A look at what’s happening around the majors Thursday:
HEAD TO HEAD
Old rivals meet at Wrigley Field when the first-place Cardinals face the Cubs in the opener of a four-game series that could go a long way toward determining who wins the NL Central. Jack Flaherty (10-8, 3.05 ERA) pitches against Chicago right-hander Kyle Hendricks (11-9, 3.26). The teams play seven times in their final 10 games, pivotal matchups in a tight division race that also includes Milwaukee.
“Now we’ve got to beat those Cubs in Chicago,” veteran St. Louis pitcher Adam Wainwright said after Wednesday’s win over Washington. “We haven’t beat them all year in Chicago. We’ve got to beat them this time.”
Francisco Lindor, Carlos Santana and the contending Cleveland Indians get their last look at the Tigers – that’ll be a relief for Detroit, no doubt.
The Indians have won 16 in a row against Detroit this season, including a 2-1 victory Wednesday night on Yasiel Puig’s walkoff single in the 10th inning. Overall, Cleveland is 17-1 versus the Tigers this year and has outscored them 109-38.
Cleveland is one win shy of its best streak against an opponent, having won 17 straight against Baltimore in 1954. The Tigers, with the worst record in the majors at 45-106, matched their longest losing streak against an opponent – they also dropped 16 in a row to Minnesota in 2002-03.
Mike Clevinger (11-3, 2.68 ERA) starts for the Indians at Progressive Field in the series finale. He is 10-1 with a 2.02 ERA, 118 strikeouts and 23 walks over his last 14 starts.
Daniel Norris (3-12, 4.62 ERA) will start for Detroit before being relieved by Drew VerHagen. They combined for seven shutout innings in their most recent time-share outing on Sept. 14 at Baltimore.
With the Braves closing in on their second consecutive NL East crown, a marquee pitching matchup in Atlanta features All-Star rookie Mike Soroka (12-4, 2.57 ERA) against Aaron Nola (12-5, 3.62) and the wild card-contending Phillies.
Atlanta has lost three in a row for the first time since July 16-18, but still leads the division by nine games and can reduce its magic number to one with a win. Soroka has the third-lowest ERA in the majors, but a 4.82 mark in two starts versus Philadelphia this year.
Twins outfielder Max Kepler has missed four straight games with left shoulder soreness. The leadoff man has 36 home runs and 90 RBIs for the AL Central leaders.
“The more we can stay away from him in the near term probably the better, but that doesn’t mean he’s still completely out of the order,” manager Rocco Baldelli said.
Minnesota opens its final regular-season home series when Kyle Gibson (13-7, 4.76 ERA) starts against Royals lefty Mike Montgomery (3-9, 4.70).
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