Tulo's Rocky Mountain return, I-70 opener also on tap today
By Matt Kelly
Noah Syndergaard had Citi Field buzzing on May 17, when he struck out 10 and tossed seven shutout innings in leading the Mets to within a half-game of first place in a 2-0 win over the rival Nationals.
Some injuries and inconsistency put New York as low as six games back of Washington two weekends ago, but after winning four of their last six the Mets find themselves just three games out in the National League East as Syndergaard and the Nats ready for Round 2.
Catching the Majors' hardest-throwing starter is just one of a handful of treats for fans to begin the work week. In other action, Jake Arrieta returns to the site of his latest no-hitter for a rematch against the Reds, Troy Tulowitzki makes his first trip back to Colorado and a pair of Missouri clubs renew a classic Midwestern rivalry.
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Here is a look at what to watch for today in the Majors (all times ET):
Thor ready to go for series opener: NYM@WSH, 7:05 p.m.
Manager Terry Collins and Mets fans alike breathed a huge sigh of relief when they learned that Syndergaard, undoubtedly the team's best pitcher so far this year, was cleared to continue pitching after he exited his Wednesday start against the Royals with discomfort in his right elbow. Syndergaard chalked the soreness up to "basic wear and tear," and the Mets feel secure in his elbow's structural integrity as he starts the opener of a big road series with the first-place Nationals.
"When it comes to elbows, I really don't like to mess around with those," Syndergaard said. "When it's bothering me, I'm going to speak up and voice my opinion about it. It turned out to be nothing and I couldn't be more thankful for that."
Syndergaard went right at Bryce Harper in their first showdown this season at Citi Field, inducing an 0-for-4 night with two strikeouts by the Nationals' star. Harper is 3-for-12 lifetime against Syndergaard with four strikeouts. All three of those hits were singles.
Stat that matters: Over his last six starts, Joe Ross -- the Nationals' scheduled starter Monday -- has allowed a 37.5 percent line-drive rate with two strikes in the count, the highest of any Major League starter over the last 30 days.
Arrieta tries to no-no Reds again: CHC@CIN, 7:10 p.m.
Only two men -- the Angels' Tim Lincecum and Hall of Famer Addie Joss -- have no-hit the same team twice in their careers, which Arrieta has a chance to do Monday against the Reds. Arrieta could also surpass Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan for the shortest length of time needed to record three no-hitters. Ryan tossed three of his record seven no-nos in a span of 502 days from his first on May 15, 1973 to his third on Sept. 28, 1974.
Arrieta enjoyed 16 runs of support from the Cubs' offense in his April 22 no-hitter at Great American Ball Park, equaling the second-largest margin of victory in a no-hitter behind the Buffalo Bisons' 18-0 triumph in support of Hall of Famer Pud Galvin on Aug. 4, 1884. The Cubs are averaging 5.2 runs per game this season, third-best in the NL, while the Reds' pitching staff has allowed an NL-most 5.78 runs per contest.
Stat that matters: Arrieta recorded his first 12 outs in that April 22 no-hitter against the Reds on the ground, which is even more impressive considering Cincinnati entered Sunday with the 3rd-lowest ground ball rate (43.7 percent) in the NL. Arrieta entered Sunday ranked seventh in baseball with a 56.5 ground-ball percentage.
Tulo returns: TOR@COL, 8:40 p.m.
There will be a lot of shared memories between Tulowitzki and Rockies fans when the shortstop makes his first visit to Coors Field in opposing colors since he was traded to Toronto in a blockbuster deal last July 27. As a 22-year old rookie, Tulo helped lead Colorado to its first and only World Series appearance in 2007. Two years later, he slugged a career-high 32 home runs and led the Rockies to their last playoff appearance.
Colorado has moved on quickly, however, with new shortstop Trevor Story entering Monday tied for the NL lead in extra-base hits with the Cardinals' Matt Carpenter and leading all Major League rookies with 19 homers and 50 RBIs.
"There will be a little different element to it," Rockies manager Walt Weiss said of Tulo's return. "[Story] and Tulo were pretty close."
Stat that matters: The Blue Jays (342) and Rockies (288) have led their respective leagues in home runs since the start of the 2015 season, and entering Sunday an average of 1.4 homers had been hit at Coors Field this season -- the second-highest total behind Yankee Stadium (1.6 HR/gm). So with these two lineups swinging at this ballpark, there could be plenty of hard-hit souvenirs for fans in the outfield seats.
'Show Me' series: STL@KC, 8:15 p.m.
With each of these two clubs finishing the 2015 regular season with the best records in their respective leagues, many thought an I-70 showdown and a rematch of the 1985 World Series could be on tap before the Cardinals fell short in the NL Division Series. Both teams are back in the playoff mix this year, though Wild Card aspirations seem more likely for each club at this point.
Adam Wainwright, the Cardinals' scheduled starter Monday, is pitching more like his ace status of late, seeing his ERA decrease in each of his last seven starts and giving up just seven earned runs over 26 2/3 innings in June. His opponent Danny Duffy has pitched like an ace since he was brought back up to fill the back of the rotation, allowing three or fewer runs in seven of his eight starts this year.
St. Louis leads the all-time series 50-36 between these intrastate rivals, including a 31-18 edge in games at Kauffman Stadium.
Stat that matters: In the team's last turn through the rotation, Kansas City's relievers pitched 11 more innings than its starters. Royals starters have tallied 394 2/3 innings this season, the lowest total in the Major Leagues.
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Matt Kelly is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @mattkellyMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.