The All-Star break is finally over. Major League Baseball resumes today …
What to Watch This Weekend
… but we’ll have to wait a few extra hours for the weekend’s first pitch, because the Cubs are on the road. It’ll likely come in the Bronx—where the Yankees are hosting the Reds—in Pittsburgh—where the Pirates are welcoming the Rockies—or in the nation’s capital, where the Nationals are taking on the Brewers. All of those series are set to kick off simultaneously, and the last offers you a chance to get your Stephen Strasburg fix right off the bat (7:05 p.m. ET).
A few minutes later, the Indians begin an AL Central battle with the Tigers, who won five of six heading into the hiatus to hike their division lead to 6 1/2 games. After posting a career-best 10.0 K/9 rate in 2013, Anibal Sanchez has struggled to miss bats so far this year, and he’s fanned three or fewer batters in each of his last three starts. The right-hander will try to rediscover his whiffing ways while taking on Trevor Bauer in the opener (7:08 p.m. ET).
Elsewhere in the junior circuit, the first-place Orioles and Athletics will duke it out at O.co Coliseum, where Jeff Samardzija is scheduled to make his third start for Oakland. The Notre Dame product has never faced the O’s, and none of the hitters in Buck Showalter’s lineup can boast much of a résumé against the righty. Samardzija will stare down Nelson Cruz, Chris Davis, and Adam Jones for the first time tonight as he duels Chris Tillman (10:05 p.m. ET).
The Baseball Prospectus crew, including yours truly, will be taking in the middle contest between the O’s and A’s, in which Wei-Yin Chen is due to match up with Jason Hammel. Chen has been a homemaker for the last month and a half, toeing the rubber at Camden Yards in each of his last four assignments and six of his last seven. In fact, this will be his first start west of Kansas City since August 10, 2013 (6:05 p.m. ET).
A word of warning to worms in Miami: Stay away from the Marlins Park infield on Saturday night. Game two of three between the Giants and the Fish pits Tim Hudson, who’s fourth among qualifying starters with a 56.8 percent ground-ball rate, against Henderson Alvarez, who’s ninth at 54.4 percent. Alvarez allowed five runs to the Giants on May 16th; he didn’t permit that many again until his last outing before the All-Star break, a five-inning, six-run drubbing at the hands of the Mets. The righty will hope that a couple extra days of rest help him to bounce back (7:10 p.m. ET).
A pitcher can be a tough-luck loser once or twice in a month, maybe three times, perhaps four. But five? That’s the sort of misery only the 2014 Padres offense could drag a pitcher through. In seven starts since June 11th, Tyson Ross has logged this combined line: 48 2/3 innings, 37 hits, 13 runs (12 earned), 11 walks, 49 strikeouts. Add that up and you get a 2.22 ERA. Over that stretch, Ross has gone 1–5 and the Padres have lost six of the seven games. The only win was a three-hit shutout by Ross on July 2nd. Every time Ross has been charged with at least one run, he’s also been dealt a loss. You might forgive the 27-year-old for thinking he needs to be perfect in the evening date with Dillon Gee and the Mets (8:40 p.m. ET).
When Doug Fister climbs the hill to face the Brewers on Sunday, the first batter he’ll face will probably be center fielder Carlos Gomez. The last time Fister locked horns with the Brewers, he was still a member of the Mariners, and the date was June 26, 2010. Trivia time: Can you name the Brewers' center fielder that day? (Answer at the bottom of the article.) Fister is scheduled to square off with Yovani Gallardo (1:35 p.m. ET).
Got plans for Sunday night? Break ‘em. Clayton Kershaw’s on national TV. He gets the ball in the series finale versus the Cardinals at Busch Stadium (8:05 p.m. ET).
[For your convenience, this space helps to hide the trivia answer.]