LEADING OFF: Cubs try closing strong, Francona still out
A look at what's happening all around the majors today:
Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and the Chicago Cubs can ensure themselves at least a .500 record at the All-Star break with a win against the Pirates. The World Series champions had higher hopes for the first half, but they're still within range of the NL Central-leading Brewers and their top sluggers are in prime form. Bryant homered twice and Rizzo got his 20th of the season in a win over Pittsburgh on Friday, and those two have combined for 38 homers and 94 RBIs this season. They'll try to ensure a series win behind right-hander Jake Arrieta (8-6, 4.33), who will face Pittsburgh's Ivan Nova (8-6, 3.24).
Cleveland's Terry Francona won't return to managing until after the All-Star break following a procedure Thursday to correct an irregular heartbeat. The 58-year-old Francona had been experiencing dizziness, fatigue and a rapid heart rate for several weeks. He had a cardiac ablation at the Cleveland Clinic, where he continues to recover after being admitted Tuesday. Francona won't lead the AL All-Star team Tuesday in Miami as planned, and the goal is for him to return to the Indians when they open the second half at Oakland on July 14.
MAC IS BACK
Brandon McCarthy is expected to come off the DL to start the Dodgers' game against the Royals. McCarthy has been out since June 25 with right knee tendinitis, but he's been mostly solid when healthy, going 6-3 with a 3.25 ERA. Ian Kennedy (3-6, 4.44) will pitch for Kansas City and hasn't allowed more than two earned runs over his past four starts.
Stephen Strasburg gets his final start before the All-Star break when the Nationals host the Braves. Strasburg (9-2, 3.28), headed to his third All-Star Game next Tuesday, is coming off seven scoreless innings against the Mets and hasn't lost since June 7 against the Dodgers. Julio Teheran (6-6, 5.14) tries to end a disappointing first half on a high note for Atlanta.
Mike Clevinger is working on holding down a rotation spot with Cleveland, and he'll try to extend a strong stretch in a start against Detroit. Clevinger (4-3, 3.33) is 2-0 with a 2.14 ERA in four starts since being recalled from Triple-A Columbus last month. He'll face struggling Tigers right-hander Justin Verlander (5-5, 4.96), who this week acknowledged that he could be traded if Detroit doesn't turn its season around soon.
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