LEADING OFF: Verlander vs Morton, Cubs and Mets get wild
A look at what’s happening around the majors today:
PAIR OF ACES
Former teammates and 2019 All-Stars square off in a prime pitching matchup when Charlie Morton (13-5, 2.85 ERA) and the Rays face Justin Verlander (15-5, 2.77) in Houston. With the Rays locked in a close wild-card race and the Astros leading the AL West, it’s a potential October preview. Verlander, first in the majors with 239 strikeouts, fanned 11 last time out and went the distance on a two-hitter in a 2-1 loss to Detroit. He has seven straight double-digit strikeout games. Morton spent the past two years with the Astros and helped them win the 2017 World Series.
WILD IN THE CITI
Kyle Schwarber and the Cubs visit the Mets in the opener of a pivotal three-game series at Citi Field. New York trails Chicago by two games for the second NL wild card. Both teams were off Monday after getting swept at home last weekend — the Mets by Atlanta, the Cubs by Washington. Chicago hopes to have Anthony Rizzo back in the lineup. The first baseman left Saturday’s game with tightness in his back and sat out Sunday. Yu Darvish (4-6, 4.43 ERA) is scheduled to pitch for the Cubs against Marcus Stroman (7-11, 3.18), who exited his previous start with left hamstring tightness.
BIG IN JAPAN
Yusei Kikuchi and Masahiro Tanaka face each other for the first time in the majors when the Seattle Mariners host the AL East-leading New York Yankees. The 28-year-old Kikuchi is 5-8 with a 5.19 ERA in his first big league season, but he threw a two-hitter against Toronto in his last start on Aug. 18. He calls the matchup with his Japanese countryman “a very special game and moment for me.” The 30-year-old Tanaka has won two of his past three decisions but dropped his last outing against Oakland.
All-Star right-hander Lucas Giolito faces AL Central-leading Minnesota again when the Chicago White Sox host the Twins in the opener of a three-game series. Giolito struck out 12 while tossing a three-hitter in a 4-0 victory at Minnesota last Wednesday. He is 3-1 with a 2.33 ERA in four August starts, striking out 44 batters in 27 innings. Michael Pineda seeks his third straight win for the Twins.