LEADING OFF: Wild-card hopefuls set for key weekend series
A look at what’s happening around the majors Friday:
The Rays got themselves off the ropes by rallying late to beat Houston on Thursday night, ending a four-game skid. Now the AL wild-card hopefuls open a pivotal three-game home series against Cleveland. The Indians are 2 1/2 games ahead of Tampa Bay for the top wild-card spot, with Oakland one game ahead for the Rays for the second. All-Star Game MVP Shane Bieber (12-6, 3.23) is set to pitch or Cleveland against RHP Austin Pruitt (2-0, 5.57).
The Cubs host the Brewers hoping to bury another NL wild-card competitor after sweeping the Mets over three games this week. Chicago pulled five games ahead of New York for the second wild card and is four games ahead of Milwaukee. LHP Jose Quintana (11-8, 4.05) will start for the Cubs in the matinee against RHP Chase Anderson (6-3, 4.34).
Meanwhile, the Mets will try to snap a six-game skid in the opener of a series at Philadelphia, which is just 2 1/2 games behind Chicago. New York RHP Zack Wheeler (9-7, 4.46) is set to face Philadelphia ace Aaron Nola (12-4, 3.53).
A week after completing a sweep of the Yankees in Oakland, the A’s head to the Bronx for a three-game set. The club hopes to get third baseman Matt Chapman back in the lineup. He was held out Thursday a night after taking a pitch off his helmet from the Royals’ Jakob Junis. He entered as a defensive replacement Thursday but did not take any at-bats. It’s also possible infielder Sheldon Neuse will make his major league debut. The 24-year-old was called up Thursday with Khris Davis on paternity leave. Neuse is hitting .317 with 27 homers and 102 RBIs with Triple-A Las Vegas. Bay Area-native CC Sabathia (5-8, 4.99) is set to start for New York against LHP Brett Anderson (10-9, 4.08).
Less than a month into his big league career, Aristides Aquino has already swung his way into the record books. The Reds rookie clubbed his 14th homer since his call-up Aug. 1 on Thursday night, setting the NL rookie mark for homers in a month. The Dodgers’ Cody Bellinger held the previous record of 13, set in June 2017. The major league rookie mark is 18 by the Tigers’ Rudy York in August 1937. Aquino can break a tie with Frank Robinson (1962) and Greg Vaughn (1999) for the franchise monthly homer record when Cincinnati opens a series at St. Louis.