What To Watch: Thursday July 21st
Julio Urias vs. Stephen Strasburg
The Dodgers have injury issues in their rotation that threaten their playoff chances and tonight could be a game fans look back at as a symbol of the rest of the season that was to come. If Urias can show Dodgers fans and executives what the hype is all about and shut down a formidable playoff rival and one of their two pitching horses then maybe this Dodgers season can be saved even with all the uncertainty surrounding Clayton Kershaw. If Strasburg goes out and shuts the Dodgers down then maybe they need come to the realization that they are going to be sellers rather than buyers.
Chris Tillman vs. CC Sabathia
Tillman has been the best starter (3.29 ERA - 1.21 Whip) in an Orioles rotation that has been one of the worst in the American league, but if they are to win the East he is going to need to continue his breakout season. CC Sabathia has been better than expected and if the Yankees are to remain a contender they will need him to pitch like he did in a seven game stretch from May 4 -June 16 when he allowed four earned runs in seven starts. If Sabathia can pitch well then maybe the Yankees can contend or maybe they can convince a team to take him off their hands in a deadline trade. That seems unlikely but there have been rumors that it might be possible. Either way, the Orioles and Yankees are fighting to stay playoff contenders and these two starters are key pieces in hat effort.
Francisco Liriano, SP, Pittsburgh Pirates
The Pirates rotation has really struggled, especially with Gerrit Cole out, but they have managed to stay within shouting distance of the wild card (three games back) and they will need Liriano to pitch significantly better in the second half. The strikeouts are still there (93 Strikeouts in 98.2 Innings Pitched) while the walks (62) and home runs allowed (14) have been killers. Jameson Taillon has looked good and Tyler Glasnow showed the potential to contribute as a member of a contending rotation, but its a lot to ask rookies to carry a team to the playoffs this early in their careers. When you add Jeff Locke (5.54 ERA) and Jon Niese (4.89 ERA) to Lirianos 5.11 ERA you have a rotation that cannot make the playoffs and Liriano is the one they have hope can turn things around.
Andrew Cashner, SP, San Diego Padres
The Padres are selling everything not nailed down and Cashner is a free agent after the season. A two month rental like Cashner won't return an impact prospect, but the starting pitching supply is low and the demand is high. A strong couple starts running up to the trade deadline could do wonders for his price tag and it starts tonight - I have no doubt teams are watching.
Sonny Gray, SP, Oakland Athletics
Drew Pomeranz returned Baseball America's #15 ranked prospect Anderson Espinoza to the San Diego Padres in a trade with the Boston Red Sox that could have been Sonny Gray and the Oakland A's if 2016 had gone better in the first half. Gray has a better resume and is under team control longer than Pomeranz will be, but his 2016 has been a disaster. He is a buy low opportunity, but in this pitching market he won't come cheap as long as he can string a few impressive starts together to create some confidence in potential acquiring teams and tonight against the offensively challenged Tampa Bay Rays is a great opportunity to get started. If Gray can't impress tonight then the A's might have to wait until the off season to trade him.
Detroit Tigers @ Chicago White Sox
The Tigers are fighting to stay within reach of the Wild Card (4.5 games out) while the White Sox are scratching and clawing to remain playoff hopefuls (7 games out) as the two teams begin a huge four game series in Chicago. The White Sox need to start making up ground while the Tigers have a chance to bury a division rival and it starts tonight when Michael Pelfrey goes up against James Shields.
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