Cano heads back to Bronx; Keuchel, Greinke look for improvement in third outings
By Andrew Simon
Today is Jackie Robinson Day, as teams across the Major Leagues celebrate the 69th anniversary of the Hall of Famer breaking the sport's color barrier.
It will be a particularly meaningful celebration in Los Angeles, where Robinson's old team, the Dodgers, host the Giants. Rachel and Sharon Robinson, Jackie's wife and daughter, will be in attendance, and players on both teams will be wearing No. 42, as will all uniformed personnel around the league. As if the game needed any additional hype, it will feature a star-studded pitching matchup between a pair of rival left-handers, the Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw and the Giants' Madison Bumgarner.
Here is a look at what to watch for as all 30 teams take the field on this special day (all times ET).
Robbie returns: SEA@NYY, 7:05 p.m.
In two previous seasons with the Mariners since leaving the Yankees, Robinson Cano has slugged three home runs, driven in 10 and posted an .816 OPS during 12 meetings with his former club. As he comes back to Yankee Stadium again, his power stroke certainly is clicking. Although Cano is batting .189, five of his seven hits have been home runs, propping up a .622 slugging percentage. He's sure to hear a mix of reactions from the Bronx faithful as he heads up to take his cuts against 22-year-old right-hander Luis Severino.
"I understand [why they act the way they do]," Cano said. "I agree with them. I'm not there anymore. It's not like you're going to cheer for [someone on the opposing team the way you'd cheer for] one of your guys. I have fun with it. I don't have any complaints about Yankees fans. They remember me and supported me, and it's something I'm always going to appreciate."
Stat that matters: It's been a struggle this year for the Mariners, who are 3-6 and just scored 11 total runs over their six-game homestand. The club's hitters have come up with at least one runner in scoring position in only 17.9 percent of their plate appearances, second-lowest in MLB heading into Thursday.
Dallas in Houston: DET@HOU, 8:10
Reigning American League Cy Young Award winner Dallas Keuchel has pitched twice in 2016, allowing five runs and walking 10 batters over 12 2/3 innings. But both of those outings were on the road, and the left-hander is a different pitcher in the comfort of Minute Maid Park. Counting the postseason, he is 17-0 in his last 22 starts there, and last year he produced a 1.46 ERA, 5.0 strikeout-to-walk ratio and .186 opponent average in Houston. Yet the Tigers figure to pose a challenge, coming off three straight wins with at least seven runs scored against Pittsburgh. Detroit can throw right-handed sluggers such as Miguel Cabrera, J.D. Martinez and Justin Upton at Keuchel, who will oppose righty Mike Pelfrey, making his second Tigers outing.
Stat that matters: Keuchel has thrown only 56 percent of his pitches for strikes this season, the fifth-lowest rate among 129 qualified pitchers as of Thursday.
Southpaws in SoCal: SF@LAD, 10:10 p.m.
The rivals meet for the second time this season after the Giants took three of four at AT&T Park last weekend. When Kershaw and Bumgarner clashed in the third game of that series, both pitched well but neither factored in the decision as the Dodgers won, 3-2. Bumgarner got the upper hand in one way, however, cranking a home run off his counterpart. It was the Giants ace's second career homer off Kershaw, giving him a chance tonight to join an exclusive club of three players who have gone deep at least three times off the three-time Cy Young Award winner: Adam Dunn (four), Troy Tulowitzki and Chris Denorfia.
"He hit it pretty good," Kershaw said of Bumgarner's last home run. "Any time you give up a home run to a pitcher doesn't feel very good. He's a little different, a pretty solid hitter, but don't want to give up a hit to a pitcher, let alone a home run."
Stat that matters: Bumgarner's next home run would be the 13th of his career, breaking a tie with Yovani Gallardo for the most among active pitchers. His 10 long balls since 2014 account for 23 percent of all homers hit by pitchers over that span.
Get Greinke going: ARI@SD, 10:40 p.m.
Needless to say, this is not what the D-backs had in mind when they signed Zack Greinke to a six-year deal worth more than $200 million this offseason. The right-hander has allowed at least four runs in both of his starts thus far, and he is 0-2 with a 9.90 ERA and a 1.044 opponent OPS. Greinke did improve in his second outing against the Cubs, striking out eight over six innings, but still was far from satisfied.
"Overall it wasn't very good and needs to be better," Greinke said. "I'll do what I can to do better from here on out. Just too many mistakes, getting hit hard early and then started pitching better later, but just not good enough so far. I've got to start pitching better from here on out."
Greinke, who will oppose James Shields, will try to get untracked against a Padres team that scored a total of one run while losing its last three games in Philadelphia.
Stat that matters: This season, San Diego already has a pair of three-game streaks scoring no more than one run. The club hasn't had a four-game streak like that since Aug. 14-17, 2012.
Andrew Simon is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.