota on Friday, and he'll be matched against rookie Andrew Heaney in an 8:10 p.m. ET matchup.

Heaney, acquired in the offseason, has given the Angels a 6-3 record and a 3.32 ERA in his first 15 starts this season. The left-hander has been especially good (3-1 with a 2.11) in six road starts.

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

Subway tokens: NYY @ NYM, 7:10 p.m. ET

The Yankees and Mets are matched up in September in a season that should see both of them progress to the playoffs. The Mets have developed a really strong lead in the National League East, and the Yankees are pursuing both an AL East title and a chance to cement a Wild Card slot.

Masahiro Tanaka will get the ball for the Yankees on Friday, and he'll be trying to build on a performance that saw him throw seven shutout innings against the heavy-hitting Blue Jays. Tanaka has given up 22 home runs in 22 starts this season after allowing 15 homers through 20 starts last year.

Meet the Matz. Steven Matz, the Mets' rookie starter, has gone 3-0 with a 1.88 ERA in his first four big league starts, and he's yet to allow more than two earned runs in any outing. Matz has completed six innings just twice, and he was 7-4 with a 2.19 ERA for Triple-A Las Vegas prior to his promotion.

Matz's third win

The hunted: SEA @ TEX, 8:05 p.m. ET
The Rangers know exactly what it's like to be chasing the leader. Now they have to deal with the pack placing the targets on their back. Texas narrowly pulled ahead of the Astros in the AL West, by virtue of winning a head-to-head series this week, and now it will try to stay hot against Seattle.

Yovani Gallardo was one of the Rangers' most effective pitchers in August, when he went 4-0 with a 1.98 ERA, but the veteran has slumped to a 5.52 mark across his three September starts. The right-hander has shown no home-road split this season, notching a 3.42 ERA at home and a 3.29 mark away.

James Paxton came off the disabled list last week following a four-month stint with a finger injury, and he couldn't get out of the fourth inning in his return outing. The left-hander has a 3-4 record and a 3.82 ERA in 11 starts this season. Paxton, 26 years old, has made 28 starts split over three seasons.

Gallardo escapes trouble

Duel in DC: MIA @ WAS, 7:05 p.m. ET
Two of the game's premier starting pitchers will square off Friday night when Miami's Jose Fernandez toes the rubber in the series opener opposite Washington's Max Scherzer.

It will be Fernandez's second straight start against the Nationals after he tossed five scoreless innings with seven strikeouts against the Nats on Saturday in his most recent return from the disabled list.

Scherzer also made a start against the Marlins in that same series, firing eight shutout frames with six strikeouts in a Sunday victory.

Scherzer's scoreless start

Potential playoff foes meet: PIT @ LAD, 10:10 p.m. ET
The Pirates will look to bounce back from dropping three straight to the Cubs -- their potential opponent in the Wild Card Game presented by Budweiser -- when they head to Los Angeles on Friday to face another postseason contender in the Dodgers.

The two clubs open a three-game set at Dodger Stadium with the Pirates currently holding onto the first Wild Card spot and the Dodgers holding a sizable lead in the National League West.

The Dodgers will send NL Cy Young candidate Zack Greinke to the mound in the series opener, while Pittsburgh will counter with left-hander Jeff Locke.

Greinke goes eight scoreless

Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.