Here’s our preview of tonight’s MLB action in the American League…
SEATTLE MARINERS (16-15) @ OAKLAND ATHLETICS (19-14)
Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum – 20:35 GMT
Expected pitchers – F. Hernandez (3-1, 2.53) vs. Straily (1-2, 5.01)
The Seattle Mariners will look to continue their series dominance of the Oakland Athletics on Wednesday night, as the two team’s meet in a doubleheader set in Oakland. The Mariners have won four consecutive games, scoring 29 runs in the process. Leading the charge for the M’s of late has been first baseman Justin Smoak (.250, 4HR 20RBI), who had 3 RBI in the team’s win over Oakland on Tuesday night. The team also likes what it has gotten from big free agent signing Robinson Cano (.298, 1HR 18RBI), who hasn’t been hitting long, but has been consistent. Ace Felix Hernandez takes the mound, as he looks for his first win since early April.
The Athletics are, as expected, currently leading the charge in the AL West, although their 19-14 mark from the last 10 games leaves something to be desired. The Athletics have receieved offensive contributions from a number of sources, with a remarkable 7 players already hitting more than 10 RBI on the season. Third baseman Josh Donaldson (.268, 7HR 23RBI) has picked up where he left off from a career 2013 season, and leads the team in RBI and HR, while outfielder Yoenis Cespedes is a sure first-ballot All Star in left. Wednesday starter Dan Straily has struggled for form this season, and will be seeking just his second win from seven starts.
MINNESOTA TWINS (15-16) @ CLEVELAND INDIANS (14-19)
Progressive Field – 00:05 GMT
Expected pitchers – Nolasco (2-3, 5.82) vs. Salazar (1-3, 5.93)
The Cleveland Indians are in the process of trying to salvage a slipping season, as a 3-7 mark in their last ten, coupled with an ugly 4-11 record, has them last in the AL Central at 14-19, already 7.5 games behind division leading Detroit. The Indians don’t have a single every-day player hitting above .300 right now, highlighted by normally sweet-swinging Carlos Santana’s ugly .144 batting average. Add to that another leg injury suffered by team-leader Michael Bourn in the outfield, and you have a recipe for things that may get worse before they get better in Cleveland.
In spite of a record which has consistently hovered around .500 all year, the Twins are playing better baseball than most predicted this year. This is in large part thanks to some slid hitting from veteran Joe Mauer (.296, 2HR 11RBI), along with Kurt Suzuki and Chris Colabello (whose 28 RBI’s are 5th in the majors). Their pitching has struggled though, and nowhere is that more evident in the person of staff ace Ricky Nolasco, who has a 5.82 ERA and an opposition batting average of .329 on the season.
HOUSTON ASTROS (10-23) @ DETROIT TIGERS (19-9)
Comerica Park – 00:08 GMT
Expected pitchers – Peacock (0-2, 5.26) vs. Porcello (4-1, 3.66)
The AL’s best and the AL’s worst square off again on Wednesday night, as the Houston Astros and Detroit Tigers meet in the third of a four-game set. The Tigers have been victorious in the first 2 games, including taking a decisive 11-4 victory on Tuesday night, highlighted by 18 Tigers hits. Defending AL MVP Miguel Cabrera (.293, 3HR 23RBI) is picking up his play after a shaky start to the season, and has registered 8 hits on 22 AB in the month of May. Young Rick Porcello has been strong for the team out of the four spot in the rotation, and will look to continue his hot start on Wednesday night.
Meanwhile, the Astros look once again destined for a date with the AL basement in 2014, as their recent 3-7 swoon has them in the basement of the league. Prior to Tuesday night, the Astros had gone 17 consecutive innings without scoring a run, a mark which is highlighted by a league-low in run production. Indeed, only second baseman Jose Altuve (.279, 1HR 10RBI) is having a respectable season at the plate, and even his is low by comparative standards. It’s shaping up to be another long year in Houston.
BALTIMORE ORIOLES (16-14) @ TAMPA BAY RAYS (15-18)
Tropicana Field – 00:10 GMT
Expected pitchers – B. Norris (2-2, 3.94) vs. C. Ramos (1-1, 2.91)
The Baltimore Orioles have recovered from an early-season swoon, and are now sitting atop the tight AL East standings with a 16-14 record. They bested the Rays in the first of their 3-game set on Tuesday, led by the hot bat of Matt Wieters (.341, 5HR 18RBI), who may well be the best catcher in the game right now. Wednesday starter Bud Norris has been one of the best of a shaky starting bunch for Baltimore, and seeks a second consecutive victory as he takes the mound against the Rays.
More was expected of Tampa Bay entering this season, and although it is still too early in the year to call them a disappointment, they will want to right the ship sooner rather than later. Serious injuries to pitchers Alex Cobb and Matt Moore certainly haven’t helped matters, as the burden has fallen even harder onto the shoulders of David Price in the early going. The team hopes that left Cesar Ramos can continue to give them solid starts from his spot in the rotation, while they try and piece together the 3-4 spots from struggling veterans, and free agent pick ups like Erik Bedard.
COLORADO ROCKIES (21-14) @ TEXAS RANGERS (17-16)
The Ballpark at Arlington – 01:05 GMT
Expected pitchers – J. De La Rosa (3-3, 5.11) vs. Lewis (2-1, 4.22)
Riding a red-hot 9-3 mark in their last 12 games, the Colorado Rockies have to be considered one of the big surprises in the league at this point, and will look to continue their dominance of the Rangers into game three of their four game set. The Rockies have won the first two games of this series in Arlington by 8-2 and 12-1 marks, highlighted by the maniacal hitting form of Troy Tulowitzki (.421, 9HR 30RBI), who leads the league in batting average, is tied for fourth in home runs, and is third in RBI’s. Couple that with the play of slugger Carlos Gonzalez (.279, 6HR 24RBI), who went 5-5 on Tuesday night, and you have a recipe for sustained success for this surprise story.
The flip side of the equation is that the Rangers have allowed an ugly 20 runs from the first two games of their set with the Rockies, highlighting the struggles of their pitching staff. Outside of Yu Darvish, no pitcher in the Texas rotation has really blown the doors off the place in 2014, and Wednesday starter Colby Lewis is no exception. In fact, outside of Shin-Soo Choo (whose .370 average is second in the majors to Tulowitzki), the team has struggled to hit for the long-ball as well; Choo’s 3 home runs leads the team, a remarkable stat considering some of the bats (Prince Fielder, Adrian Beltre) at their disposal.
CHICAGO CUBS (11-20) @ CHICAGO WHITE SOX (17-17)
U.S. Cellular Field – 01:10 GMT
Expected pitchers – T. Wood (2-3, 3.35) vs. Jh. Danks (2-2, 5.00)
The all-Chicago battle continues on the south-side of the Windy City, as the Cubs look to salvage a losing set on Wednesday night. The Cubbies offense has sputtered in this set with the Sox, hitting for just 2 runs in two games, but that is indicative of what has been an ongoing battle for them all season. Outside of Anthony Rizzo (.291, 6HR 16RBI) and Starlin Castro (.288, 4HR 14RBI0, the team hasn’t gotten consistent every day hits from a player in the order, and that has severely impacted their pitching statistics. Take ace Jeff Samadzija, for example: he has yet to win in 7 starts this season, in spite of posting a strong 1.62 era, .228 opp. batting average, and 1.12 WHIP.
The White Sox, meanwhile, have been a pleasant surprise in the AL Central, as they look to improve on a hideous 63-win 2013. The team has gotten the big stick from shortstop Alexei Ramirez (.321, 4HR 20RBI), who looks like a sure first-ballot All Star after a strong start to 2014, as well as league-leading home run producer Jose Abreu (12 HR). The Sox thought the season was lost when lefty ace Chris Sale went down with an injury in mid-April, but the performance of some of his replacements, including Wednesday starter John Danks and Jose Quintana, has been enough to keep the Sox heads above water until he returns in late-May.
PICK: Chicago White Sox
NEW YORK YANKEES (17-15) @ LOS ANGELES ANGELS (16-16)
Angels Stadium – 03:05 GMT
Expected pitchers – Nuno (0-0, 6.87) vs. H. Santiago (0-5, 5.01)
The Yankees put a halt t a 1-5 skid on Tuesday night, beating the Angels 4-3 in a tight contest in Los Angeles to set up the rubber match on Wednesday night. The Bronx Bombers have struggled with consistent batting production from some of their expected producers, including sub-.500 averages for Brian McCann, Carlos Beltran and Alfonso Soriano. Still, it has been a solid bull-pen, led by emerging closer David Robertson, which has kept them in close games, and some solid starts from the likes of Masahiro Tanaka and Hiroki Kuroda have allowed them to overcome some offensive hiccups, and stay in the hunt in the AL East.
The L.A. Angels have been an up and down club through the first month and a half of the season, so perhaps their .500 mark is in keeping with what should be expected of them right now. One plus has been the resurgence of veteran slugger Albert Pujols, whose numbers (.302, 10HR 26RBI) are on pace to shatter his best as numbers as an Angel, while MVP runner-up Mike Trout (.294, 6HR 20RBI) has struggled of late (just 2 hits in 17 AB in the month of May), but is too good a player to not snap out of it soon. Pitching has been probably the biggest let-down for the Angels to this point, highlighted by Wednesday starter Hector Santiago, who has lost 5 of 6 starts to this point in the season.