deGrom takes on the Pirates in Queens; Garza debuts opposite Bumgarner
By Chad Thornburg
First place in the American League East is on the line as the Orioles and Red Sox -- tied atop the division standings at 36-26 -- open a three-game series at Fenway Park today.
It's the third meeting between these AL East foes. The Orioles lead the season series, 4-3, with 12 head-to-head matchups remaining. Chris Tillman will start for Baltimore in the opener, while David Price goes for Boston.
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Here's what to watch for throughout the day (all times ET):
AL East showdown: BAL@BOS, 7:10 p.m.
Since the Red Sox reclaimed second place in the AL East from the Blue Jays on April 25, Boston and Baltimore have never been more than three games apart in the standings. They have exchanged first place four times in that span, and share the lead entering their third head-to-head series of the year.
The Orioles are looking to get a repeat performance from Tillman, who struck out nine over 7 1/3 scoreless innings against the Royals on Wednesday. Tillman hasn't lost a start since April 14. The Tigers will send Price to the mound. Price has lost back-to-back outings, despite allowing just two earned runs in each.
Stat that matters:Chris Davis has homered in five consecutive games, one shy of his career-best streak from 2012. That six-game streak tied Reggie Jackson's 1976 franchise record.
deGrom seeks support from Mets: PIT@NYM, 7:10 p.m.
deGrom has limited his opponents to three or fewer earned runs in nine of his 10 starts this season, resulting in a 2.80 ERA. The Mets right-hander has only three wins to show for it, however, as the bats have averaged just 3.7 runs of support behind him. deGrom has struck out 19 batters through his last two outings, but the Mets scored just two total runs. He'll look to earn his first victory since April 30 -- a span of seven starts (five no-decisions, two losses) -- when he takes the mound against the Pirates at Citi Field.
deGrom's Pittsburgh counterpart has yet to be determined. Juan Nicasio was scheduled to start but tossed 40 pitches as a reliever in the Pirates' loss to the Cardinals on Friday. Left-hander Jeff Locke and No. 4 prospect Jameson Taillon are two candidates to toe the rubber for the Bucs.
Stat that matters: deGrom last pitched on June 7. He has a 2.59 ERA in 10 previous starts when pitching on six or more days of rest.
Garza returns opposite Bumgarner, Giants: MIL@SF, 10:15 p.m.
Brewers right-hander Matt Garza will make his season debut, coming off the 60-day disabled list (right lat strain). He was sidelined since incurring the injury in his final spring tuneup; he made three rehab starts with Class A Wisconsin. He draws a tough assignment for his return to big league action, matching up against a red-hot Bumgarner, who hasn't allowed more than one run in any of his last six starts. The Giants ace owns a 0.84 ERA in that span and has struck out 44 batters against just 11 walks.
Stat that matters: Bumgarner is throwing first-pitch strikes 73.6 percent of the time (103-of-140) over the past 30 days. That ranks second among all qualified starting pitchers in that span.
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Chad Thornburg is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.