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MLB – Sunday preview and game of the day

Sunday, Aug. 18

It’s a lefty-on-lefty battle on Sunday afternoon at Citizens Bank Park as LHP Joey Lucchesi goes for the Padres against LHP Jason Vargas for the Phillies. Lucchesi is 7-7 with a 4.25 ERA with 125 strikeouts across 127 innings. The Padres have been skidding, and they’re 0-6 in Lucchesi’s past six outings, and 1-8 over his past nine. It isn’t likely he’ll be able to right the ship in Philly, as he has been a disaster on the road. Lucchesi is 6-3 with a 2.91 ERA across 74 1/3 innings at home, while going 1-4 with a 6.15 ERA across 52 2/3 innings on the road.

For the Phils, Vargas is 6-6 with a 4.03 ERA and .305 opponent on-base percentage across 111 2/3 innings with 88 strikeouts. In three outings with Philadelphia since coming over from the New York Mets, he has posted an 0-1 record, 4.15 ERA and 1.21 WHIP with two homers, seven walks and just seven strikeouts across 17 1/3 innings. He faced the Padres as a member of the Mets back on July 23, allowing just one hit, four walks and eight strikeouts over six scoreless innings in a victory.

Astros RHP Zack Greinke and Athletics LHP Brett Anderson tangle on Sunday afternoon in the Bay Area. Greinke has allowed seven earned runs and 14 hits with four walks over 12 innings in two outings with the Astros since coming over from the Diamondbacks in a deadline deal. Houston is 2-0 in his two starts with the team, but this will be his first outings inside the AL West. Anderson is 10-8 with a 3.95 ERA and a .308 opponent on-base percentage. He has just 71 strikeouts over 139 innings, as power isn’t exactly his game. The A’s are just 1-3 in his past four outings, and the A’s are just 1-3 in his past four at home, too.

In the Sunday Night Baseball game in the Steel City, Cubs LHP Jose Quintana will face RHP Mitch Keller. Chicago has posted a 10-7 record, 4.11 ERA and .305 opponent OBP across 135 2/3 innings. He is 2-0 with a pair of quality starts on July 4 and 14 against the Pirates, including Independence Day at PNC Park. Chicago is 7-1 across Quintana’s past eight starts dating back to June 22, and he is coming off a 14-strikeouts performance last time out in Philadelphia, a no-decision on Aug. 13. Keller will be making his fifth start of the season, and just his second since being recalled from the minors on Aug. 12. Overall he is 1-1 with a 7.94 ERA and .417 opponent OBP. He was muched better last time out, allowing two runs – one earned – and five hits over five innings in a win against the Angels on the road. It was Pittsburgh’s first win in his four starts this season.

Weather Report

For the second consecutive afternoon, the Mets and Royals will be contending with the winds. This time the winds will be blowing out from 11-14 mph to the left-center field power alley. The Twins and Rangers will also be facing a hot wind blowing in from right field at 10-13 mph for the second straight afternoon.

In the Bay Area, the Astros and Athletics will also be facing 11-14 mph winds blowing out to the left-center field power alley. For the second straight day, too, all MLB venues appear to be precipitation-free.

Game of the day – Astros at Athletics

Newcomer Zack Greinke hopes to continue a personal winning streak while ending his team’s skid when the right-hander leads the visiting Houston Astros up against the Oakland Athletics in the finale of a four-game series on Sunday afternoon.

The A’s have used a variety of means to sweep the first three games of the series, riding five home runs to a 7-6 victory on Thursday night, extra-inning small-ball to pull out a 3-2 win Friday, and station-to-station hitting to grind out an 8-4 triumph on Saturday.

With four straight wins, coupled with Houston’s five consecutive losses, the second-place A’s (71-52) have closed within 6 1/2 games of the first-place Astros (78-46) in the American League West.

Greinke (12-4, 2.91 ERA) will be asked to pick up the pieces after the A’s tortured Astros rookie Rogelio Armenteros and reliever Chris Devenski for eight hits — all singles — and eight runs in the third and fifth innings alone in Saturday’s win.

The 35-year-old Greinke has turned in two strong outings since joining the Astros in a trade. He has also pitched brilliantly against the A’s, especially in Oakland, and in the San Francisco Bay Area in general in his long career.

Greinke has gone 6-2 with a 3.11 ERA in 16 appearances (12 starts) against the A’s, including 3-1 with a 2.74 ERA in 10 games (seven starts) in Oakland. Coupled with a 6-0 record in San Francisco against the Giants, Greinke has gone 9-1 in 18 San Francisco Bay Area appearances.

He will be matched up Sunday with A’s left-hander Brett Anderson (10-8, 3.95 ERA), who hasn’t had much success against the Astros in his career, going 1-4 with a 6.58 ERA in six games (five starts).

One of those losses came at home on June 1, when he allowed a two-run home run to Josh Reddick in a 5-1 defeat. He was charged with three of the runs in 5 1/3 innings.

It’s possible Anderson won’t see Reddick in the rematch. The former A’s outfielder was benched Saturday after having gone 1-for-8 in the first two games of the series and 3-for-23 on the Astros’ current road trip.

He hasn’t homered since June 28.

“I keep encouraging him to find his best swing and find a way to contribute,” Astros manager AJ Hinch explained of Reddick’s slump. “He hit a couple of balls pretty well (Friday night). He hasn’t gotten a ton of luck.

“We do need production out of him. Our best team has a really tough bottom of the order, and that includes Josh Reddick. We’ve got to get him underway.”

The A’s took a similar approach to reliever Lou Trivino’s troubles, and it paid dividends in Friday’s win, when the right-hander responded to an eight-day shutdown by working a season-high three innings to earn a win in the 13-inning affair.

He didn’t pitch Saturday and probably won’t be available in the series finale, but his lengthy effort Friday allowed the A’s to give closer Liam Hendriks a break.

Hendriks wasn’t needed in Saturday’s win, making him fresh for Sunday’s game.

“It was a big night for a lot of guys, and maybe some guys who were struggling a little bit really emerged,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said, referring in part to Trivino, after Friday’s win. “We saw the type of stuff that we saw last year. So hats off.”

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