ALDS rematch continues in Boston; Keuchel takes on Tampa Bay
By Daniel Kramer
A postseason rematch continues in Boston, while a potential October preview presses on in Chicago as part of a 15-game slate today on MLB.TV.
The Indians and Red Sox wrap their three-game set at Fenway Park in what's been their first series meeting since Cleveland's sweep last October in the American League Division Series. In Chicago, Jake Arrieta leads the red-hot Cubs against a D-backs club that's occupied at least a share of a National League Wild Card for much of the season. Facing the Rays in Houston, Dallas Keuchel will look to shake off the rust he showed in his first outing off the disabled list. And in Milwaukee, the Brewers and Cardinals face off with hopes of keeping pace in the NL Central.
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Here's what to watch for today (all times ET):
Trending up: ARI @ CHC, 8:05 p.m.
The Cubs have shown their 2016 championship form of late, closing July with a 13-3 record since the All-Star break, and they've done so behind the catalyst to their run a year ago: starting pitching. Cubs starters entered August with an MLB-best 2.53 ERA since the break.
"Starting pitching, you feed off it," first baseman Anthony Rizzo said recently.
None of their starters has shown as drastic an improvement as Arrieta, who is 3-1 with a 2.25 ERA in his last five starts thanks to what he and manager Joe Maddon have deemed much better fastball command.
"When the fastball is going where he wants it to, he'll be successful," Maddon said. "Off that will be the confidence, and off that, you'll see the cutter and curveball working better."
The righty will square off against Zack Godley, who has impressed during his sophomore season, with a 3.06 ERA in 88 1/3 innings. Godley began his career in the Cubs organization, taken in the 10th round of the 2013 Draft, but he was traded to Arizona in the Miguel Montero deal ahead of the '15 season.
ALDS rematch: CLE @ BOS, 7:10 p.m.
In his lone postseason start during his AL Cy Young Award-winning 2016 campaign, Boston righty Rick Porcello gave up three homers that contributed to five earned runs, and lasted just 4 1/3 innings, as the Indians jumped to a 1-0, tone-setting series lead. Homers have been an issue for the righty since -- he's given up 25 already this year, tying a career high.
With his starting job in jeopardy, Trevor Bauer turned in arguably his best outing of 2017 last Thursday for the Tribe against the Angels, tossing a season-high eight innings and giving up just one earned run with six strikeouts and no barrels, according to Statcast™.
"He competed like crazy," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "I think the best thing of all was just the way he competed. He really got after it."
Shaking off the rust: TB @ HOU, 8:10 p.m.
Keuchel needed 63 pitches to finish his first two innings during his return after nearly two months on the shelf, and he ended up throwing just one more frame that night. Manager A.J. Hinch said he envisioned a brief outing for the left-hander, who'd been sidelined extensively with neck discomfort.
"Clearly a couple 30-pitch innings are hard to overcome," Hinch said. "But the stuff got a little bit better. I think he felt good; he just kind of ran out of pitches. We were hoping to be in the 75-80 range over five innings -- it happened over three."
Keuchel is 1-4 with a 4.70 ERA in seven career starts against the Rays, who entered August having lost seven of 10. On Wednesday, they'll turn to rookie righty Austin Pruitt, who is making his second start in place of the injured Jake Odorizzi (back).
Hanging in there: STL @ MIL, 8:10 p.m.
With Adam Wainwright still on the DL but progressing -- he threw off a flat ground on Tuesday -- right-hander Luke Weaver will make a second spot start in place of the veteran righty. Weaver surrendered a grand slam his last time out but completed five innings, allowing four earned runs on five hits with five strikeouts.
Weaver will square off against Brent Suter, who is coming off his best start of '17, having tossed a career-high seven innings, all scoreless. He is 0-1 with a 3.12 ERA in three games, including one start, against the Cardinals this season.