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MLB Postseason Preview: American League Wild Card game — Orioles at Blue Jays

With another MLB regular season in the books, it’s time for the postseason to begin, with the first game being the American League Wild Card game, taking place Tuesday at Rogers Centre in Toronto, with the Toronto Blue Jays (89-73) hosting the Baltimore Orioles (89-73) in a battle of AL East teams. SP Chris Tillman (16-6, 3.77 ERA) is slated to get the start for the Orioles and SP Marcus Stroman (9-10, 4.37 ERA) is set to take the mound for the home team.

The Orioles were only three games under .500 on the road this season, which isn’t that bad, so having to play in Toronto may not be a big disadvantage for them despite the Blue Jays being nine games over .500 at home.

I’ve got to give the advantage in starting pitching to Tillman, as Stroman didn’t live up to the expectations that some people had for him this season. Tillman hasn’t been going deep into games as of late, however. The last time he pitched more than 6 innings in a game was on August 11 when he went 7 innings at Oakland, allowing 5 hits and 2 earned runs. He didn’t last more than 6 innings in any of his four starts against the Blue Jays this season. Stroman, on the other hand, went 7 innings in each of his last two starts of the regular season, going 7 scoreless against the Yankees on September 24 and giving up 4 earned runs against the Orioles on September 29. In four starts against the Orioles, Stroman went 7 innings twice, but went just 3.2 innings and 5.1 innings in the other starts.

Given those stats, you can’t expect either starter to go deep into the game, so the bullpens will likely have an impact on the outcome. The Orioles have the definite advantage there, as their relievers finished the year with the third-lowest bullpen ERA in the majors at 3.40, and the Blue Jays’ 4.11 bullpen ERA was the 22nd best in the majors. Orioles closer Zach Britton led the American League with 47 saves, which was tied for the second-most in the majors. He did not have a blown save all year. RP Roberto Osuna served as Toronto’s closer for most of the season, notching 36 saves in 42 opportunities.

Offensively, the teams are pretty evenly matched, with both set up as power teams that don’t necessarily hit for a high average. The Orioles led the majors with 253 home runs, but the Blues Jays can also hit the long ball, as their 221 home runs were good for fourth in MLB. Orioles OF Mark Trumbo was the major league leader with 47 home runs while Blue Jays DH Edwin Encarnacion was tied for third with 42 home runs.

Stroman will have to keep the Orioles’ bats quiet early in the game so Baltimore can’t get a lead to hand off to Britton in the latter innings of the ballgame because of he comes into the game in a save situation, that’ll be trouble for the Blue Jays if Britton’s season stats hold true in this game. It’ll be a close game, but I’ll pick the Blue Jays to win it.

The winning team moves on to play the AL West champion Texas Rangers in one ALDS on Thursday; the AL Central champion Indians play the AL East champion Red Sox in the other ALDS, which also begins Thursday.

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MLB 2016 regular season recap and playoff preview

After six months and more than 2,000 games, the 2016 MLB regular season has come to an end. Despite the possibility of makeup games or tiebreakers games on Monday or Tuesday, there are no extra games needed beyond Sunday’s scheduled end of the season. All of the playoff teams are set, so we’re going to take a look back at my preseason predictions to see how I did with my projected playoff teams, as well as the over/unders I chose for each of the 30 teams. We’ll first take a look at the over/unders, going division by division.

American League East
Baltimore’s over/under was 79.5. I went over and they finished 89-73, well over the number.
Boston’s over/under was 86.5. I went under and they finished over, at 93-69.
New York’s over/under was 85.5. I went under, and they ended up 84-78, just missing the target.
Tampa Bay’s over/under was 81.5. I went under but thought they’d get to close to it. It wasn’t close; their 68-94 record was the second worst in the majors.
Toronto’s over/under was 87.5. i went over and barely got it, as they finished the year 89-73.

American League Central
Chicago’s over/under was 80.5. I took the over, and they finished 78-84 to go under.
Cleveland’s over/under was 84.5. I took the under, thinking they’d be right around .500, but they ended up an impressive 94-67.
Detroit’s over/under was 81.5. I went over, and they finished 86-75 to get the over.
Kansas City’s over/under was 85.5. I took the over, and they finished .500 at 81-81.
Minnesota’s over/under was 78.5. I thought they’d go a game or two over that number, they ended with a MLB-worst 59-103 record. That was a bad call.

American League West
Houston’s over/under was 87.5. I went over, but they didn’t make it, ending 84-78.
Los Angeles’ over/under was 81.5. I took the over, but they finished just 74-88.
Oakland’s over/under was 75.5. I took the under, and they finished 69-93.
Seattle’s over/under was 82.5. I went with the under and got that one wrong; they finished 86-76.
Texas’ over/under was 84.5. I took the over, and they easily topped it, with an AL-best 95-67 record.

National League East
Atlanta’s over/under was 66.5 I went over, and they made it, with a 68-93 record.
Miami’s over under was 79.5. I went under, and they finished 79-82 to just barely sneak in for the under.
New York’s over/under was 89.5. I took the over, but they didn’t get there, finishing 87-75.
Philadelphia’s over/under was 69.5. I went under, but they finished over, 71-91.
Washington’s over/under was 89.5. I predicted they’d go over, and they did with a 95-67 record.

National League Central
Chicago’s over/under was 92.5. I took the over, and they ended the season with the best record in the majors, going 103-58-1.
Cincinnati’s over/under was 70.5. I went under, and they ended up 68-94.
Milwaukee’s over/under was 69.5. I took the under, but they finished 73-89.
Pittsburgh’s over/under was 86.5. I went over, but they had a disappointing year, finishing just 78-83-1.
St. Louis’ over/under was 87.5. I went over, but they missed it at 86-76.

National League West
Arizona’s over/under was 82.5. I took the over, but they finished 69-93.
Colorado’s over/under was 70.5. I went under, but their final record was 75-87.
Los Angeles’ over/under was 88.5. I thought it would be close but went under. They finished 91-71 to go over.
San Diego’s over/under was 72.5. I took the over, but they ended up 68-94.
San Francisco’s over/under was 89.5. I went over, but their 87-75 record missed the mark.

Overall, I didn’t have a great year with the over/under predictions, finishing 12-18.

I did better picking the playoff teams, though, particularly in the National League. There, my picks were:

NL East Champs: New York Mets
NL Central Champs: Chicago Cubs
NL West Champs: San Francisco Giants
NL Wild Cards: Pittsburgh PIrates, Washington Nationals

All of those teams except the Pirates made the playoffs, though the Mets and Giants didn’t win their divisions. The Nationals, Cubs and Dodgers are the division winners, with the Mets and Giants the wild card teams.

In the American League, I didn’t do as good. My picks were:

AL East Champs: Toronto Blue Jays
AL Central Champs: Kansas City Royals
AL West Champs: Texas Rangers
AL Wild Cards: Houston Astros, Detroit Tigers

The Blue Jays and Rangers are the only two I got right. The division winners are the Red Sox, Indians and Rangers. The Blue Jays and Orioles are the wild cards.

All told, I got six out of 10 right, but most importantly my World Series teams — Blue Jays and Cubs — both made it. My preseason prediction was Blue Jays over Cubs in six games, but I’m not as confident about that now as I was before the season started.

Here’s what the playoff bracket looks like, as depicted on MLB’s site:

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Stay tuned in the coming days for my previews of the two Wild Card games, as well as my playoff predictions after the Wild Card winners are determined.

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MLB Weekly: A-Rod and Teixiera announce retirements, Story’s season ends

In this week’s MLB Weekly, two notable Yankees announce their retirements, a home run-hitting rookie undergoes season-ending surgery and the Dodgers send a once-promising slugger to the minors.

Looking Back

This morning Yankees 3B Alex Rodriguez and the team announced that the final game of his major league career will be this Friday, August 12 at Yankee Stadium against the Rays, the team’s next home game after today. He will be released from his player contract with the team but will sign a new contract to serve as a special advisor to the team, acting as a mentor to young players, through 2017. In his 22-year career, Rodriguez has hit 696 home runs but has not seen much playing time this season as he is hitting just .204 in 62 games this season. Earlier in the week, Yankees 1B Mark Teixiera announced that he will retire at the end of the season. Teixiera is a 14-year veteran who is hitting .199 this season, which has included some time on the disabled list. He is in the final year of his contract, while Rodriguez had a year remaining on his deal.

Rockies SS Trevor Story was expected to begin the season in the minors but a suspension to SS Jose Reyes changed those plans, as Story landed the starting gig by way of an impressive spring training. And he really took advantage of the opportunity, hitting 7 home runs in the first six games of his major-league career. He continued to hit home runs throughout the season, getting up to 27 by July 30, which ended up being his final game of his rookie campaign. Story tore the UCL in his left thumb in that game, an injury that required a surgery that is expected to keep him out for the remainder of the season — a loss that hurts the Rockies’ already-slim hopes of making the playoffs.

Like Story, Dodgers OF Yasiel Puig put up big offensive numbers in his rookie season back in 2013, hitting .319 with 19 home runs in 104 games. His production has dropped off each season since then, though, eventually bottoming-out this year with .260 average and just 7 home runs in 81 games. That lack of production, combined with reported issues in the locker room, led the Dodgers to demote Puig to Triple-A Oklahoma City this week. The team made the move after acquiring OF Josh Reddick from the A’s at the trade deadline, giving them less of a need to use Puig in the majors. The Dodgers reportedly tried to deal Puig to another team but came up short before Monday’s non-waiver deadline. It’s possible Puig could still be traded this month if he is able to clear waivers, but he’ll probably have to produce in the minors before another team would want to take a chance on him. If he’s still in the Dodgers organization at the end of the season, don’t be surprised if they try again to trade Puig this winter.

Elsewhere in MLB, there is a three-way battle going on for first place in the AL East, with the Orioles and Blue Jays tied atop the division and the Red Sox two games behind them. The same two-game margin separates first place and second place in the AL Central, with the Indians ahead of the Tigers, who have won nine of their last 10 games. The Rangers have a bit more of a cushion in the AL West, 6.5 games clear of the Astros. Baltimore/Toronto sit atop the American League Wild Card, with the Tigers in the second Wild Card spot, with the Red Sox just .5 game behind them. In the hunt are the Astros and Mariners, at four and five games back, respectively.

In the National League, the Nationals and Cubs continue to hold significant leads in their divisions. The Nationals’ margin in the NL East is 6.5 games ahead of the second-place Marlins, while the Cubs — who still hold the best record in the majors — have a 10.5-game cushion over the Cardinals in the NL Central. Things are much tighter in the NL West, as the Giants’ lead over the Dodgers is down to two games as San Francisco has gone just 4-6 in the last 10 games. The Dodgers currently hold the first Wild Card in the NL, with the Marlins in control of the second Wild Card. In the hunt are the Cardinals, Mets, Pirates and Rockies — all within four games of landing one of the Wild Cards.

The Week Ahead

The Yankees-Red Sox rivalry continues this week

The Yankees-Red Sox rivalry continues this week at Fenway Park

There are a couple of rivalry series in the coming week. The first is a three-game set between the Red Sox and Yankees in Boston beginning Tuesday. The other sees the Cardinals visiting the Cubs for four starting Thursday. Other series to look out for include a short series between playoff contenders as the Nationals host the Indians Tuesday and Wednesday. Later in the week, the Astros look to stay alive in the Wild Card race when they visit the Blue Jays for a weekend series north of the border starting Friday. That same day, the Orioles host the Giants in another interleague series featuring teams that could be playing well into October.

Pitching performances to look for this week include the Giants-Marlins game on Monday, with SPs Johnny Cueto and Jose Fernandez — who both hold sub-3.00 ERAs for the season — scheduled to take to the mound. Diamondbacks SP Zack Greinke is scheduled to return from the disabled list Tuesday and get the start against the Mets and SP Steven Matz. Rays rookie SP Blake Snell looks to continue his stretch of good starts Wednesday when he gets the ball against Blue Jays SP J.A. Happ, who has already won a career-high 15 games on the season. Mets SP Bartolo Colon gets a home start on Wednesday against the Diamondbacks, the only major league team he has never gotten a win against in his 19-year career; SP Robbie Ray is slated to start for Arizona.

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MLB Weekly: Trades galore as the deadline approaches

In this week’s MLB Weekly, trades are dominating the news as the non-waiver deadline approaches on Monday.

Looking Back

Traditionally, the non-waiver trade deadline is on July 31, but with that date falling on a Sunday this year, Major League Baseball decided to push the deadline back a day to August 1, giving teams an extra day to complete deals. A number of contenders aren’t waiting until the 11th hour, though, and have made trades this week in hopes of improving their teams.

The Blue Jays are among the most-active contenders on the market this week. making two deals on Tuesday. In one, the current AL East leaders added offensive depth by acquiring OF Melvin Upton Jr. from the Padres for a minor leaguer. The other was a swap of relievers, with the Blue Jays sending RP Drew Storen to the Mariners in exchange for RP Joaquin Benoit.

The first deal made this week saw the NL Central-leading Cubs looking to boost their bullpen’s performance by acquiring RP Aroldis Chapman from the Yankees in exchange for a quartet of players, including P Adam Warren and three minor leaguers, led by former international free-agent signee SS Gleyber Torres, who was one of the Cubs’ top prospects in their farm system. Giving up the young talent for Chapman, who is in the final year of his contract and will likely command big bucks on the free-agent market as one of the game’s top closers, shows that the Cubs are in win-now mode and are willing to give up some talent for the future if it helps them get their first World Series title in more than 100 years this season.

In other notable trades this week, the Marlins — who are currently tied with the Cardinals for the second Wild Card in the National League — acquired veteran SPs Andrew Cashner and Colin Rea from the Padres and sent some prospects from San Diego, who made a number of moves aimed at dumping high salaries and getting young talent for a rebuilding effort. The NL West-leading Giants hope to hold their slim lead over the Dodgers after getting IF Eduardo Nunez from the Twins by trading minor league P Adalberto Mejia.

Elsewhere in MLB, with August starting tomorrow time is running out for teams to make up ground in the standings and get into the playoff picture. In the American League, the AL East is the closest division, with the Blue Jays at the top but the Orioles and Red Sox both within two games. The Indians currently hold a 4.5-game lead over the Tigers in the AL Central, and the Rangers’ lead in the AL West is currently at five games over the Astros, who have lost ground on Texas in the last week. The Orioles and Red Sox currently hold the two Wild Cards in the American League, with the Tigers and Astros both within 1.5 games and the Mariners and Yankees within striking distance.

In the National League, the NL West is the only division that seems to still be in play as we enter August this week, with the Dodgers two games behind the Giants. The Nationals currently hold a five-game lead over the Marlins in the NL East, and the Cubs’ lead in the Central stands at 6.5 games over the Cardinals. In the Wild Card, the Dodgers hold the first Wild Card, with the Marlins and Cardinals tied for the second. Of the teams on the outside looking in, the Mets, Pirates and Rockies are the only teams with a realistic shot at catching the Wild Card leaders, all no more than four games back.

The Week Ahead

The Mets and Yankees Subway Series.

The Mets and Yankees play a home-and-home in a four-game Subway Series this week.

As we take a look at this week’s schedule, there are a couple of key four-game series between American League playoff contenders getting underway Monday as the Red Sox visit the Mariners and the Astros host the Blue Jays. New Yorkers’ eyes will be on the Subway Series, though, as the Mets and Yankees play four games against each other, with the first two at Citi Field and the back pair at Yankee Stadium. The Astros play another important series later in the week, hosting the Rangers beginning Friday as they attempt to make up some ground on the division leaders. Both NL West contenders also have important series starting Friday, with the Giants heading to D.C. to take on the Nationals and the Dodgers hosting the Red Sox.

This week’s probable pitchers could be a little more subject to change than usual pending any more trades that are made by Monday’s deadline. Having said that, here’ a look at some of the pitching performances expected this week. Rangers SP Yu Darvish looks to continue his post-DL comeback when he takes the Camden Yards mound against the Orioles on Tuesday. White Sox SP James Shields hopes to continue his streak of six straight quality starts Tuesday at the Tigers. Citi Field could be home to a pitcher’s duel Tuesday when Yankees SP Masahiro Tanaka and Mets SP Jacob deGrom get the starts for their respective teams. White Sox SP Chris Sale, who has been surrounded by controversy in recent weeks, is scheduled to pitch Wednesday at the Tigers — if the White Sox don’t trade him before then.

2016 MLB All-Star Game MVP Eric Hosmer

MLB Weekly: All-Star Game recap, Red Sox trade

In this week’s MLB Weekly, the all-star break dominated the week, while the Red Sox made a trade to improve their starting rotation.

Looking Back

With the all-star break extending until Friday, there wasn’t much action this week. During the break were the traditional Home Run Derby and All-Star Game. Marlins OF Giancarlo Stanton won the derby in impressive fashion. The All-Star Game was won by the American League for the fourth straight year. Royals 1B Eric Hosmer won MVP honors, going 2-for-3, including a home run, with 2 RBI. Indians SP Corey Kluber got the win, throwing a scoreless inning in relief, and Orioles RP Zach Britton closed out the ninth for the save.

With the August 1 non-waiver trade deadline quickly approaching the number of trades is likely to increase in the coming weeks. The Red Sox aren’t waiting until the deadline; they acquired SP Drew Pomeranz from the Padres on Thursday as they continue to nail down one of the American League’s playoff spots. In exchange for the 27-year-old lefty, San Diego got Boston’s top pitching prospect, Anderson Espinoza. In 17 starts this season, Pomeranz is 8-7 with a 2.47 ERA, 1.06 WHIP and 115 strikeouts over 102 innings.

Elsewhere in MLB, not much movement in the standings with four days this week without meaningful games, but the NL Central-leading Cubs have won the first two games back from the break after slumping toward the end of the first half. Things are tightening up in the AL West with the Rangers, who had a double-digit lead in the division a few weeks ago, just 4.5 games ahead of the Astros in the division. The AL East continues to be the closest divisional race, with the Orioles leading the second-place Red Sox by two games and the Blue Jays just four games back in third place.

The Week Ahead

The Mets visit Wrigley Field this week.

The Mets visit the Cubs at Wrigley Field this week.

As we get back to a full week of games in the wake of the All-Star Game, the Royals face an important three-game series against the AL Central-leading Indians as they try to stay in the division race. The Mets, who are falling back in the NL East race head to Wrigley Field for a three-game set with the Cubs. In the second half of the week, division leaders meet when the Orioles host the Indians starting Friday. The Mets visit the Marlins as the two teams battling for second place in the NL East meet for a weekend series. And it’s a battle of second-place teams when the Dodgers head to St. Louis to take on the Cardinals.

Taking a look at pitching matchups for the week, Cubs SP Jon Lester looks to get back on track Monday when he opposes the Mets and SP Steven Matz, who is dealing with bone spurs. Indians SP Corey Kluber gets his first start since winning the All-Star Game on Monday, against Royals SP Edinson Volquez. Cubs SP Jake Arietta takes the mound on Tuesday, hoping to improve upon the 8.27 ERA he has in his last three start, against Mets SP Noah Syndergaard. On Friday, Rangers SP Yu Darvish is slated to make his second start since coming off of his latest DL stint, hoping to last longer than the 4.1 innings he went in his last outing, when he faces the Royals.

Mets SP Matt Harvey is scheduled to undergo season-ending surgery

MLB Weekly: Harvey’s done, Carpenter goes to the DL, Cubs struggle

In this week’s MLB Weekly, injuries hit stars on contending teams while the Cubs struggle heading into the all-star break.

Looking Back

Mets SP Matt Harvey hasn’t been having a good season, and now it’s over in the first half of July. The team has announced that Harvey will have season-ending surgery next week to try to take care of his thoracic outlet syndrome, which is causing muscles in his neck and shoulder to impinge a nerve in his right shoulder. In 17 starts this season, Harvey is 4-10 with a 4.86 ERA and 1.47 WHIP. He is expected to be ready for the start of next season. In other injury news, SP Noah Syndergaard and OF Yoenis Cespedes both left Friday’s games with injuries; Syndergaard is suffering from a dead arm while Cespedes has a strained right quad. With the all-star break coming up this week, it is possible both players could avoid the disabled list, but it’s something to watch heading into the second half of the season on Friday.

The Cardinals, who are in contention for the National League Wild Card, also suffered a significant injury this week when 2B Matt Carpenter suffered a grade-2 oblique strain in Wednesday’s game against the Pirates. Unlike Harvey, Carpenter is having a good season. Through 78 games, he’s hitting .298 with 14 home runs and 53 RBI. Although a timetable for his return hasn’t been determined yet, similar injuries to this usually sideline a player for about a month, so a mid-August return seems likely for Carpenter, which would allow him to help the team in its playoff push during the latter portion of the season.

The Cubs, the Cardinals’ NL Central rivals, started the season strong but have struggled of late, going just 5-15 over their last 20 games. The Pirates, meanwhile, have won 12 of their last 15 games to pull to within 6.5 games of the Cubs in the division, entering Sunday. Cubs ace Jake Arrieta, the reigning NL Cy Young winner, has lost three of his last four starts, giving up at least 4 ER in each of his last three games. The all-star break could be coming at a good time for the Cubs, who are still tied for the third-best record in the majors despite their swoon in recent weeks.

Elsewhere in MLB, the AL East race is tightening up, with the Red Sox and Blue Jays each two games behind the first-place Orioles. The Indians have opened up a 6.5-game lead in the AL Central, while the Rangers’ lead is shrinking in the AL West. The Astros, who are 6-4 in their last 10 games, are now 6.5 games back of the Rangers, who are 3-7 in their last 10.  In the National League, the Nationals and Giants continue to hold decent leads in the East and West, respectively; the Nationals hold a five-game cushion over the Mets, and the Giants are 6.5 games ahead of the Dodgers.

The Week Ahead

Petco Park is the site of the MLB All-Star Game on Tuesday

Petco Park in San Diego is the site of the MLB All-Star Game on Tuesday

There isn’t much regular-season action, with the all-star break from Monday through Thursday. The home run derby is on Monday with the All-Star Game on Tuesday before regular action picks back up on Friday. Some notable series coming up next weekend include the Rangers traveling to Wrigley Field to face the Cubs in a battle of division leaders who have been going in the wrong direction of late. Another series featuring two contenders will take place in D.C. when the Nationals host the Pirates.

Most teams have not yet announced their rotations for after the all-star break so we can’t discuss any pitching matchups for next weekend.

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Clayton Kershaw

MLB Weekly: Kershaw hits the DL, top prospect Giolito debuts, pitchers land new homes

In this week’s MLB Weekly, one of the best pitchers in the majors has landed on the DL while other pitchers found new homes via trades.

Looking Back

Dodgers SP Clayton Kershaw is among the best pitchers in the majors. This season, he has a MLB-best 1.79 ERA in 121 innings over 16 starts. He has struck out 145 batters while walking just 9. He is sidelined right now, though, after being placed on the disabled list on Friday with a herniated disc in his lower back. There is currently no timetable for his return, but he likely will be out until after the All-Star Game on July 12. Veteran SP Brandon McCarthy, who has been out since undergoing Tommy John surgery in April 2015 is expected to come off the DL to get the start for the Dodgers Sunday. The team also made a trade for another veteran starter this week to help out the rotation in Kershaw’s absence. The details of that trade can be found below.

Nationals SP Stephen Strasburg was also placed on the 15-day disabled list this week, but it was made retroactive to June 16, making him eligible to be activated and get the start on Sunday. SP Lucas Giolito, one of the top prospects in the minors, threw 4 innings of 1-hit ball in his MLB debut earlier this week while filling in for Strasburg. Giolito’s debut outing was cut short by a rain delay that forced his exit after just 45 pitches. It looked like he might get the start on Sunday, but manager Dusty Baker has announced Strasburg will get the call there. It is unknown what the team will do with Giolito, but he could be sent back down to Triple-A.

SP Bud Norris was the pitcher the Dodgers acquired in the aforementioned deal. Norris and minor-leaguer Dian Toscano came over from the Braves in exchange for a couple of minor-leaguers. Norris has been pitching well of late, including in his Dodgers debut on Friday when he threw 6 innings of shutout ball against the Rockies. He struck out 8 and walked 1 in the 5-0 win for his new team. His ERA was 5.71 on June 1, but he has since lowered it to 3.89 after his latest strong outing. The other notable trade this week sent veteran RP Fernando Rodney from the Padres to the Marlins. Rodney had 17 saves in 28 appearances for the Padres this season. He has posted an impressive 0.30 ERA with 35 strikeouts in 28.2 innings. At this time, Rodney is expected to serve as a setup man for closer A.J. Ramos and the Marlins who, unlike the Padres, are contending for a playoff spot.

Elsewhere in MLB, despite faltering a bit this week and having lost three straight to the Mets, the Cubs still have one of the best records in the majors and a nine-game lead over the Cardinals in the NL Central. In the AL Central, the Indians have opened up a six-game lead on the defending World Series champion Royals after a 14-game win streak, which was snapped on Saturday. The closest division race right now is in the AL East, in which the Orioles lead the Red Sox by four games. As we approach the halfway point of the season, the Wild Card races start to take shape a little more. The Red Sox and Royals currently hold the Wild Cards in the American League, with the Tigers, Astros and Blue Jays each .5-game out, while the Dodgers and Mets lead the National League Wild Card, with the Cardinals and Marlins within striking distance.

The Week Ahead

Royals at Blue Jays in a rematch of last season's ALCS

The Royals visit the Blue Jays in a rematch of last season’s American League Championship Series

As we enter the final week before the all-star break, we see a few series featuring teams fighting for playoff spots. Early in the week, the Orioles visit the Dodgers for a three-game series beginning Monday, the Royals head north of the border to take on the Blue Jays Monday through Wednesday, and the Rangers and Red Sox do battle in Boston for a three-game series. Later in the week, the Mets host the Nationals for a four-game series starting Thursday that pits the top two teams in the NL East, as of now, against each other.

There aren’t many pitching matchups that stand out this week, but there are some pitching performances to look out for. Blue Jays SP Marcus Stroman takes the mound Wednesday against the Royals’ Ian Kennedy, looking to have a second straight quality start in what has been a disappointing season to this point. Also Wednesday, Red Sox SP Steven Wright, who could be a candidate to start for the American League in the All-Star Game, looks to continue putting up the good numbers he has posted so far when he opposes Rangers SP Martin Perez.

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