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MLB Postseason Preview: National League Wild Card game — Giants at Mets

It’s October, which means it’s time for the MLB postseason, and we’re previewing the wild card games that get the playoffs underway. We previewed the American League Wild Card game last night, now it’s time to do the same with the National League game. The New York Mets (87-75) host the San Francisco Giants (87-75) in this year’s NL Wild Card game, with SP Madison Bumgarner (15-9, 2.74 ERA) taking the mound for the Giants and SP Noah Syndergaard (14-9, 2.60 ERA) drawing the start for the Mets.

With the numbers Bumgarner and Syndergaard put up during the season, you can expect a pitcher’s duel in this one. Syndergaard and Bumgarner finished third and fourth, respectively, in the majors in ERA this season. Bumgarner started to stumble a bit in the latter part of the season, giving up at least 3 earned runs in four of his last five starts, including a 5-run outing at the Padres in his penultimate start on September 24. Bumgarner struggled a bit on the road, going 6-5 in 17 road starts, with a 3.39 ERA away from San Francisco. Other than a 5-run outing against the Braves in his second-to-last start of the season, Syndergaard finished the year strong, allowing 2 earned runs or fewer in seven of his last eight starts. He was 6-6 in 16 home starts this season, with a 2.87 ERA at Citi Field.

The pressure of postseason baseball typically doesn’t faze Bumgarner. In 13 career postseason starts, he is 7-3 with a 2.14 ERA. In his most recent postseason appearance in 2014, Bumgarner 4-1 with a 1.03 ERA in seven appearances, including six starts. In his four postseason appearances last year, including three starts, Syndergaard was 2-1 with a 3.32 ERA. Despite Syndergaard’s numbers trending better of late than Bumgarner’s, I give the Giants the advantage in starting pitching because the pressure of the big stage doesn’t seem to affect him as much as it does other players.

The Mets have the advantage in the bullpen. Their 55 saves this season were second in the majors, behind only the Rangers’ 56. The Giants were middle of the pack with 43 saves. Led by closer Jeurys Familia, the Mets’ 3.53 bullpen ERA was sixth best in the majors, while the Giants’ 3.65 ERA was 15th best. Familia was 51-for-56 in save opportunities with a 2.55 ERA for the Mets, and RP Santiago Casilla saved 31 games for the Giants in 40 chances while posting a 3.57 ERA. If the game is decided by the bullpen, the Mets have the advantage there.

Offensively, the Mets have a distinct advantage over the Giants in the power department, hitting 218 home runs compared to San Francisco’s 130, which was the third fewest in the majors. Mets OF Yoenis Cespedes was tied for ninth in the National League with 31 home runs, while the Giants’ leading home-run hitter, 1B Brandon Belt, had just 17. The Giants are better when it comes to making contact with the ball, though, with a .258 average vs. the Mets’ .246.

In the playoffs, good pitching usually beats good hitting. I think Bumgarner gives the Giants a decisive advantage in that area and I think he’ll be able to keep the Mets hitters from getting the ball into the stands of Citi Field. I say Bumgarner leads the Giants to the win in a low-scoring game as they try to make it to the World Series in a fourth-straight even-numbered year.

The winning team moves on to play the NL Central champion Chicago Cubs in one NLDS on Friday; the NL West champion Los Angeles Dodgers play the NL East champion Washington Nationals in the other NLDS, which also begins Friday.

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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.

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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Angels SP Tim Linecum

MLB Weekly: Lincecum gets a win, Ichiro passes Rose?

In this week’s MLB WeeklyTim Lincecum makes his first start in nearly a year, Ichiro Suzuki gets a controversial hit and the Mets could be without captain David Wright for the rest of the season.

Looking Back

A few weeks ago, we told you about Lincecum signing a one-year contract with the Angels and told you he’d spend some time in the minors before getting up to the big leagues. After performing well in his three starts with Triple-A Salt Lake City, he got the start for the Angels on Saturday, marking his first start in a Major League Baseball game since June 27, 2015 — nearly a full calendar year. He put up good numbers in the 6-inning effort at the A’s. The 32-year-old veteran allowed 4 hits and 1 earned run while striking out 2 and walking 2 in his 6 innings of work. He got the win as the Angels won the game 7-1. The numbers look good, but it was against an A’s team that ranks near the bottom of the league in offense so you shouldn’t put too much into it. That being said, his next scheduled start is also against the A’s in Anaheim on Thursday. With the Angels not in playoff contention, if Lincecum can put together a string of good starts through July, he could be trade bait if a contending team is in the market for a veteran to add to the back of their rotation.

Ichiro got 2 hits in the Marlins’ 6-3 loss to the Padres on Wednesday, which gave him 2,979 hits in his major league career, a number that normally wouldn’t be a big deal. But when you add it to the 1,278 hits he got in his professional career in Japan, it gave him a total in the two countries of 4,257 — one more than MLB’s all-time hit king, Pete Rose. That has caused a discussion of whether to consider Ichiro as the new hit king. Some people say he is, but I’m in the camp that says his hits in Japan don’t count as part of his MLB total, so the 2,980 hits he now has is the number that matters when it comes to his major-league stats. That’s still an impressive number for the 42-year-old who is in his 16th season in the majors. Needing just 20 more hits, he will likely surpass the 3,000-hit mark (in the U.S.) sometime in the next few weeks, and he will likely land in the Hall of Fame after he retires. After hitting a career-worst .229 last season, Ichiro is enjoying a bounceback season, with his average sitting at .354 in 56 games.

Although he’s not having a great offensive season, Wright is still an important part of the Mets clubhouse — after all, he is the team’s captain — but they might have to do without him for the rest of the season. Wright underwent surgery on Thursday to repair a herniated disk in his neck and, although a recovery time is not yet known, it looks likely that he won’t be able to return this season.

Elsewhere in MLB, all three division leaders in the National League have big leads, with the Nationals leading the East by 6.5 games over the Mets, the Cubs ahead of the Cardinals by a seemingly insurmountable 11.5 games in the Central, and the Giants 7 games clear of the Dodgers in the West. It’ll be hard for any of those second-place teams to overcome those deficits so they’ll likely be fighting for the league’s two Wild Card spots, with the Pirates likely in that mix as well despite a 33-35 record entering Sunday. Things are closer in the American League, with the Orioles leading the East with a 1-game lead over the Red Sox and the Indians holding just a 0.5-game cushion in the Central, with the defending World Series champion Royals on their heels. The Rangers have a bigger lead in the West, 7.5 games ahead of the Mariners.

The Week Ahead

Citi Field World Series rematch, Royals at Mets

Citi Field hosts a World Series rematch this week when the Mets host the Royals

Featured series this week include a World Series rematch with a 2-game series between the Royals and Mets at Citi Field. On the West Coast, there’s a battle between potential playoff teams in the National League as the Nationals visit the Dodgers from Monday through Wednesday. Later in the week, two of the division leaders in the American League meet starting Friday when the Red Sox visit the Rangers in what should be a series with a quite a bit of offense. There will also be an interleague battle featuring second-place teams facing large deficits in their divisions when the Cardinals-Mariners series gets underway Friday in Seattle. And the Dodgers face another potential playoff foe as they travel to Pittsburgh to take on the Pirates for an extended weekend series Friday through Monday.

This week’s pitching performances are highlighted by a West Coast duel on Monday when Nationals SP Stephen Strasburg is slated to oppose Dodgers SP Clayton Kershaw in what should be a strong pitcher’s duel. Indians SP Corey Kluber will look to bounce back from an 8-run outing his last time out on Tuesday when he goes against young Rays SP Blake Snell. Yankees SP CC Sabathia, who is having a surprisingly good season, takes the mound against Rockies SP Jon Gray Wednesday at Yankee Stadium. Royals SP Yordano Ventura is scheduled to return from his suspension Friday to for a home start against the Astros and SP Dallas Keuchel, who is coming off one of his better starts in what has been a disappointing season for the reigning AL Cy Young winner.

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Mets 3B David Wright on the disabled list.

MLB Weekly: Wright goes to DL, White Sox acquire Shields

In this week’s MLB Weekly, the Mets lose their third baseman to a neck injury and the slumping White Sox trade for a struggling pitcher.

Looking Back

The Mets are in a battle to win the NL East, currently sitting a game back of the division-leading Nationals entering Sunday’s games. The road to first place for the team in Queens is about to get more difficult, with veteran 3B David Wright being placed on the 15-day disabled list with a herniated disk in his neck. He will not participate in any baseball activity for six to eight weeks, likely putting his return in August at the earliest. Although the 33-year-old hasn’t been particularly productive at the plate this season — he’s hitting just .226 with 7 home runs and 55 strikeouts in 137 at-bats — the Mets’ internal replacements at third base aren’t great options for an extended period. Utilityman Wilmer Flores is getting the first chance at filling in for Wright, but he’s hitting .224 in 67 at-bats this season — and that includes him going 5-for-7 in his first two games starting at third, he was hitting below .200 before that. If Flores can’t produce offensively, the Mets may need to look to trade for someone who can handle third-base duties.

Speaking of trades, the White Sox are looking to shake things up after going 12-18 since May 1 to drop from first place in the AL Central to third place. They now sit just two games above .500 and are two games back of the division lead. Outside of SPs Chris Sale and Jose Quintana, the starting rotation has been disappointing so they made a trade this week to acquire SP James Shields from the Padres, but he hasn’t been having a great season himself, particularly in his last start when he gave up 10 earned runs in 2.2 innings at the Mariners. Overall for the year, Shields has a 4.28 ERA and 57 strikeouts in 67.1 innings. He has a 2-7 record in 11 starts so far. The White Sox hope a change of scenery could mean a change in performance for the better for the veteran pitcher, who hasn’t finished a season with a sub-3.00 ERA since 2011, when he was with the Rays. To get Shields, the White Sox sent SP Erik Johnson and minor league 3B Fernando Tatis Jr. to San Diego.

Elsewhere in MLB, the standings atop the six divisions look similar to what they were a week ago, with the Indians sitting in first place of the AL Central the only first-place team that wasn’t at the top of its division last weekend. The Cubs, who have gone 9-1 in their last 10 games, continue to have the best record in the majors with a 39-15 mark entering Sunday’s game with the Diamondbacks. Looking further down in the standings, the Phillies continue their drop, now sitting in fourth place in the NL East, at 27-29, after getting off to a surprisingly strong start to the season. The Blue Jays, who were my preseason pick to win the World Series, have gone 8-2 in the last 10 games to get closer to the AL East lead, now sitting in third place, 3.5 games behind the Red Sox. The Astros have also gone 8-2 in the last week-and-half to get to within three games of .500. In the AL West, though, they still sit seven games back of the division lead.

The Week Ahead

The Giants host the Dodgers this week.

The Dodgers visit the Giants for a key AL West series this week.

Some series to watch out for this week include a battle of second-place teams looking to move up in their divisions when the Orioles host the Royals Monday through Wednesday. The AL Central-leading Indians travel to Seattle for a four-game series with the Mariners, who sit in second place in the AL West. The AL West-leading Rangers take on their in-state rival Astros at home for four games starting Monday, giving the streaking Astros a chance to get closer to the top of the division. Later in the week, a key four-game series in the AL East gets underway Thursday, with the second- and third-place teams in the division playing each other when Blue Jays host the Orioles. The top two teams in the AL West beginning a series Friday when the Mariners host the Rangers, and it’ll be a similar situation in the NL West when the division-leading Giants host the second-place Dodgers starting Friday.

Some pitching performances of note for the coming week include Indians SP Carlos Carrasco making his second start since coming off the disabled list when he opposes Mariners SP Wade Miley. On Wednesday, Rangers SP Yu Darvish makes his third start since Tommy John surgery and looks to continue the success he’s had in his limited work so far this season; he’ll go against SP Doug Fister, who takes the mound for the Astros and is 1-0 with a 1.53 ERA in his last five starts. Red Sox SP David Price, who has thrown quality starts in his last five outings after a slow start to the season, is scheduled to take the mound in San Francisco on Wednesday against Giants SP Madison Bumgarner, who has posted a 1.91 ERA for the season and a 0.42 ERA in his last three starts.

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Max Scherzer strikes out 20

MLB Weekly: Strasburg gets $170 million, Scherzer gets 20 Ks, Bush gets to the majors

In this week’s MLB Weekly, we take a look at a couple of big stories involving Nationals pitchers and a redemption story for a Rangers pitcher making his Major League Baseball debut.

Looking Back

Off the field for the Nationals, SP Stephen Strasburg got paid, signing a seven-year extension with the team valued at $175 million. He was due to become a free agent in the offseason, but he apparently decided he wanted to stay with the team and sign the long-term deal without going out to the open market, which likely would have gotten him a bigger payday. Strasburg becomes the first pitcher in MLB history to sign a contract this big after undergoing Tommy John surgery, which he had in 2010; the previous highwater mark for such a deal was former teammate SP Jordan Zimmerman, who inked a $110  million deal with the Tigers this past offseason. Strasburg is enjoying a strong season so far through eight starts; he has a 6-0 record, 2.95 ERA and 65 strikeouts in 55 innings.

On the field, SP Max Scherzer through a gem this week for the Nats. He became the fourth pitcher in MLB history to strike out 20 batters in a game, doing it against the Tigers on Wednesday. The 20 strikeouts tied the major-league record, and he had a chance to break the record but induced a groundout from C James McCann to the end the game, which Washington won 3-2. Scherzer threw 119 pitches in the game, just 23 of which were balls. He allowed 6 hits and 2 earned runs in the complete game. For the season, Scherzer — who threw two no-hitters last season — is 4-2 with a 4.15 ERA and 66 strikeouts in 52 innings over the course of eight starts.

In Texas, Rangers RP Matt Bush made his major-league debut on Friday, He pitched the ninth inning of a 5-0 loss to the Blue Jays, striking out defending AL MVP Josh Donaldson, then getting OF Jose Bautista and DH Edwin Encarnacion out for  a perfect 1-2-3 inning in his first appearance in the big leagues. Bush’s story is notable because he was selected by the Padres as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2004 draft but then went nearly 12 years before getting his first taste of the majors. Part of that is because he spent several years in jail following a 2012 hit-and-run DUI in which he allegedly hit a motorcyclist and then fled the scene. He was released in October, then signed a minor-league contract with the Rangers in December. Bush is now living with his father and says he does not drink  anymore.

Elsewhere in MLB, there continues to be surprising teams leading their respective divisions in the American League, with the Orioles, White Sox and Mariners leading the East, Central and West, respectively, entering Sunday’s action. The White Sox also have the best record in the AL and the second-best record in the majors, behind the NL Central-leading Cubs. The division leaders in the National League aren’t as unexpected, but the Phillies continue their surprising season in second place in the NL East behind the Nationals, as good young pitching led by SPs Vincent Velasquez and Aaron Nola continues to propel them to victories.

The Week Ahead

Dodgers-Angels Freeway Series

The Dodgers and Angels play four games in the Freeway Series this week.

It’s the battle of Los Angeles this week, as the Dodgers and Angels have a home-and-home on the docket, with two games at Chavez Ravine Monday and Tuesday, followed by two in Anaheim on Wednesday and Thursday. After a day off Monday, the Nationals and Mets have a three-game series at Citi Field starting Tuesday in what could be a key NL East series, with 1.5 games separating the team’s going into Sunday’s action. Later in the week, the White Sox host the Royals as the defending World Series champions look to lessen the gap between themselves and the division leaders.  And the next chapter of the Silver Boot Series is on deck starting Friday as the Astros host the Rangers for a weekend series at Minute Maid Park.

As for some probable pitchers in the coming week, Dodgers SP Kenta Maeda tries to get back on the right track after posting a 5.09 ERA in his last three starts as he takes the mound Monday against the Angels and SP Matt Shoemaker. We could see a couple of pitchers’ duels on Tuesday. One in Toronto, where Rays SP Chris Archer, who has gotten better lately after a rocky start to his season, goes against Blue Jays SP Marcus Stroman, who is a perfect 4-0 on the season and has a 2.14 ERA in his last three starts. The other one is in Queens, with Scherzer getting his first start after striking out 20 last week; he’ll oppose Mets SP Noah Syndergaard, who hit 2 home runs the last time he pitched, the same day as Scherzer’s gem. There could be more good pitching Thursday in the finale of the Nats-Mets series, with Strasburg going up against SP Matt Harvey, who has put up good numbers the past couple years but is struggling so far in 2016. Cubs ace Jake Arrieta is slated to put his undefeated 7-0 mark on the line when he is scheduled to take the mound in San Francisco on Friday.

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