LEADING OFF: Red Sox-Rays at opposite ends, Sabathia sharp


A look at what’s happening around the majors today:


Off to the best start in baseball, Kevin Kiermaier and the Tampa Bay Rays host the wobbling Red Sox. Boston is just 6-13, and a real bad series at Tropicana Field could drop the defending World Series champions into a double-digit deficit.

Rays manager Kevin Cash will use an opener for the third straight game. Tampa Bay is again employing a reliever to start because ace Blake Snell is out with a broken toe — the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner might have a bullpen session this weekend.

Eduardo Rodriguez (1-2, 7.98 ERA) starts for the Red Sox, who will play Tampa Bay six times in 10 days. Boston has placed second baseman Dustin Pedroia back on the injured list because of left knee irritation.

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CC Sabathia takes a unique streak into this matchup vs. Kansas City: The Yankees lefty is the only pitcher in big league history to have back-to-back starts in the regular season of at least five innings while allowing no walks and no more than one hit.

The 38-year-old Sabathia pitched five innings of one-hit ball against the White Sox last week in his season debut. He did the same thing last September against the Rays before being ejected for hitting a batter.

Johnny Vander Meer threw back-to-back no-hitters for Cincinnati in 1938, walking a total of 11 in those two games.


Diamondbacks rookie Christian Walker is showing a knack for late knocks. He has hit six home runs this season, all of them in the seventh inning or beyond.

Walker struck out in his first three at-bats Thursday, but hit a two-run homer in the seventh that helped Arizona beat Atlanta 4-1. He then added a double, and is batting .619 (13 for 21) after the sixth inning.


The Giants are 8-12 and part of the problem is they’re getting off to slow starts. San Francisco is the only team in the majors that hasn’t yet scored in the first inning. Overall, Buster Posey and the Giants are hitting only 6 for 63 (.095) in the opening frame.

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They’ll try to break that early hex when they face Pittsburgh righty Jordan Lyles (0.82 ERA in two starts) at PNC Park. Madison Bumgarner (1-2, 3.12) pitches for the Giants.


The Houston Astros are already making their second trip to rival Texas. The Astros, two-time defending AL West champs, surged to the division lead on a 10-game winning streak that ended Wednesday with a loss in Oakland. The Rangers, who are supposed to be rebuilding, have won a season-best four straight and took two of three from the Astros in Arlington in the second series of the season. Houston ace Justin Verlander faces Drew Smyly, one of several reclamation projects in the Texas rotation. The teams play again in three weeks in Houston.


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