Corey Kluber had been his typical dominating self, enough to earn a spot on his second American League All-Star team last month. But since the break, he's been simply unhittable, with the Cleveland righty enjoying one of the most effective stretches of his career.
Kluber's starts are now appointment viewing, and he'll take the mound today against the Rays in what looks like the early highlight in a full slate of Major League action. First pitch is set for 1:10 p.m. ET at Tropicana Field.
Kluber hasn't lost in five starts since the All-Star break, over which he's struck out a whopping 60 batters. He's the first starter in the All-Star Game era to strike out at least 10 batters in each of his first five starts after the break. Cleveland's ace is 10-3 with a 2.65 ERA and 183 strikeouts in 132 2/3 innings overall.
Kluber will be opposed by Rays rookie Austin Pruitt in what should be one of the biggest tests of his young career. Every game is important now for Tampa Bay, which is battling several teams for the second AL Wild Card spot.
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Here's what else to watch for throughout the day (all times ET):
Lone Star pride on the line: HOU@TEX, 3:05 p.m.
There is never an absence of drama when these two intrastate, and intradivision rivals meet up. This weekend it's in Arlington, where the postseason-hopeful Rangers continue an important 10-game homestand against the Astros. Houston is slumping, but still holding a commanding lead in the AL West, as well as the AL's best record.
Still, the Astros would like to get ace Dallas Keuchel going again. Keuchel has had a rough time since returning from his second disabled-list stint of the season, which lasted nearly two months. In three starts since, the 2015 AL Cy Young Award winner has pitched just 12 innings and allowed 14 earned runs, issuing more walks (eight) than strikeouts (seven).
Andrew Cashner takes the ball for Texas looking for his fourth consecutive win.
Postseason preview?: CHC@ARI, 4:10 p.m.
These two teams could very well end up meeting again in October, with the Cubs tied for the lead in the National League Central and the D-backs even with the Rockies for the NL's two Wild Card spots. Today will bring a battle of talented righties, with Jake Arrieta (11-8) taking the ball for Chicago against Zack Godley (5-4).
Godley beat Arrieta when the two faced off in Chicago on Aug. 2, blanking the Cubs over six innings. Arrieta took a hard-luck loss after allowing just one earned run over seven frames.
Battle in the Bronx: BOS@NYY, 8:05 p.m.
The latest installment of the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry could not come at a better time, with the two storied franchises meeting this weekend in the Bronx in what shaped into a pivotal series in deciding the AL East.
The series continues tonight with Chris Sale (14-4, 2.57 ERA) opposing Jordan Montgomery (7-6, 4.05 ERA) on a national stage. The Red Sox maintain a healthy division lead, but the Yankees and their revamped roster have a hold on the first AL Wild Card spot.
This will be Sale's third crack at the Yanks in his first season in Boston. The lefty hasn't beaten them yet, but he has limited New York to just two earned runs over 15 2/3 innings. Montgomery appears set to make his scheduled start after a scary incident before Saturday's game. The left-hander was struck in the head with a baseball during batting practice on Saturday while he was signing autographs on the field. However, he was cleared to pitch after undergoing an examination by the Yankees' medical staff.
Joe Trezza is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.