LEADING OFF: Verlander backs rolling Astros, mending Dodgers
A look at what's happening around Major League Baseball on Tuesday:
Houston tries for its 13th straight win with AL ERA leader Justin Verlander on the mound against Tampa Bay. The Astros' ace is 9-2 with a 1.61 ERA, though he's posted a 3.79 ERA over his past three starts and matched a season high with two homers allowed last time out in a 7-3 win over Oakland. Rays lefty Blake Snell (8-4, 2.58) will try to slow down Houston after the Astros beat Tampa Bay 5-4 on Alex Bregman's game-ending two-run double Monday.
ON THE MEND
The defending NL champions are beginning to get healthier. Rich Hill comes off the DL to start for the Dodgers in the nightcap of a doubleheader against the Cubs in a rematch of last year's NL Championship Series. Hill (1-2, 6.20 ERA) went on the disabled list May 20 with a blister on his left middle finger, a recurring problem for the veteran left-hander. He will be opposed by fellow lefty Mike Montgomery (2-2, 3.31), who is 2-1 with a 1.14 ERA in four starts since moving into the rotation after Yu Darvish was sidelined by right triceps tendinitis.
Hill's return comes one day after Los Angeles ace Clayton Kershaw threw a three-inning simulated game at Wrigley Field, taking another step forward in his recovery from a strained lower back. The three-time Cy Young Award winner said he felt really good and plans to pitch somewhere in four or five days, either in a minor league rehab start or for the Dodgers. Veteran second baseman Chase Utley, sidelined by sprained left thumb, is expected to come off the DL with Hill. And rookie right-hander Walker Buehler, one of baseball's top pitching prospects, is scheduled for a bullpen session Saturday in New York, continuing his comeback from a right rib microfracture.
One of baseball's biggest surprises, the Seattle Mariners (46-26) embark on a 10-game road trip to the East Coast that should serve as a tough test. They open with three games against the New York Yankees followed by three in Boston — the top two teams in the majors. Marco Gonzales (7-3, 3.42 ERA) attempts to win his fifth straight decision when he pitches against Yankees rookie Domingo German (1-4, 5.23), who is coming off his first major league win.
Juan Soto's feats are piling up. The latest from the 19-year-old rookie sensation: homering in a game played before he made his major league debut. Soto hit a tiebreaking, pinch-hit, two-run shot in the sixth inning of a game that began and was suspended because of rain last month, five days before Soto was called up from the minors for the first time. Soto's sixth homer in 24 games lifted the Nationals over the Yankees 5-3. Washington is set to open a home series against Baltimore. The team will be joined this week by reliever Kelvin Herrera, who was acquired from Kansas City for three minor leaguers Monday.
Javier Baez may return to the Cubs' starting lineup two days after being hit on the left elbow by a pitch. Baez was out of the lineup before Monday's game against the Dodgers was postponed and said the elbow was still swollen, but the team decided no X-rays were needed. Baez leads Chicago with 14 home runs. The teams will play a day-night doubleheader at Wrigley after Monday's game was delayed due to rain and a limited power outage.