Friday, July 15, 2011

Evening Shade: Cardinals and Reds meet in key NL Central tilt

Some weekday evenings,�the�Stew�looks at a few approaching games that will be worth monitoring. Feel free to discuss the night's happenings in the comments below.

Cardinals at Reds, 7:10 ET The Reds blew a chance to make the NL Central race even closer when they lost two of three to the Cards last week in St. Louis. But Cincinnati is still just four games behind the first-place Cardinals as this series begins.

Johnny Cueto allowed only one run over eight innings last time he faced St. Louis, but took a tough loss as the Reds' lineup couldn't score a run. The Cardinals counter with Jake Westbrook, who allowed seven runs (and three homers) in 4 2/3 innings in his last start versus Cincinnati.

Red Sox at Rays, 7:10 ET Is Andrew Miller for real? He sports a shiny 3-0 record and 3.57 ERA, but compiled those numbers against the Padres, Pirates, Astros and Orioles. How will he fare against a Rays team looking to cut into the Red Sox's six-game lead in the AL East?

White Sox at Tigers, 7:05 ET The White Sox and Tigers play each other in six of their next 12 games, beginning with a three-game series at Comerica Park. The White Sox could either get knocked out of the AL Central race or make it tighter, but the Tigers have dominated them so far this season. And Justin Verlander pitches Friday's opener.

Nationals at Braves, 7:35 ET The Braves have won seven of their last 10, and gone 24-12 since June 1. Getting Martin Prado back should help them stay on that roll. Tim Hudson is 3-0 with a 1.98 ERA in his past four starts. But Livan Hernandez has been very good against the Braves (1-1, 1.98 ERA in last four meetings).

Pirates at Astros, 8:05 ET The Pirates' revival has been fueled by beating up on inferior competition. For instance, they're 7-2 this season against the Astros. Jeff Karstens was one of the first half's biggest surprises, with a 7-4 record and 2.55 ERA that's fifth-best in the NL.

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