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).
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.
The Minnesota Twins look to continue their nice turn-around season when they host the Chicago White Sox on Monday night.
The White Sox made a ton of moves this offseason to compete within their tough division, but they have not paid off up to this point and come into this one with losses in eight of the last 10 games. The offense was putrid during the poor stretch, averaging 2.1 runs per game and had a streak of six defeats where they scored a total of six runs. Chicago was able to grab a rare series win over the weekend, though, when they hosted the Rangers, and after losing game one 2-1, were able to get two consecutive 3-2 victories. Sundays series clincher went 11 innings and with a two-hit game, 1B Jose Abreu (.288) continued a solid sophomore season as he comes into this one with a six-game hitting streak. The Twins already spent some of this year in first place of the AL Central and now sit 3.5-games behind the Royals after losing 11 of their last 16 contests. They played the last five games at home and were able to go 3-2 with two wins against the Cardinals followed by a 2-1 series loss at the hands of Cincinnati. Minnesota was outmatched in the rubber-match on Sunday, losing 8-0 with just four hits in the game. Top prospect OF Byron Buxton (.120) has not injected energy into this lineup like they were hoping as he has just one hit in the last five games (.067) with at least one strikeout in each of those performances. A couple of lefties will toe the rubber to start this divisional battle with LHP John Danks (3-7, 5.16 ERA) going for the Sox and LHP Tommy Milone (3-1, 3.67 ERA) for the host Twins. Chicago has been horrible when on the road with a record of 12-23 (.343) and that mark could get worse against a Minnesota group which is 23-14 (.622) at home. These two clubs have had plenty of experience against each other in recent years and the Twins hold a 28-20 (.583) advantage overall in that time, going 15-9 at home. This year theyve already played seven times and Minnesota has dominated with a 6-1 record, outscoring the White Sox 45-15. The Chicago has been solid as an underdog since 1997, going 618-757 (.449) with a moneyline of +100 or worse since then and the Twins are 16-10 (.615) against left-handed starters in 2015. Both teams are fairly healthy with the only omissions being OFs Jordan Schafer (Knee) and Aaron Hicks (Elbow) from Minnesota.
Danks has had a rocky career, all with the White Sox, but after failing to reach 30 starts from 2011-2013, he took the mound 32 times last year and posted a 4.74 ERA with 11 wins. He has gone backwards from there this season with his biggest problem being homers (1.32 HR/9) behind minimal groundballs (36.7percent GB). One area he has improved slightly in this year is strikeouts with his highest mark (6.4 K/9) since 2011 while also showing solid control (2.5 BB/9). His team has lost in five of his last six starts, with his only winning effort being a gem against the Astros when he threw a complete game shutout with six strikeouts (1 walk). Danks has had a rough go of things against the Twins in his career, going 7-14 (8-20 team record) with a 5.67 ERA (1.55 WHIP) and has allowed 14 runs (10 ER) in two losses over his past two goes against them. Veterans 1B Joe Mauer (23-for-60, 3 doubles, 9 RBI) and OF Torii Hunter (17-for-52, 2 doubles, 4 HR, 11 RBI) have teed off against him as C Kurt Suzuki is a meager 3-for-20 (.150) with a strikeout in the matchup. The relievers for Chicago have gone 11-11 with a 3.84 ERA (1.45 WHIP) and are 16-for-21 (76percent) in save chances. David Robertson (2.35 ERA, 14 saves) has four blown saves on the year while posting an amazing 42:5 K/BB ratio over 30.2 frames.
Milone has moved around quite a bit since coming to the big leagues in 2011 and is now with his third team in that time. Looking at Milones stats, it is hard to believe that he has done as well as he has with over 1.20 HR/9 in each of the last three years as he is on pace for his highest career mark in the category with eight long balls given up in his 41.2 innings (1.73 HR/9). He also does not possess the ability to get many strikeouts, mowing down a mere 5.6 batters per nine innings this season while benefitting from the opposition hitting a meager .246 against him. He has been great when facing Chicago in his career, taking them on five times with a 2-0 record (2-3 team record), 1.39 ERA (0.80 WHIP) and had a nice showing (7.2 IP, 0 ER, 2 H, 7 K) in a win over them back in April. Nobody on the White Sox has done very well against the lefty with C Tyler Flowers (2-for-13) and 3B Gordon Beckham (3-for-11) each having a homer in the matchup while SS Alexei Ramirez, 1B Jose Abreu, DH Adam LaRoche and OF Adam Eaton are a combined 1-for-29 (.034) when batting against the 28-year-old. The bullpen for Minnesota has gone 11-10 with a 3.84 ERA (1.31 WHIP) and are 25-for-28 (89percent) in saves. Glen Perkins (1.48 ERA, 23 saves) has been phenomenal with no blown saves on the year and comes into this contest with 7.1 scoreless innings in his last seven outings, allowing four hits with a 7:1 K/BB ratio during the stretch.
Former light heavyweight champion, Lyoto Machida, looks to get his way back into title contention when he faces Yoel Romero at UFC Fight Night 70.
Since joining the middleweight division five fights ago, Machida has had a mixed bag of results. He won his first two, actually getting Knockout of the Night in his bout with Mark Munoz to kick off his middleweight career, but has lost two of his last three; including failing to win at a chance to get the middleweight belt. Overall, two of his five fights at this weight division were named Fight of the Night and in December of last year, Machida was able to get a TKO (body kick and punches) in just over a minute against C.B. Dollaway. Unfortunately, he is coming off a poor showing against Luke Rockhold where he lost via submission (rear-naked choke) in the middle of the second round. The 37-year-old won the first 16 fights of his career, and the 15th earned him the light-heavyweight title as he was able to defend it just once. Romero is an Olympic silver medalist after competing in both the 2000 and 2004 summer games for his home country of Cuba. The now Miami resident has gone undefeated in his first five UFC fights since Strikeforce disbanded and has a knockout in four of those five victories. He actually has a knockout in 8-of-9 career fights, with each of his last three knockouts coming in the third round. His bout with Tim Kennedy in September earned Fight of the Night honors after Romero took him down with punches early on in the third round. His wrestling and knockout ability make him a threat to win at any given fight, and although he is 38-years-old, there doesnt look to be any slowing down for the Soldier of God.
Lyoto is a jack of all trades when it comes to his fighting style and he has used that to gain an advantage in significant strikes landed. Each minute, The Dragon is landing 2.62 significant strikes at a 53percent accuracy, and although his opponents are efficient when going against him at 63percent, he does not give them plenty of opportunities with 1.52 significant strikes landed against him. His last match was dominated by his opponent Luke Rockhold who had a 23-13 significant strike advantage and took Lyoto down once with two submission attempts against; one of which ended the fight. It will be interesting to see if that Lyoto comes out or if it is the one who landed 12 strikes compared to none against in his knockout win against Dollaway last December. He has not had a takedown in his last three matches, but overall is averaging 1.38 takedowns per 15 minutes in the octagon with his accuracy at 65percent. Luckily, he does not let others get him on the mat with a takedown defense of 76percent, but has been taken down six times in his last three times out. Submissions are also something that he was better known for during the early parts of his career, averaging 0.5 submission attempts per 15 minutes, but has not had one since late 2010. All of Lyotos stats seem to be trending downwards and his time at this level looks to be numbered.
Romero made his name as a World Champion and Olympic silver medalist freestyle wrestler, but has extended his legacy with an impressive showing in MMA. Hes gone the distance in a mere 1-of-10 fights between Strikeforce and UFC with eight of his nine wins coming by knockout. His innate ability at knocking his opponents out comes from a 3.49-2.04 advantage in significant strikes handed out. Those strikes have been handed out at a 54percent accuracy as his opposition is getting in just 33percent of their attempts against the Cuban-born fighter. Romero has no issues tiring out his opponents by putting them where he is most comfortable, the mat, and averages 2.4 takedowns per 15 minutes in the octagon while getting 10 in his past two fights. He does this more by volume than with precision as his accuracy is a meager 35percent while he defends against the takedown 71percent of the time. One part of his game that is absent is submissions as he has not attempted one since joining the UFC and that will not be something that Lyoto will see. If this goes the full five rounds, this fight could really go either way, but Romero will do everything in his power to end it with a knockout early.
The Kansas City Royals hope to continue playing at a very high level when they take on the Milwaukee Brewers this Thursday night.
Milwaukee has had a horrible season and they enter this battle riding a five-game losing streak. Three of those losses came at the hands of their current opponent, Kansas City, and they have put up a mere nine runs (2.3 runs per game) in that time. They are on the brink of losing four straight against the AL Central leaders after the 10-2 loss on Wednesday in which they had just six hits and were 1-for-5 with RISP. OF Carlos Gomez (.275) has not had quite as spectacular of a season as most are accustomed to, but he is starting to come around and is 13-for-42 (.310) with five runs scored in his last 10 performances. It has been another successful start to the season for the 2014 AL Champions as they come into this one riding wins in seven of their past nine contests. The recent stretch has vaulted them into first place and they now hold a 3.5-game lead over the Minnesota Twins in the AL Central. This will be the fourth consecutive game against the Brewers and they have won each of the last three, capping it off on Wednesday with a big 10-2 dismantling of the last place team behind 12 hits. OF Lorenzo Cain (.291) continued his solid season with a 2-for-3 night and he is now 11-for-32 (.344) with two doubles, two homers and six RBI over his current eight-game hitting streak. The pitching matchup will feature two very different pitchers as 26-year-old RHP Jimmy Nelson (3-7, 4.60 ERA) takes on 36-year-old RHP Jeremy Guthrie (4-4, 5.79 ERA) of the host Royals. The Brewers have not performed well wherever they are playing and on the road thus far they are 13-19 as they go against this Kansas City group which is 20-11 at Kauffman Stadium. The two clubs have not played often in recent memory and these four games this year have been dominated by the Royals, winning each of the first three while outscoring Milwaukee 25-9. Trends show that the Brewers are 48-45 (.516) in road games with an on-base percentage of .300 or worse in its last 10 games over the past three seasons while Kansas City is 29-10 (.744) at home with a money line of -100 to -125 in the past two years. OF Carlos Gomez (Leg) is questionable to play in this one as OF Khris Davis (Knee) is on the DL for the visitors and the Royals will be playing with a full squad of healthy offensive players.
Nelson earned himself a spot in this rotation after a solid yet unspectacular first season of starts. In 2014, he managed 7.4 K/9 and did great with his control (2.5 BB/9) while giving up a mere 0.78 HR/9. His numbers should have been much better, though, as the opposition hit .344 BABIP while Nelson left just 66.6percent of runners on base. Hes been able to increase his strikeouts (8.0 K/9) this year, but has already allowed 10 homers in his 78.1 frames (1.15 HR/9) with balls leaving the park on 14.7percent of his fastballs. In his last four starts, he sandwiched a six-inning scoreless outing against the Pirates with three starts where he totaled 16 innings, giving up 17 runs on 18 hits while being 1-2 in that time. He has yet to take on the Royals in his short career, but needs to be careful against 3B Mike Moustakas (.323) who has jumped leaps and bounds this year and ranks fourth in the AL in batting average. On the other hand, 2B Omar Infante (.227) has struggled in his second season with Kansas City as he has struck out at his highest rate (15.3percent) since 2007. The Brewers bullpen hasnt been too bad, going 10-6 with a 3.48 ERA (1.24 WHIP) as they are 13-for-17 (76percent) in save chances. Francisco Rodriguez (1.13 ERA, 13 saves) is perfect in his 13 save attempts, allowing just 12 hits in his 24 innings on the mound.
Guthries biggest asset to his teams has been as an innings eater, pitching at least 200 innings in five of the past six seasons as a member of the Orioles and Royals. His performance hasnt been all too impressive in that time, though, as he posted a sub-4.00 ERA just once in that time and is on pace for his worst full season as a starter. Hes never been much of a strikeout pitcher, but this season is just sad as he is mowing down a meager 4.0 K/9 and has seen his control at its worst mark (2.8 BB/9) since 2011. Guthrie is also giving up a ton of homers (1.52 HR/9) and getting batters to hit the ball on the ground a putrid 35.7percent of the time. Hes actually been impressive over his last three starts, compiling 17 innings and giving up just six runs on 15 hits in that time with a 10:4 K/BB ratio. In his long career, Guthrie has faced the Brewers just once, going seven strong innings of one-run, three-hit baseball and earning a win back in 2012. Despite not seeing Milwaukee much, he has faced 1B Adam Lind plenty has done poorly with the lefty going 17-for-47 (.362) with three doubles, a triple, a homer and two RBI. On the other hand, C Jonathan Lucroy and 3B Aramis Ramirez are a combined 2-for-11 in the matchup. The Kansas City relievers have continued to be some of the best around, going 11-4 with a 1.97 ERA (1.04 WHIP) and are 19-for-28 (68percent) when attempting a save. Greg Holland (3.52 ERA, 11 saves) did horrible (0 IP, 3 ER, 4 H) in an attempt to get some work against the Brew Crew on Monday but is a solid 11-for-12 in save opportunities.