|Robin Ventura and the White Sox have a lot to talk about. (AP)|
The White Sox have set themselves up for a must-win against the Rays. Of course, it's also a must-win for the Rays. Friday brings a full menu of pennant-race action ...
Evan Longoria, Rays: Longoria went just 1-for-4 at the plate on Thursday night in Chicago, but his lone hit was a big one: a tie-breaking, ninth-inning homer off Brett Myers. He's now hitting .287/.364/.506 on the season, and his Rays are very much alive for a postseason berth.
Brandon Morrow, Blue Jays: What a season for Morrow, as he's now posted a 3.09 ERA across 20 starts. Against the normally hard-hitting Yankees on Thursday, he worked 7.0 spotless innings and struck out three while allowing just four hits. Morrow remains the lone bright spot on the decimated Toronto staff.
Michael Morse, Nationals: Morse hit a pair of home runs in the Nats' win over the Phillies. The second of those two home runs went quite a long way …
White Sox offense: If, after a crushing 3-2 loss to the Rays on Thursday night, the White Sox are indeed done, then the offense's recent skid may be chiefly to blame. Over the course of losing eight out of nine games, the Sox have scored a total of just 22 runs. This from a team that averaged almost 5.0 runs per game in the first half.
The intentional walk: The beloved ol' IBB is rarely a good idea, and it certainly wasn't a good idea on Thursday in Anaheim. With two on and one out in the seventh, manager Mike Scioscia ordered Garret Richards to walk Dustin Ackley (he of the .634 OPS) and thus load the bases. Trayvon Robinson followed with unintentional walk, Kyle Seager singled, Jesus Montero hit a sac fly, and then John Jaso doubled. By that point, the game -- a critical game for the Angels -- was out of reach. Perhaps Scioscia should have pitched to the guy with the .634 OPS?
Ivan Nova, Yankees: Nova gave up four runs on six hits in a loss to the Blue Jays, which is bad enough. However, he's part of 3 Down because he set a new Yankee franchise record by giving up his 87th extra-base hit of the season. The old mark of 86 was set by Andy Hawkins back in 1989.
Hanging in there: The Orioles will host the Red Sox on Friday night, and at the time of first pitch, they'll be just one game behind the Yankees in the AL East standings. Chris Tillman, who's been outstanding in 13 starts this season, takes up the cause for Baltimore. The very beatable Aaron Cook goes for Boston. 7:05 pm ET
Opposites attract: The Rays enter the second game of their series in Chicago having won eight in a row. The White Sox, as mentioned, come in having dropped eight of nine. It's an absolute must-win for both teams. Jeremy Hellickson goes up against Gavin Floyd, which means advantage Tampa Bay. 8:10 pm ET
Inching closer: When the Nats visit the Cards, the former can take another step toward clinching the NL East title while the latter can move toward locking up the second wild-card berth. In the service of those aims, former Cardinal Edwin Jackson will oppose Adam Wainwright in what could be the night's best pitching match-up. 8:15 pm ET
Friday probables for all games
• Save seminar: Wanna a major-league reliever to walk you through what it's like to record a save? Glen Perkins of the Twins and Joe Posnanski of Sports on Earth are here to help.
• Sad regrets: Former NFL GB Jim McMahon suffers from early-onset dementia, which is the result of his football career. Now, he wishes he'd stuck with his first love: baseball. [Yahoo! Sports]
• The end for Izzy?: Jason Isringhausen has gone from phenom to flameout to redemption story. And after all of it, he's had a darn good career. That career, to hear Isringhausen tell it, might be nearing an end. [MLB.com]
• Picking those who pick it: Who's likely to win the Gold Glove awards? Who's likely to win the Fielding Bible awards? John Dewan, in a gues piece for Bill James Online, forecasts the winners.
• Chipper's got chops: In honor of Chipper Jones's final season (and future induction into the Hall of Fame), ESPN.com's Jayson Stark runs down some pretty amazing Chipper facts.
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