LEADING OFF: Morales swings for HR record; AL West showdown
A look at what’s happening around the majors today:
Kendrys Morales has homered in seven straight games for Toronto, one short of the major league record. He can match Dale Long, Don Mattingly and Ken Griffey Jr. when the Blue Jays face rookie David Hess (2-8, 5.50) and the Orioles in Baltimore. “It’d be something if he gets (the record). I don’t think any of us can comprehend how hard it is to do,” Toronto manager John Gibbons said. Morales has already connected off Hess during the streak, and the Cuban slugger said the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, has requested one of his bats. “It’s amazing what I’ve been doing,” he added. One of seven players in big league history with a streak this long, Morales has six home runs in 116 career at-bats at Camden Yards. He has 21 homers this season and is batting .500 (17 for 34) with eight home runs and 15 RBIs during a 10-game hitting streak.
Oakland plays at Houston in the opener of a three-game series between the top two teams in the AL West. Gerrit Cole (11-5, 2.73 ERA) pitches for the World Series champion Astros, who have won five straight and lead the division by 1½ games. Cole is 2-0 with a 2.92 ERA in four starts against the A’s this season. Athletics lefty Brett Anderson (3-3, 3.47) is 3-1 with a 2.11 ERA in eight starts since coming off the disabled list, and opponents are batting just .218 since his return. Houston expects to have All-Star outfielder George Springer (quadriceps) back in the lineup.
Three years ago, Daniel Murphy powered the Mets into the World Series by going 9 for 17 (.529) with four home runs to win NLCS MVP honors in a four-game sweep of the Cubs. Now, he’ll face his former team for the first time as a member of the Cubs when they host Noah Syndergaard (9-3, 3.68 ERA) and the Mets at Wrigley Field. Murphy has tormented New York since leaving town as a free agent, batting .390 with 11 homers, 43 RBIs and a whopping 1.162 OPS in 44 games against the Mets for the Washington Nationals, who traded him to Chicago last week. Jon Lester (14-5, 3.64) starts for the Cubs.
EYE ON THE PRIZE
Suddenly back within striking distance of first-place Boston in the AL East, the banged-up Yankees send Masahiro Tanaka (9-4) to the mound at home against the White Sox. Carlos Rodon (5-3) starts for Chicago, which has won nine of 12.
Stephen Strasburg (6-7, 4.23 ERA) pitches for the Nationals in Philadelphia against Zach Eflin (9-4, 3.93) and the Phillies. Strasburg came off the disabled list last week after missing more than a month with a neck problem and gave up five runs in four innings vs. Philadelphia. His velocity dipped in his last inning.
Rockies right-hander Jon Gray faces Mike Trout and the Angels with his club a game back of Arizona for the NL West lead. Gray hasn’t lost a start since June 12, a span of 10 outings. He’s allowed four earned runs or fewer in his past seven starts — no small feat, with four of those games at Coors Field — and Colorado has won each of his past nine outings. The Angels have dropped six straight, including a three-game sweep by Houston over the weekend.