Saturday’s early MLB games: Division races continue

CovHlSqThere are five games beginning before midnight UK time today. 

The A’s and Twins start us off at 18.10 before four games get underway at 21.10.  They include the Twins’ AL Central rivals and battles involving teams from each division in the National League.

All times are in BST.

18.10. Oakland at Minnesota (Dallas Braden – Kevin Slowey)

The A’s beat the Twins 3-1 yesterday, although the Tigers’ win over the White Sox meant that Minnesota maintained their nine game lead in the AL Central.  Braden pitched superbly against the Rangers back on 28 August (a complete game shutout) to level his win-loss record at 9-9 but has suffered three straight losses since then, never making it through six complete innings.  He’ll be looking for a better performance today.  As for Slowey, he’s pitched well, if not going deep into games, in his two starts since coming off the DL.

21.10. Detroit at Chicago White Sox (Justin Verlander – Lucas Harrell)

The always combative Ozzie Guillen will not be prepared to concede the Central to the Twins just yet, but the White Sox’s recent poor form has all but ruled them out of making the postseason.  Chicago has won only two of their last ten games and  their current losing streak was extended to four games last night after Max Scherzer tied them up in knots as the Tigers prevailed 9-2.  Today’s pitching match-up heavily favours Detroit as well.  Harrell makes the start in place of the injured Freddy Garcia.

21.10. Colorado at LA Dodgers (Jhoulys Chacin – John Ely)

Never rule out the Rockies.  They’re on yet another September surge and are now just 1.5 games behind the NL West-leading San Francisco Giants after winning the series-opener against the Dodgers yesterday.  The Rockies host the Giants for three games over 24-26 September, so if they can take some more games from the Dodgers and the D-Backs in the run-up to that series, they could put themselves in pole position: a real turnaround from only a couple of weeks ago. 

Chacin has been a useful addition to the Rockies’ rotation, although he lasted only four innings against the D-Backs last time out.  Ely filled in for Vicente Padilla against the Astros last Saturday and is expected to pitch again today.  This game is presumably one of the FOX offerings, so expect plenty of chatter about Don Mattingly’s transition to being the Dodgers’ manager in 2011 and speculation about Joe Torre’s plans for next year.

21.10. Atlanta at NY Mets (Tim Hudson – Dillon Gee)

With the Phillies riding a five-game winning streak, the Braves are now three games behind in the NL East and have just a 1.5 game lead over San Diego in the Wild Card race.  Time to start winning some games.  Tim Hudson has had a terrific season for the Braves and has become another example of a pitcher returning strongly after Tommy John surgery.  The Mets are having another disappointing season and, frankly, there doesn’t appear to be much fight left in them.  However, a young starter like Gee has every reason to give his all and to make a good impression.  He’s given up just one run in his two starts, although he has walked seven batters over those thirteen innings.

21.10. San Diego at St. Louis (Chris Young – Jeff Suppan)

Yesterday’s game couldn’t have gone much worse for the Padres.  Mat Latos was chased by the Cards after just 1.1 innings having given up eight earned runs.  Not only did that put them in a hole that they couldn’t recover from, they lost 14-4, a short start was the last thing the Padres needed as Chris Young is not expected to work very deep into today’s game.  He has made only one Major League start this season, back on 6 April, and has been working his way back from a shoulder injury.  The Cardinals trail the Reds by six games in the NL Central and might still feel they have an outside chance of causing an upset and winning the division at the last.  Needless to say, both teams will be desperate to win this one to keep their postseason hopes alive.

All the above games can be followed via various resources on MLB.com (Gameday, At Bat with Gameday Audio and MLB.tv).  A complete schedule of MLB games can be found on MLB.com

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