Lester takes on Dodgers in LA; Bumgarner seeks more success vs. Braves
By Chad Thornburg
With a little more than a month left in the regular season, the American League Wild Card race is wide open.
The Yankees are making considerable noise among the seven teams vying for the two playoff spots. Fueled by breakout rookie Gary Sanchez's power surge, New York is trending upward, having won four straight games to reach a season-high six games over .500.
The Yankees will try for the sweep today against the Orioles, one of the teams they're pursuing in the Wild Card standings. It's just one of several intriguing matchups available for streaming live on MLB.TV.
MLB.TV Premium has the same features as last year, and it is now available for a limited-time offer of just $9.99 for the rest of the year to celebrate the 14th anniversary of the first live video stream of a Major League Baseball game, between the Rangers and Yankees on Aug. 26, 2002.
This package has the best value and provides access to more than 400 devices and a free subscription to the MLB.com At Bat Premium app (a $19.99 value). It offers the best picture quality ever -- a new 60 frames per second -- for supported devices.
Here's what to watch for throughout the day (all times in ET):
Sabathia, Yanks go for sweep: BAL@NYY, 1:05 p.m.
In an effort to exploit a lefty-heavy Orioles lineup, Yankees manager Joe Girardi will send CC Sabathia to the mound, one day ahead of his previously scheduled start. Sabathia is holding left-handed hitters to a .214 average this season compared with a .262 mark vs. righties. The veteran hurler is coming off his best outing in more than two months, allowing just one run and three hits over seven innings in a win over the Mariners on Tuesday. The Yankees are hopeful Sabathia is rounding into form just in time for a playoff push.
"I think it's really big, because he's the one guy in our rotation that has been through this a lot, and there has been a lot put on his shoulders," Girardi said. "He can really help."
The Orioles will counter with right-hander Kevin Gausman, who tossed six shutout innings against the Nationals in his last start. He's struggled away from Camden Yards this year, going 0-9 with a 5.32 ERA.
Stat that matters: Sanchez became the fastest player in MLB history to 11 home runs, reaching the mark in his 23rd career game Saturday. The rookie is hitting .400 (32-for-80) with a .467 on-base percentage and a .900 slugging percentage.
Lester takes the hill: CHC@LAD, 4:10 p.m. Jon Lester has been as steady as they come for the first-place Cubs, who boast the best record in baseball at 82-46. The left-hander picked up his 20th quality start in his last outing, limiting his opponent to three or fewer earned runs for a 21st time in 25 starts this year. Lester has been particularly effective since the All-Star break, going 5-0 with a 2.28 ERA. He'll look to keep it going in the finale vs. the Dodgers.
For Los Angeles, rookie Brock Stewart will make his fourth big league appearance (third start). In two previous starts, he allowed 14 earned runs in just nine innings of work. Stewart has enjoyed a fast rise through the Minor League ranks, going from Class A Advanced Rancho Cucamonga through to the Majors all in one season.
Stat that matters: Opponents are missing on 47.8 percent of Lester's offspeed pitches this season, which ranks first among all qualifiers.
Bumgarner looks to continue Atlanta dominance, ATL@SF, 4:05 p.m. Madison Bumgarner will toe the rubber for the Giants in today's matchup with the Braves, a team Bumgarner has often found success against. The San Francisco ace is 6-3 with a 2.60 ERA in 11 career starts against the Braves and also bested Atlanta in his first career postseason start, Game 4 of the 2010 National League Division Series. Bumgarner is looking to rebound from one of his worst outings of the year; he yielded a season-high five earned runs in a loss to the Dodgers in Los Angeles on Tuesday.
"He wasn't Bum-like," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "He wasn't quite himself. That was pretty evident."
Aaron Blair will start for the Braves, returning to the big leagues for his first appearance since June. Blair struggled in his first career start against the Giants on June 2, allowing six earned runs in four innings while Bumgarner tossed 7 2/3 scoreless frames and homered off Blair. Blair was 0-5 with a 7.99 ERA prior to his demotion to Triple-A Gwinnett.
Stat that matters: Bumgarner has held the Braves to a .215 average (59-for-274) through 11 career appearances. That's his second lowest opponents' batting average against any NL club.
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).
Chad Thornburg is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.