Verlander, Carrasco, Price and Arrieta highlight Saturday's schedule
By Chad Thornburg
With just a few weeks remaining in the 2016 regular season, the spotlight is on the American League East as a hub for compelling playoff drama. It's not only home to the tightest division race in baseball, but also much of the Wild Card race.
Both those postseason races will be on display in Boston today as the Red Sox and Yankees continue their four-game series at Fenway Park. The Red Sox enter today's tilt in command of the division, but the Orioles and Blue Jays are each within striking distance. The Yankees, while not out of the pennant race, are more likely to extend their season with an appearance in the AL's Wild Card Game.
That's far from the only action worth tuning in for today. Justin Verlander and Carlos Carrasco star in an AL Central bout in Cleveland, while the Cardinals and Giants compete for the National League Wild Card in San Francisco. Jake Arrieta will also toe the rubber for the NL Central-champion Cubs as they turn their attention to home-field advantage in the playoffs.
And the best place to catch all the action is MLB.TV.
MLB.TV Premium has returned with the same features as last year and is only $9.99 for the rest of the season. 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):
Yanks aim to halt Price's momentum: NYY@BOS, 1:05 p.m. David Price appears to be rounding into peak form just in time for the playoffs. The Boston southpaw enters today's matchup with the Yankees riding a seven-game winning streak with a 2.16 ERA. The Yankees have proven a consistent thorn in Price's side since he joined the Red Sox, however. He owns a 7.79 ERA in three starts against New York this year.
"He's on a run right now that might be the best run of his career inside not only these seven consecutive wins he's recorded, but the second half of the season," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "He continues to increase his power, he's maintained his direction through the lane in which he's intending to execute pitches."
The Yankees will counter with right-hander Bryan Mitchell, who's making his third start after missing most of the season due to injury. He lasted only 2 1/3 innings against the Dodgers on Monday, yielding six runs (two earned) on eight hits.
Stat that matters: Price is throwing strikes 70.7 percent of the time against left-handed batters this season. That's the second highest rate among all qualified starters.
Verlander takes on Carrasco, Tribe: DET@CLE, 4:10 p.m.
With the Cubs claiming the first division crown this week, the focus is shifting to the other division races throughout baseball. The Indians are among the first-place teams hoping to follow suit and have an opportunity to put considerable distance between them and the second-place Tigers in this weekend's three-game series. Detroit is not only fighting to stay alive in the AL Central, but they're also vying to secure a place in the AL Wild Card Game, for which they currently trail East runners-up Baltimore and Toronto.
Verlander will start for the Tigers, seeking retribution against a Cleveland lineup that tagged him for four homers and eight runs on June 26. He'll oppose the Indians' Carrasco, who struggled in his last trip to the mound. Carrasco was roughed up for five runs (four earned) over 3 2/3 innings against the White Sox on Monday.
Stat that matters: Carrasco hasn't walked a right-handed hitter since July 27, a span of 136 plate appearances. It's the longest active streak in the Majors.
Cubs push for home-field behind Arrieta: MIL@CHC, 4:05 p.m.
Even with the division and their spot in the postseason secured, the Cubs still have plenty to play for. They now have their sights set on home-field advantage and preparing for what they hope will be a long playoff run.
"It's kind of like, 'Job well done, now let's move on to the next phase,'" said Jake Arrieta, who will start today against the Brewers at Wrigley Field. Arrieta is looking to become the NL's first 18-game winner by defeating Milwaukee.
For the Brewers, righty Zach Davies gets the start. He hasn't won since Aug. 24 against the Rockies.
Stat that matters: The Cubs' magic number to clinch home-field advantage through the NL Championship Series is nine entering Saturday's games. Any combination of Cubs wins or losses by the runner-up Nationals will hand Chicago the NL's top seed.
Giants look to fend of Cards: STL@SF, 9:05 p.m. ET
The Cubs clinching the NL Central took one playoff seed off the board, and the Nationals' commanding lead in the East likely leaves the NL with three remaining spots. The Cardinals and Giants, among the few teams vying for them, are competing in San Francisco this weekend, each looking to improve their postseason standing.
The Giants, still in the mix behind the Dodgers in the NL West, are holding down a place in the NL's Wild Card Game, but St. Louis isn't far behind. Two head-to-head matchups remain between these clubs, including today's bout at AT&T Park.
The Giants will start right-hander Jeff Samardzija, whose July struggles now seem like a distant memory compared with his recent performance. Samardzija has posted a 2.95 ERA through his past seven outings. For the Cardinals, Mike Leake will take the ball in his first appearance against the Giants this season.
Stat that matters: The Cardinals are homering once every 21.3 at-bats on the road this season, good for first in the Majors.
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.