2015-07-07

TAMPA BAY RAYS (43-41) at KANSAS CITY ROYALS (46-33)



In the second game of a double header, the AL Central leading Kansas City Royals will take on the Tampa Bay Rays at Kauffman Stadium.



The Rays have played much of this season in first place of the AL East, but a recent stretch of 11 losses in their last 14 games has knocked them down to third in the division; two games behind the Yankees. They have lost each of their last four series, three of which were against AL East opponents while also being swept over four games against the Cleveland Indians. They nearly took a sweep at the hands of the division leading Yankees in their last time out, but were able to pull out a nice 8-1 win on Sunday behind nine hits and help from New Yorks three errors. Going into Tuesday, 3B Evan Longoria (.277) was riding a four-game hitting streak and has multiple knocks in four of his last 10 outings. The Royals are once again the pacesetters for the central division, but have struggled recently with a 2-5 record since June 29th. After being swept by the Astros, they went back home and split four games with their divisional foes; the Twins. Each of their victories came by way of a 3-2 score and they did so on Sunday when they had just four hits and won on a walk-off double from 1B Eric Hosmer (.278). With another hitless night, 3B Mike Moustakas (.301) has seen his numbers drop recently and is a meager 4-for-36 (.111) with one extra-base hit in the past 10 contests. Tampa Bay seems to get solid pitchers out of nowhere and one of them will be starting this game in the form of RHP Matt Andriese (3-2, 3.24 ERA) as he goes against RHP Edinson Volquez (8-4, 3.48 ERA) of the host team. Before Tuesdays early game, the Rays had compiled a 23-16 road record, but it could prove difficult to improve on that mark against a Kansas City team which is 24-15 at home. The two clubs have seen each other 13 times since the start of the 2013 campaign with the Royals dominating to the tune of a 10-3 record while going 5-1 at home during the stretch. Trends show that Tampa Bay is 11-3 (.786) in July road games over the past two seasons while the Royals are 85-22 (.794) when the money line is +125 to -125 in the same timeframe. The trio of 2B Tim Beckham (Hamstring), OF Desmond Jennings (Knee) and C John Jaso (Wrist) are currently riding the DL as the situations of 3B Mike Moustakas (Personal) and OF Lorenzo Cain (Hamstring) are something to watch leading up to first pitch.



Andriese had a solid yet unspectacular minor league career leading up to the 2015 season, but injuries and a solid performance at triple-A (2.88 ERA in six games) earned him a trip to Tampa Bay. Hes made the most of his time with the team, showing great control (1.5 BB/9) in his 41.2 frames, but has yet to pitch more than six innings in any of his outings. Things could move in the other direction as the season progresses with batters currently hitting a measly .267 BABIP as he shows limited strikeout ability (5.8 K/9) and the propensity to give up the long ball (1.30 HR/9). Andriese should feel great after his last start in which he threw six innings of shutout baseball, giving up just one hit with five strikeouts (0 walks) against Boston. He has not seen the Royals in his short career and could benefit from both Moustakas (.301) and Cain (.305) missing the game as they lead the team in average and have 51 combined extra-base hits and a collective 5.2 WAR. On the other side of things, 2B Omar Infante (.231) is having his worst year since 2007 with his lowest ISO (.076) since his sophomore campaign and his highest strikeout rate (15.8percent) since 2007. The Rays bullpen has gone 14-17 with a 3.88 ERA (1.31 WHIP) and are 34-for-42 (81percent) in save chances. Brad Boxberger (2.48 ERA, 20 saves) is currently manning the ninth inning and is 20-for-22 (91percent) in his save opportunities while striking out 45 batters in 32.2 innings.



Volquez has bounced around a bunch since the past five seasons as a member of five different teams with ineffective results until last year. He had an ERA greater than 4.10 in each campaign from 2009-2013 as he struggled immensely from control, but he has dropped his walks down to a career low mark in each of the last two seasons, posting better than a 3.50 ERA each time. His strikeouts have taken a hit (6.9 K/9) compared to his career average of 8.0 K/9, but he has allowed very few homers (0.66 HR/9) as his HR/FBpercent is at a career-low mark of 7.4percent. In his career against Tampa Bay, Volquez has gone 2-0 (2-1 team record) with a 2.66 ERA (1.03 WHIP) and was great (8 IP, 1 ER, 5 H, 1 K) in a victory over them last year. SS Asdrubel Cabrera (3-for-8, 1 HR, 2 RBI), 3B Evan Longoria (3-for-9, 3 RBI) and OF Grady Sizemore (2-for-4, 1 HR, 1 RBI) have had success in limited at-bats against the righty while 1B James Loney (2-for-15, 3 K) has had his issues in the matchup. Kansas City owns the best bullpen in baseball right now and they are 14-5 with a 2.03 ERA (1.03 WHIP), successfully saving 25-of-34 (74percent) games. Greg Holland (2.74 ERA, 16 saves) has one blown save on the year while giving up a mere 12 hits in his 23 innings on the mound.




2015-07-06

UFC Fight Night 71: Mir vs Duffee

Saturday, July 15th 10:00 p.m. ET
San Diego, California



Todd Duffee attempts to extend his winning streak to four matches when he takes on Frank Mir, loser of four of his past five bouts, at UFC Fight Night 71.



Mir was a force when he started his UFC career back in 2001 and was the eventual heavyweight champion when he took out Tim Sylvia at UFC 48 in 2004. Since then he has earned an interim heavyweight championship and fought for the belt once, but is well past his glory days with defeats in four of his last five fights. In that time he was knocked out twice with the other two going to decision, but did bounce back most recently with a Performance of the Night as he knocked out Antonio Silva during the first round in February. He has won just once since 2011 and, despite being a big name in the sport, is at the tail end of his career at the age of 36. Duffee is seven years younger than his opponent for this match and has been the equivalent of a home run hitter in baseball with all nine of his wins coming by knockout while his two losses were also via knockout. Eight of his wins came in the first round, including each of the last three, two of which were in the UFC. In the two fights since coming back to the UFC, Duffee has made quick work of both Philip De Fries and Anthony Hamilton, finishing them both off in less than 2:30 minutes and barely let things start against Hamilton at UFC 181; ending it in 33 seconds. The 29-year-old out of the University of Georgia stands at 63 and looks to be the future of the heavyweight division.



Mir used to be the talk of the town in the heavyweight division, but he has gone downhill fast and is now struggling to get anything going. He is coming off a dominant performance against Silva in which he out-struck him 10-1 and finished the fight in 1:40, but overall is landing just 2.18 significant strikes per minute at 47percent accuracy. His opponents have unloaded on him to the tune of 3.97 significant strikes per minute at a ridiculous 63percent accuracy and in his four matches before his last win, Mir had landed a mere 53 significant strikes compared to 206 strikes against him; including a very poor performance against Alistair Overeem where he was out-struck 62-3 in three rounds. Overall he averages 2.20 takedowns per 15 minutes in the octagon, but in his past five bouts has just one following two fights when he had seven total takedowns. He has defended against the takedown 54percent of the time, but has not hit the mat since facing Lesnar in 2009. Submissions are something that he looks to perform often with 2.3 submissions attempted per 15 minutes and nine of his 17 career victories have come by that tactic. Mir is past his prime and will struggle to keep up with the younger fighter.



Duffee makes things look easy in his time in the octagon, and has used aggressive attacks to get in 5.44 significant strikes per 15 minutes. His accuracy is not too impressive, though, with 34percent of those attempts landing as he looks for quantity over quality, searching for the perfect unexpected punch to knock out his opposition. Over his five career UFC fights, Duffee is taking just 1.79 significant strikes per minute as he deflects 61percent of the attempts and has gotten in 28 hits compared to just nine in his last two times out. His style ends there as he does not look to take anyone down or perform a submission as evidenced by having zero of each in his time in the UFC. He also tends to stay upright with a takedown defense of 90percent as he was dropped by De Fries once before knocking him out in just over two minutes. Duffees fighting style is very straight forward, but effective, so it will be interesting to see if his aggressiveness can take out a veteran like Mir.




2015-07-06

ST LOUIS CARDINALS (53-28) at CHICAGO CUBS (44-36)



The St. Louis Cardinals head to Wrigley Field to continue their rivalry with the Chicago Cubs as they begin a four-game series on Monday night.



The Cardinals have not slowed down with their winning despite taking on a few tough injuries and come into this divisional battle with victories in 10 of their last 15 games as they hold a healthy six-game lead in the division. They did struggle somewhat earlier last week, though, losing four straight contests against both the White Sox and Padres while scoring a meager six runs before finishing off San Diego with two victories and a split in the series at home. The final two games of the set were won with pitching as St. Louis gave up just two runs and capped it off with a nice 3-1 effort on Sunday in which they allowed three hits. OF Thomas Pham (.273) hit his first career homer as the leadoff man and will look to give his team a nice power and speed combo moving forward. The Cubs remain in the hunt for the postseason and they have continued their stellar campaign with wins in five of their last six outings. In that time they have dominated their opposition, outscoring them 19-5 with three shutouts against both the Mets and Marlins. Over the weekend, they took 2-of-3 from Miami and gained the edge in the rubber-match, a 2-0 victory in which they were a mere 1-of-8 with RISP but did just enough to back starter Kyle Hendricks start (7.1 IP, 0 ER, 5 H, 6 K). Phenom 23-year-old, 3B Kris Bryant (.279), brings a six-game hitting streak into this contest and aided his team with a huge effort (2 HR, 6 RBI) on Saturday against the Marlins. A few seasoned veterans will battle it out on Monday as RHP John Lackey (6-5, 3.30 ERA) of the Cardinals goes head-to-head with LHP Jon Lester (4-6, 3.74 ERA) of the host Chicago group. St. Louis has been able to get it done on the road to the tune of a 22-17 record as they take on these Cubbies who are 22-16 when playing in the Windy City during 2015. These NL Central clubs have taken each other on 47 times since the start of the 2013 season with the Cardinals holding a 29-18 edge overall, but are an even 10-10 when playing on the road. It has been all St. Louis again this year as they are 7-2 against Chicago, but have yet to play at Wrigley Field. Trends show that Lackeys teams have gone 20-8 (.714) in road games during the month of July in his career while the Cubs are a solid 59-42 (.584) after batting .240 or worse over a 15 game span in the past two years. Plenty of regulars continue to be out for the Cardinals with OFs Matt Holliday (Quad), Jon Jay (Wrist) and 1B Matt Adams (Quad) remaining on the DL while Chicago is without OF Jorge Soler (Ankle), 2B Tommy La Stella (Ribs) and 3B Mike Olt (Wrist).



If you ignore the first two seasons that Lackey spent in Boston, when he posted ERAs of 4.40 and 6.41, the righty has put together another eight seasons since 2005 in which his ERA has been less than 3.90. He has never been a big strikeout guy with a career mark of 7.1 K/9 and has been effective in 2015 once again despite mowing down just 6.7 batters per nine innings. His control has been phenomenal (2.3 BB/9) and he has greatly diminished his homers allowed (0.69 HR/9) after giving up more than a long ball per nine innings in each of the last three years. Since May 29th (7 starts), the Cardinals are 5-2 when Lackey is on the mound and in six of those outings he has gone at least seven frames while giving up three or fewer earned runs. In his time against the Cubs (5 starts), he is 2-1 (4-1 team record) with a 2.34 ERA (1.27 WHIP) and has dominated them this year with three runs on 13 hits to go along with a 15:4 K/BB ratio in two starts (14.2 IP). OF Chris Coughlan (8-for-14, 2 RBI) has had no issues getting to Lackey when matching up, but 3B Kris Bryant, OF Dexter Fowler and 1B Anthony Rizzo have gone a cumulative 2-for-20 with nine strikeouts against the 36-year-old. The Cards possess some of the best relievers in the game and as a result the pen has gone 15-9 with a 2.16 ERA (1.21 WHIP) and is 33-for-38 (87percent) in save chances. Trevor Rosenthal (0.70 ERA, 24 saves) has just one of the five blown saves and has a 13:3 K/BB ratio with nine hits and a run allowed over his last 10 appearances (10.1 IP).



Lester was a huge addition to this young Cubs ballclub in the offseason and although his ERA is approaching 4.00, he has been able to give the team a legitimate veteran presence. Chicago is just 3-5 in his last eight outings and he has not won a game since May 16th despite having five appearances with at least six innings pitched and two or fewer runs allowed. His strikeouts (8.7 K/9) and walks (2.6 BB/9) have remained consistent from other years, but he is giving up his most homers (0.93 HR/9) since 2012 as 12.2percent of the oppositions flyballs are leaving the park. Hes had some great starts when meeting with the Cardinals, going 3-1 (4-1 team record) with a 1.85 ERA (1.15 WHIP) against them and earned a victory when he last saw them in May, going seven innings with four runs allowed (1 ER) on seven hits and whiffed six batters. OF Jayson Heyward has had a ton of success off of Lester, going 8-for-15 with four doubles and a homer against him in his career as SS Jhonny Peralta (8-for-31) has also shown some power with three round-trippers. Nobody on the offense for St. Louis has really struggled in their time against the lefty, but 1B Mark Reynolds (8-for-32, 3 doubles, 1 HR, 4 RBI) has not really excelled either. Chicago has amassed a solid bullpen as they are 19-13 with a 2.88 ERA (1.21 WHIP) and have successfully saved 20-of-30 (67percent) contests. Hector Rondon (2.10 ERA, 12 saves) has recently been used earlier in games as veteran Jason Motte (2.84 ERA, 4 saves) begins to get some opportunities in the ninth inning.




2015-06-25

NEW YORK YANKEES (39-33) at HOUSTON ASTROS (42-32)



The Houston Astros begin a seven-game homestand when the New York Yankees come into town for the first of four contests on Thursday night.



The Yankees have been right around the top of the AL East all season long and are a mere one game behind Tampa Bay in the division after losing three of their past four games. The pitching was putrid during that stretch, giving up an average of nine runs per game and allowed the opposition to put double-digits in the run column during all three defeats. They looked to be getting a break with the Phillies coming to town at the beginning of the week, but New York took a beating the first two games, being outscored 22-14, while they managed to not get swept with a 10-2 victory on Wednesday afternoon. The return of starter Ivan Nova (6.2 IP, 0 ER, 3 H, 1 K) gave the team a much needed boost and the offense rewarded him with 15 hits, two of which came off the bat of 3B Alex Rodriguez (.290) who is riding an eight-game hitting streak in which he is 13-for-28 (.464) with three homers and 12 RBI. The Astros have been one of the better surprises in 2015 as they have been able to rebound from a string of horrid seasons with a start that has them four games ahead of the Rangers in the AL West. They have spent the last eight contests on the road and split the games (4-4) while managing to outscore opponents 44-30. Most recently they took on a talented Angels team in Los Angeles and were unable to get the series win after splitting the first two games; losing the rubber-match in heartbreaking fashion after 13 innings with a 2-1 score. SS Carlos Correa (.300) has come as advertised at the age of 20-years-old and over the past 10 games is 15-for-45 (.333) with two long balls and eight RBI. Grabbing the start for the visiting Yanks will be RHP Adam Warren (5-4, 3.62 ERA) as he looks to outpitch LHP Dallas Keuchel (8-3, 2.35 ERA) of the host team. New York will look to push its road record to .500 with a win here as they are 18-19 away from home thus far and will be going against an Astros group which is 23-14 in front of their fans. The Yankees hold a slight 7-5 record overall in this series since the 2013 campaign and are 4-2 when on the road during that stretch. Trends to watch include that New York is 32-23 (.582) in road games against left-handed starters in the past three seasons while the Astros are 27-17 (.614) when Keuchel is on the mound in the last two years. OFs Jacoby Ellsbury (Knee), Mason Williams (Shoulder) and Slade Heathcott (Quad) are on the DL for the Yankees as Houston is without OF Jake Marisnick (Hamstring) and SS Jed Lowrie (Thumb) while they recover on the DL.



Warren may be making the move back to the pen, where he was solid last year with a 2.97 ERA and 8.7 K/9, after this road trip, but while in the rotation he has been effective for New York. In his 13 starts he has seen his strikeout rate drop (5.8 K/9), but is showing some decent control (2.9 BB/9) and has benefitted from batters hitting a mere .264 BABIP against him. The Yanks have won with Warren taking the mound in four of his last five starts and the righty has been extremely consistent with three runs or fewer allowed in each of his last eight outings. He pitched a gem (8 IP, 2 ER, 7 H, 7 K) in his last time out against the Tigers and did well (5 IP, 0 ER, 2 H, 4 K) in his one opportunity meeting with the Astros in 2013. Warren has not had the chance to face many of the hitters in this lineup with so many youngsters joining the club, but he will be happy that SS Jed Lowrie is out as he is 3-for-6 with a double and an RBI in the matchup while 2B Jose Altuve and 1B Chris Carter are a combined 0-for-6 against the 27-year-old. The bullpen for New York has gone 11-8 with a 3.58 ERA (1.21 WHIP) and are 23-for-27 (85percent) in save opportunities. Dellin Betances (1.25 ERA, 4 saves) has been phenomenal with 14 hits allowed and 59 strikeouts in 36 frames, but is coming off a very tough appearance in which he gave up four runs over an inning; taking his first career loss.



Keuchel has been the rock for this Houston rotation as he builds on a breakout 2014 season with another solid campaign, this time with a winning ball club. He is mowing down 7.0 batters per nine innings while showing continued control (2.5 BB/9) and has been able to keep the ball in the yard with seven homers allowed over his 107.1 frames (0.59 HR/9). One thing that has aided him greatly in his success is batters hitting a meager .229 against him and that has put his FIP (Fielder Independent Pitching) at 3.25, still a solid mark, but shows that he could regress slightly. The Mariners gave him issues in his last start, knocking three home runs out of the park as he took a loss after going six innings with five runs allowed on five hits. He will also hope to do well against the Yankees once again and he has faced them only once, but did great with three runs allowed on seven hits over eight innings in a losing effort. OF Chris Young (4-for-13, 2 doubles, 1 triple, 2 RBI) has had success against Keuchel while the trio of OF Carlos Beltran, 3B Chase Headley and 1B Garrett Jones each have a home run and at least two RBI in limited at-bats. On the other hand, leadoff hitter, OF Brett Gardner, is 0-for-4 in the matchup. The relievers for Houston have been stellar, combining to go 15-11 with a 2.61 ERA (0.95 WHIP) and are 23-for-30 (77percent) in save chances. Luke Gregerson (3.68 ERA, 17 saves) has blown just two saves on the year and has a 9:0 K/BB ratio over his last eight appearances (7.2 IP).




2015-06-23

LOS ANGELES DODGERS (39-33) at CHICAGO CUBS (39-30)



One of the best young teams in baseball, the Chicago Cubs, look to grab their third straight win against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Wednesday night.



The Dodgers have yet to really put everything together since dropping tons of money into the team over the past few years, but are always competitive and come into this one with a half game lead over San Francisco in the NL West. Theyve held this advantage despite taking losses in seven of their last nine games and have been unable to get any offense going in this series. They have been outscored 5-2 in these last two losses against Chicago and did not put any runs on the board in the 10-inning, 1-0 defeat on Tuesday night. They had just three hits in the game, and while OF Joc Pederson (.248) failed to get on base, he is a constant power threat with 19 homers on the year (4th in NL) and has two in the past four games. The Cubs have been building the core of this team for a few years now and with those players all making it to the show at the same time, they have performed better than most would expect and are currently the second wild card team. They come into this one riding a four-game winning streak, allowing a miniscule three runs in that time against both Minnesota and Los Angeles. They held this opponent to eight hits in the first two wins and put up a dominating pitching performance in the 1-0 win on Tuesday, all made possible by the impressive start (7.2 IP, 0 ER, 2 H, 6 K) from Jason Hammel. Although 3B Kris Bryant (.278) went hitless in the victory, he is one of the best young hitters in the game and has shown impressive plate discipline, ranking in the top-10 in the NL in walks (36). A couple of young righties will take the mound in this matchup as 27-year-old RHP Mike Bolsinger (4-2, 2.87 ERA) looks to outduel 25-year-old RHP Kyle Hendricks (2-3, 4.28 ERA) for the host group. It has been very tough for the Dodgers to get wins on the road as evidenced by their 12-20 record away from home as Chicago is a solid 20-13 when at Wrigley Field. The Cubs win on Tuesday brought them a little closer in the series against Los Angeles since the start of 2013, going 6-10 against them and doing poorly (3-7) when at home during that time. Trends show that the Dodgers have gone a solid 35-24 (.593) against right-handed pitchers this year as Hendricks teams are 18-8 (.692) in his starts over the past two years. The injury report has OF Carl Crawford (Oblique) out for Los Angeles as OF Dexter Fowler (Ankle) is questionable for Chicago with OF Jorge Soler (Ankle) and 2B Tommy La Stella (Ribs) on the DL.



Bolsinger was unsuccessful as a member of Arizonas rotation, but he has excelled since joining the Dodgers and through nine starts has seen his club win five times as he has four quality starts. He has allowed two or fewer runs in 7-of-9 outings while showing solid strikeout numbers (8.3 K/9). His control (3.4 BB/9) has been a struggle this year, but he is a groundball pitcher (56.4percent GB) and can get the opponent to hit into plenty of double plays. Keeping the ball on the ground has aided him in giving up a mere 0.51 HR/9 thus far in 2015 and he has been able to keep 79percent of runners on base. He was dominant in his one career start against the Cubs when he saw them last year and pitched 6.2 scoreless innings with one run allowed (0 ER) on four hits with seven strikeouts (2 walks). There are plenty of new faces on this Chicago team that he did not see last year, but of those who he did face, only 2B Tommy La Stella, who is currently injured, has a hit against the righty. The trio of SS Starlin Castro, OF Junior Lake and 1B Anthony Rizzo are a combined 0-for-6 in the matchup. The bullpen for Los Angeles has done well, going 16-13 with a 3.12 ERA (1.17 WHIP) and is 16-for-26 (62percent) in save chances. Kenley Jansen (0.71 ERA, 9 saves) has been tremendous in his 12.2 innings on the mound with one run allowed on four hits with a flawless 22:0 K/BB ratio.



Hendricks has never really instilled fear in his opponents with a low strikeout rate throughout the minors, but despite seeing his ERA jump from 2.46 over 13 starts in 2014 to his current ERA, has shown improvements in strikeouts (7.3 K/9) while keeping his walks to a minimum (1.7 BB/9). His biggest change from last year is home runs, and while he has not done too poorly in the category with 0.86 HR/9, it is a large jump from the 0.45 HR/9 given up over 80.1 frames last year. Chicago has come away with the win in five of his last seven starts and he has gone at least five innings in all but his first outing of the year, but is coming off his worst performance when he gave up seven runs (6 ER) on 11 hits over five innings in a loss to Minnesota last week. He has one start against this opponent and it came last year when he pitched a stellar game (7 IP, 1 ER, 4 H, 3 K) in a winning effort. OF Yasiel Puig (1-for-3) and 3B Justin Turner (1-for-3) had a hit against the righty, but a majority of the hitters struggled against him with C Yasmani Grandal and OF Scott Van Slyke being hitless in their four at-bats. The Cubs relievers have gone 18-12 with a 3.09 ERA (1.24 WHIP) and have been successful in 17-of-26 (65percent) save opportunities. Hector Rondon (2.43 ERA, 12 saves) has not allowed an earned run since May 22nd (10.2 IP) with a 7:2 K/BB ratio in that time.