Who To Watch: 8-3-2016
Houston Astros (Collin McHugh) vs. Toronto Blue Jays (Marco Estrada)
A head-to-head match up of two teams with hopes of winning their divisions who will also be contenders for the Wild Card right to the end. McHugh was pulverized by the Detroit Tigers in his last start (10 hits and eight earned in 1.2 innings), but otherwise he has been good since mid-June. Estrada has performed similarly to McHugh over the same period with a stint on the disabled list thrown in there. He has allowed two or three earned runs in all of his previous eight starts.
* Jose Altuve is 10 for 23 with two home runs and a 1.196 OPS in his previous six games and is four for 11 for his career against Estrada.
With Aaron Sanchez shifting to the bullpen, Estrada will have to hold the Blue Jays rotation together if they are going to make a serious run at October baseball. McHugh hasn't been stellar, but he has been what you need from a third or fourth starter and he will need to continue to do that if the Astros are to compete with the Texas Rangers for the division or the plethora of teams battling for the Wild Card.
Baltimore Orioles (Kevin Gausman) vs. Texas Rangers (Cole Hamels)
Another match up of teams fighting for both the division and the Wild Card. Cole Hamels has proved doubters wrong that he would be able to handle American league lineups and the DH specifically. Jon Daniels and the Rangers were bold in their trade for Hamels at last years trade deadline and it has paid off in a playoff run in 2015 and it very well could end up winning them a World Series in 2016; they are in that hunt. Kevin Gausman is showing signs that he could be the high-end starter that prospectors have been projecting since the O's drafted him, but he still has some hurdles to climb (4.18 ERA-1.32 Whip - 99 SOs - 103.1 innings pitched).
* Pedro Alvarez has three home runs in his last five games.
* Adam Jones has six home runs in his previous six games.
* Manny Machado has two homers in his last six games.
* Mitch Moreland has four home runs in his last six games.
* Rougned Odor has three homers in his previous six games.
* J.J. Hardy is 5 for 15 with one home run against Cole Hamels.
* Mark Trumbo is 5 for 15 with two home runs against Cole Hamels.
Minnesota Twins vs. Cleveland Indians (Trevor Bauer)
The Indians traded for Jonathan Lucroy (only to have Lucroy void the deal) and Andrew Miller at the deadline yelling to baseball fans that they are all in. For those media members that didn't like the Indians as the favorites to represent the American league in the World Series they are on board that wagon now. Since the deadline, Danny Salazar got rocked and had a precautionary MRI that showed inflammation that resulted in him being placed on the disabled list. Carlos Carrasco went out on the bump the next night and got creamed to the tune of eight earned on nine hits in 3.2 innings pitched against these same Minnesota Twins. Tonight, Trevor Bauer needs to stop the bleeding.
The Twins are 42-64 for the season,second worst overall record in baseball, and early in the season they looked every bit that bad, but that's not the current Twins. They were second in Major League baseball in runs scored (144), fourth in OPS (.791), eleventh in team Whip and fourteenth in team ERA in the month of July.
* Max Kepler has 10 home runs in 24 games, including four in the last two games.
* Eddie Rosario is batting .321 in the last 30 days.
* Kenys Vargas is batting .308 in the last 30 days.
* Joe Mauer is batting .313 in the last thirty days.
This is a Twins team playing good baseball and are primed to play spoiler in the Wild Card race. They are a team to watch.
Andrew Benintendi, OF Boston Red Sox vs. Seattle Mariners (Hisashi Iwakuma)
The Red Sox need an injection of youth and energy in the dog days and they are hoping Benintendi's promotion can do that. Brock Holt and Bryce Brentz aren't getting it done in left field and while Sox fans shouldn't expect Benintendi to be their savior, he should be an upgrade. He was inserted into last nights heartbreaking loss to the Mariners, but tonight against starting pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma will be his first major league start.
The kid is athletic with plus speed, a plus approach at the plate and the bat speed to run into some home runs even though the raw power won't scare you. His overall package of tools profiles to be a Mookie Betts lite type player and with his plus defense in left field opposing batters have to wonder if the Red Sox have four or five outfielders rather than the standard three. (If this was Belicheck and the Patriots there would certainly be an investigation). We should see energy and youthful excitement and probably some stumbles and struggles from Benintendi too. He is worth a peak tonight for sure.
Matt Kemp, OF Atlanta Braves vs. Jeff Locke, SP Pittsburgh Pirates
Kemp has swatted 23 home runs and has a .769 OPS, but for the advanced metric marauders out there he has a .284 on-base percentage. If my memory serves (and in this case it might not), I think it was Keith Law who once said that a player with an OBP under .300 is likely to be a negative overall player unless they are fantastic defensively and Matt Kemp certainly is not a gold glover out there. Kemp's 2016 WAR is .2, so he is insignificantly better than a replacement level player if you're a WAR guy. That being said, the Braves obviously saw something they liked at the deadline and it will be interesting to see how Freddie Freeman performs with another power bat in the lineup.
* Kemp is 5 for 10 with a home run and a double in his career against starter Jeff Locke.
Steven Matz, SP New York Mets vs. New York Yankees (Chad Green)
The Mets have suffered some injuries and they are now third, seven games behind the Nationals, in the NL East and 1 1/2 games behind the Marlins for the final Wild Card spot. They acquired Jay Bruce, the National League RBI leader, to generate some runs just in time to place Asdrubal Cabrera on the disabled list. The outfield defense is a disaster for Mets pitchers, but its a staff that is seventh in strikeouts so maybe it won't matter that the Mets will start three left fielders most nights.
If the Mets can't win this series against their cross town rival Yankees after they sold two elite relievers (Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller), their best offensive player (Carlos Beltran) and one of their starting pitchers (Ivan Nova), then maybe fans need to accept the reality that this team is in trouble, not only in 2016 but going forward. The rest of the season starts tonight for the Mets.
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