MLB-Friday essentials – Teams and games to watch

Hottest team: Athletics (8-2 last 10)

Although Oakland faced three teams with losing records on its recent 10-game road trip, the A’s managed to win eight games. After sweeping the Padres in a quick two-game set and taking three of four from the White Sox, the A’s captured all four games from the struggling Tigers in Detroit. Oakland climbed out of an early 2-0 hole in Thursday’s 4-2 victory, but the A’s couldn’t trim a seven-game deficit to the Mariners for the second American League Wild Card spot following Seattle’s sweep of Baltimore.

The Athletics travel back to the Bay Area to welcome in the Indians for a three-game weekend set. Paul Blackburn looks to end his struggles after allowing at least six runs for the second time in three starts in last Sunday’s 10-3 loss at Chicago. Oakland will try to improve on a 1-6 record in its past seven home series openers, but the A’s swept the Indians in their previous meeting in a three-game set last July at the Coliseum.

Coldest team: Tigers (0-9 last nine)

Detroit has free-fallen since manufacturing a five-game winning streak earlier this month. The Tigers went 0-for-Ohio by losing twice at Cincinnati and three times at Cleveland, while blowing leads in three of four losses in a home sweep to surging Oakland. Detroit’s offense has scored two runs or fewer in five of the past seven defeats, while dropping to 4-9 in the last 13 games at Comerica Park.

The Tigers will try to turn around their recent misfortune with a trip north of the border to Toronto. Francisco Liriano is winless in his last four road starts for Detroit, as he faces a Blue Jays’ squad that has won eight of their past nine home games. The Tigers handled the Blue Jays at Comerica Park earlier this month by taking two of three from Toronto.

Hottest pitcher: Jose Berrios, Twins (8-5, 3.15 ERA)

Berrios is fresh off a season-high 12-strikeout performance in a 2-0 home victory over the Rangers as Minnesota improved to 6-2 in his previous eight starts. During this stretch, Berrios has yielded two runs or less seven times, while producing double-digit strikeouts on three occasions. The Minnesota right-hander will attempt to cure his road woes as the Twins remain in Chicago to face the Cubs after beating the White Sox on Thursday. The Twins own an 8-2 record in Berrios’ 10 home starts, compared to a 2-4 mark away from Target Field.

Coldest pitcher: Marco Gonzales, Mariners (7-5, 4.04 ERA)

Seattle finished its long road trip on a strong note by sweeping struggling Baltimore in a four-game set at Camden Yards. The Mariners head back to Safeco Field to start a three-game series with another last-place squad as Kansas City invades Seattle. Gonzales didn’t fare well on the road swing by drawing the Red Sox and Yankees in a pair of starts, while allowing 15 hits and 11 runs in 12.1 innings as Seattle lost both times. The left-hander had his issues with the Royals when faced them back in April by giving up eight hits and four runs in 2.1 innings of a 10-0 away defeat.

Biggest OVER run: Dodgers (5-1 last six)

Following a 2-1 victory over the Cubs to begin their four-game set at Chavez Ravine on Monday, Los Angeles and Chicago played to three high-scoring contests to close out their series. The Dodgers yielded 25 runs in the final three games, including a seven-spot in the seventh inning of Thursday’s 11-5 defeat to the Cubs as Chicago grabbed the split. Los Angeles hosts Colorado for a three-game series at Dodger Stadium this weekend as the Dodgers plated 33 runs in its sweep of the Rockies at Coors Field earlier this month.

Biggest UNDER run: Mariners (5-1 last six)

Seattle’s pitching had its problems in series losses at New York and Boston to begin 10-game road trip, but the Mariners allowed three runs or less in three of four wins at Baltimore. Seattle hosts Kansas City this weekend as the Mariners have played plenty of low-scoring games in recent series openers at Safeco Field by producing a 5-0-1 UNDER mark in the last six opportunities. In four of those games, the M’s scored two runs or less, while six of the last seven home series openers have been decided by one run, which could make Kansas City on the run-line an intriguing wager.

Matchup to watch: Red Sox vs. Yankees

The top two teams in the American League East square off in the Bronx as Boston owns a one-game advantage over New York heading into the weekend. The Red Sox travel to New York following a three-game sweep of the Angels, while finishing off their homestand at 5-1. The Yankees rebounded from a three-game sweep at the hands of the Rays to grab two of three from the Phillies on the road, although New York was shut out in the series finale on Wednesday, 3-0.

A pair of southpaws head to the hill tonight as Boston’s Eduardo Rodriguez squares off against New York’s CC Sabathia. The Red Sox win a lot when Rodriguez takes the mound, as Boston owns a 13-2 record in his 15 starts this season, including a perfect 6-0 mark away from Fenway Park. Rodriguez’s six-game winning streak came to a halt in last Saturday’s 7-2 home setback to Seattle, as both losses suffered by the Red Sox this season with the left-hander on the mound came as a favorite of -170 or more.

Sabathia looks to end a two-start slide after dropping a pair of low-scoring defeats to the Rays. The Yankees have cashed the UNDER in each of Sabathia’s last four starts, while New York has compiled a 5-3 record in his eight home outings. The last time Sabathia faced the Red Sox in mid-May, the left-hander was tagged for nine hits and four runs in four innings of a 5-4 defeat. Last season, the Yankees won all four of Sabathia’s starts against the Red Sox, as he allowed a total of three runs in those outings.

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