Thursday tends to be a bit of a short slate as one of the MLB travel days during the week. But this time, we have a pretty solid slate here with a couple of duels and an ace in isolation. Check ’em out!
LHP José Quintana (CHC) versus RHP Zack Greinke (ARI) — 2:20 p.m. ET
Quintana is coming off an eventful July—he was traded across Chicago, for those perhaps unaware—but it was also a good one, as the lefty lowered his season ERA from 4.37 to 4.16. Perhaps his June (1.78 ERA) was more instrumental in getting him to this spot. Butt July was truly a terrific month for the lefty: 3.45 ERA, 40-9 K/BB ratio in 28.2 innings and just 23 hits allowed. Through three starts on the north side, Quintana has not been a disappointment, as he’s posted a 2.37 ERA with 25 strikeouts and five walks through 19 innings—including a pair of wins and a hard-luck 2-1 loss last time out against the Brewers. The Diamondbacks will be an interesting challenge, as they’re a solid offense (.256/.330/.440) but more of a creation of their environment (94 wRC+) than anything.
Greinke makes his first August start coming off an absolutely brilliant run in July. He posted a 2.12 ERA in 34 July innings with 33 strikeouts, just five walks and only 24 hits allowed. He’s settled in with a sub-3.00 ERA and hasn’t allowed more than three earned runs since late June, and just once since June 1. Like a fine wine, Greinke seems to get better with time. This year, he ranks third in the NL in WHIP (1.00), fourth in ERA (2.84), seventh in strikeouts (149) and eighth in innings (136.1). This is the Greinke the Diamondbacks thought they were getting—just a year later than hoped for.
RHP Sonny Gray (NYY) versus RHP Corey Kluber (CLE) — 7:10 p.m. ET
Gray’s postseason mettle will be tested early as his first start in pinstripes will come against AL Central-leading Cleveland. Gray has been magnificent of late, allowing two or fewer earned runs in each of his last six starts to lower his season ERA down to 3.43. It was approaching 5.00 prior to that stretch, and his July numbers too were absolutely terrific: 1.48 ERA in 24.1 innings, 25-7 K/BB ratio and just 17 hits allowed. He also induced 39 grounders, and is working on a career-high 56.7 percent groundball rate. That’ll play up in Yankee Stadium when he finally makes his first start there. And of course, literally anywhere else that isn’t on the moon. In a year where the ball has been flying out of the park, Gray has done a great job keeping the ball in the yard (0.74 HR/9), which had to play a big role in why the Yankees coveted him so badly.
Kluber looked oddly sort of human last time out, allowing four earned runs against the White Sox in what was still a 5-4 win for the Indians. Even still, Kluber fanned 12 batters and walked just one, continuing his streak of double-digit strikeout games at three in a row and eight of his last nine. Kluber has been absolutely untouchable since missing nearly a month. We won’t even call them video game numbers, because you’d be accused of keeping the game on the rookie setting if you were putting these up: 1.86 ERA in 11 starts, 120-14 K/BB ratio in 77.1 innings and a .499 OPS against. If anyone can charge down the backstretch and overtake Chris Sale for the AL Cy Young award—and it’s an extreme long shot—this is your guy.
Ace in Isolation
LHP Alex Wood (LAD) versus Atlanta LHP Sean Newcomb
This is Wood’s second recent look at his old friends in the Braves. And, they were not welcoming to him when they paid him a visit in his new digs on July 21. Wood had allowed just five earned runs over his previous eight starts before the Braves smashed him for seven earned in just 4.2 innings in a 12-3 loss that day. Wood rebounded a bit to take down the Giants the next time out, but still allowed four earned runs on eight hits—an uncharacteristic start for how good Wood (2.38 ERA) has been since moving to the rotation. He’ll look to get revenge as he’s taking on what is one of the worst offenses in the game (89 wRC+, 24th in MLB). Of course, that was true last time, too. We’ll see who has the upper hand in the rematch.