White Sox go for sweep at Fenway Park; Cubs try to avoid first 4-game skid behind Lester
By Andrew Simon
Tim Lincecum's return to the Major Leagues could not have gone much better. But can "The Freak" keep it going?
Lincecum will try to answer that question tonight, when the two-time former Cy Young Award winner faces the same opponent he beat in last Saturday's season debut. About a month after signing with the Angels, Lincecum held the A's to one run on four hits over six innings, in a 7-1 victory at Oakland.
The rematch is scheduled for 10:05 p.m. ET in Anaheim, one of nine games available today on MLB.TV.
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Here is a look at what to watch for today in the Majors (all times ET):
Timmy, part two: OAK@LAA, 10:05 p.m.
Back in the Bay Area, where he made his mark with the Giants, Lincecum started a big league game for the first time since last June 27 and showed he still can be effective in the wake of last September's left hip surgery. Lincecum, who will pitch opposite righty Kendall Graveman this time around, struck out two and walked two while throwing 59 of 98 pitches for strikes. He was happy with the performance, even though he felt his mechanics "were a little erratic."
"I didn't necessarily see this game going as well as it did," Lincecum said. "But it panned out and it gave me a little more confidence knowing I can push through to the next game. I know it's kind of hard to accept for a pitcher who has been through a lot and done a lot, but like I said, I'm trying to move on and try to become a different player."
Stat that matters: Only four other times in his career had Lincecum pitched at least six innings while recording no more than a pair of strikeouts.
Sox, and more Sox: CWS@BOS, 1:35 p.m.
The White Sox have a chance to sweep this four-game series at Fenway Park, but they need James Shields to look like the pitcher they thought they were acquiring from the Padres earlier this month. In his first three starts for Chicago, the right-hander has lasted a mere 8 2/3 innings while allowing 22 runs (21 earned) on 24 hits and five homers, with nine walks and five strikeouts. The Red Sox, who now trail the Orioles by two games in the American League East, will counter with Rick Porcello. In six starts at home this season, the righty has posted a 3.03 ERA and 39-to-6 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 38 2/3 innings.
Stat that matters: Including his last outing with San Diego, Shields has allowed at least seven runs in four straight appearances (32 total).
Lester a stopper?: CHC@MIA, 7:10 p.m.
For most teams, a three-game losing streak isn't particularly notable. But for the Cubs, who have MLB's best record at 47-23, their current slide of back-to-back-to-back defeats matches a season high, done only one other time. After dropping three straight from May 21-23, Chicago responded by going 18-6 until a just-completed sweep by the Cardinals at Wrigley Field. The Cubs now begin an 11-game road trip at Miami, where Jon Lester will try to keep rolling while halting his club's brief slump. The left-hander has strung together five straight quality starts (and wins), with a 1.24 ERA, .518 opponent OPS and 40-to-5 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Stat that matters: Lester's lefty counterpart, the Marlins' Wei-Yin Chen (5.22 ERA), comes into this outing having allowed at least four runs in three straight starts for the first time in five Major League seasons.
Zack attack: ARI@COL, 8:40 p.m.
It's been a successful road trip thus far for the D-backs, who won the first five games -- matching their season-high win streak -- before losing at Toronto on Wednesday. Now Arizona starts a four-game set in Denver, where it won two of three last month. The third-place Rockies, who are 1 1/2 games ahead of the D-backs in the National League West standings, will have to contend with Zack Greinke in the series opener. Greinke, opposing Eddie Butler, owns a 0.87 ERA and has held opponents to a .441 OPS over four starts this month.
"I feel like I've been throwing more quality strikes," said Greinke, who has won his last seven outings. "Instead of just throwing strikes, it's been where I want it to be, kind of. That's the biggest difference."
Stat that matters: Greinke has allowed fewer earned runs in his last 10 starts (19, 2.41 ERA) than in his first five (21, 6.16)
MLB.TV Premium subscribers get the Mosaic View -- split screen or quad, available on PC or Mac only. That always comes in handy, especially when scoreboard-watching looms. MLB.TV Premium and MLB.TV Single Team subscribers both enjoy HD and both will get real-time highlights and player stats automatically loaded moments after they occur (only for the game you are watching with MLB.TV Single Team, and for all games with MLB.TV Premium).
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.