D-backs-Dodgers, Crew-Cubs among today's 12-game slate
By Ben Weinrib
Six teams have the day off on Thursday, but there's an exciting slate of games for the rest of Major League Baseball, which can be streamed live on MLB.TV.
Leading the way is a pair of marquee pitching matchups in intra-divisional games. Chris Sale and rookie Jacob Faria will square off in Tampa Bay, while Robbie Ray and Rich Hill will meet at Dodger Stadium.
The Brewers and Cubs will continue their battle for National League Central supremacy, and Mike Foltynewicz and Lance McCullers Jr. will look to maintain their hot play in separate games.
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Here's what to watch for throughout the day (all times in ET):
Sale and Faria: BOS@TB, 7:10 p.m.
The Red Sox have surged ahead in the American League East, but the Rays aren't too far behind. Sale is always must-watch television, but he has a worthy opponent in the rookie Faria.
Sale has struck out 40 batters in his last four starts and registered 12 strikeouts in both of his starts against Tampa Bay this year. Incredibly, he has thrown a quality start in 15 of his 17 starts with double-digit K's in 11 of them.
Faria has begun his career with five straight quality starts, joining Masahiro Tanaka and Odrisamer Despaigne as the only players since 2013 to do so. Faria has dazzled with 35 strikeouts and five walks over 32 1/3 innings, but he has allowed three homers in his last two starts.
Battle of the lefties: ARI@LAD, 10:10 p.m.
Ray is in the midst of a breakout year with a 3.06 ERA over 100 innings. He's had mixed results this season against the Dodgers, whom he faced in consecutive April starts. First he held them to two runs (one earned) over six innings, but then was shelled for five runs over 5 1/3 innings at home.
Hill, on the other hand, is finally reaching his stride. He's held opponents to four total runs over 19 innings in his last three starts. Hill gave up two runs over three innings to the D-backs in April before having to exit the game with a blister on his left middle finger.
Folty back at it: ATL@WSH, 7:05 p.m.
Foltynewicz took a no-hitter into the ninth inning in his last start, but he had been on a hot streak even before that. He's only given up 12 total runs in his last six starts, and eight of those came in one outing.
He'll be matched up against Gio Gonzalez, who has been pitching like an All-Star lately. The native Miamian has held opponents to two or fewer runs in five of his last six starts and 13 of his 17 overall.
This should be a good test for new Braves third baseman Freddie Freeman, as he faces his first left-handed starter since coming off the 10-day disabled list with a left wrist fracture. Before the injury, he was slashing .360/.407/.720 against left-handers.
Watch out for McCullers: HOU@TOR, 7:07 p.m.
Few pitchers have been as dominant at times as first-time All-Star McCullers. He hasn't given up more than three earned runs in his last 10 starts and holds a 103/25 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 87 innings.
On the other side, Francisco Liriano will make his 14th start of the season. While his 5.66 ERA is on the high side, he's been more effective at home, where he holds a 4.62 mark. Liriano is hoping to bounce back from his last outing, when the Red Sox scored five runs over six innings against him.
Ben Weinrib is a reporter for MLB.com based in Cleveland. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.