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Justin Verlander has dominated the Los Angeles Angels ever since he was traded to the Houston Astros toward the end of last season Ryon Healy Jersey , and he has been particularly strong against them at Angel Stadium.The 35-year-old right-hander will try to continue that trend when he takes the mound Saturday night in the second game of the three-game series in Anaheim.Verlander has won all five starts against the Angels since he was acquired from the Detroit Tigers on Sept. 1 of last season, allowing two earned runs in 36 innings.Article continues below ...He has thrown 23 consecutive scoreless innings over his past three starts at Angel Stadium.“I like the aesthetic of pitching here,” Verlander said after shutting out the Angels on five hits over six innings in a 7-0 win on July 21.The Astros (78-50) enter Saturday with a 1 1/2-game lead over the Oakland A’s for first place in the American League West.Houston won the series opener 9-3 on Friday night to maintain that lead over Oakland, which also won on Friday. The A’s briefly tied the Astros for the AL West lead earlier this month, but Houston has won three in a row and four of five to regain its advantage.The Mariners are 5 1/2 games back of the Astros and chasing the A’s for the final wild-card spot from the AL.The Angels (63-66) welcomed back center fielder Mike Trout on Friday night after the two-time AL MVP missed the 20 games with a sore right wrist and then the sudden death of his brother-in-law on Aug. 15. He went 2-for-3 with a triple Friday.Verlander (12-8, 2.65 ERA) hasn’t been as sharp in his four starts in August, all against teams that are also battling for a playoff spot.He allowed four runs and seven hits over 5 1/3 innings on Sunday against the A’s and earned his 200th career victory in the 9-4 win. He had lost his previous two starts against the Colorado Rockies and Mariners.“When you reach a milestone, you look back, understand and relish what you’ve done,” Verlander told reporters after his latest win. “I look around from when I started and realized it’s a long journey. From age 21 to now, mentally, it’s been a process.”Los Angeles rookie right-hander Jaime Barria is scheduled to oppose Verlander on Saturday.Barria made the fifth start of his career against the Astros on May 15 and performed well. He limited them to one run and four hits over seven innings, but the bullpen blew a 3-1 lead in the 5-3 loss in Anaheim.Barria (8-7, 3.41 ERA) was 5-1 with a 2.48 ERA after beating the Texas Rangers on June 1 http://www.marinersfanproshop.com/authentic-dee-gordon-jersey , but then went nearly two months without a victory.He has bounced back nicely in August, owning a 2-0 record in four starts with a 2.18 ERA.Barria faced the Rangers again on Sunday and limited them to one run and seven hits in five innings, but again did not get the victory after the bullpen gave up three runs in the seventh inning of the 4-2 loss.“I always try to locate my pitches and do my job every game,” Barria told MLB.com in Spanish following his most recent outing. It's fair to say the 2018 season has not played out ashoped for Bryce Harper on a number of levels.On an individual level, his numbers are down across the board from his standout 2017 level of production:2017:492 PA, .319/.413/.595, 29 HR, 87 RBI, 4.7 WAR2018:490 PA, .234/.378/.501, 28 HR, 71 RBI, 1.0 WAROn a team level, the Washington Nationals have limped along to a 58-56 record Robinson Cano Jersey , leaving them third in the NL East standings and in danger of missing the postseason after they entered the year with lofty expectations.That being said, Harper is still a 25-year-old superstar with six All-Star appearances and an NL MVP award under his belt.He's also hitting .367/.457/.767 with three doubles, three home runs and seven RBI in 35 plate appearances in August, and starting to look more like the impact slugger we've seen in recent seasons.So where does that leave his free-agent stock?Buster Olney of ESPN offered up his take:"Since Harper began his career, there has been an expectation that he would approach a record-setting contract in free agency. But some executives wonder if Harper鈥檚 2018 struggles continue, a better option could be to take a shorter-term deal with an opt-out, to give Harper a mulligan and another launch year; after all, Harper is only 25 years old. 'That could work for him, and for the Nationals,' one evaluator said."That could conceivably increase the chances of him returning to the Nationals.Executives from others teams speculated to Olney: "Adown year for Harper could increase the chances he returns to the Nationals鈥攂ecause they understand Harper more than other teams and understand that in those periods when he eases the paralytic pressure he places on himself, he is a dynamic force."The Chicago Cubs, New York Yankees, Philadelphia Phillies and all the other big-market teams capable of offering up the massive contract that's been speculated for years will still be in the mix.Prediction:Nationals re-sign Harper to a three-year, $120 million deal that includes an opt-out after 2019 and 2020.Manny MachadoJayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty ImagesThe Los Angeles Dodgers landed the biggest trade chip on the market when they acquired Manny Machado from the Baltimore Orioles for a package of prospects built around toolsy outfielder Yusniel Diaz.There's no guarantee he's anything more than a rental Felix Hernandez Jersey , though.In fact, with Corey Seager expected to return at the start of next season and Justin Turner hopefully putting this season's injury woes in the rearview, an argument can be made that Machado doesn't fit into the team's long-term plans even if he was interested in sticking around.So where will the 26-year-old slugger land?The Philadelphia Phillies were one of the other teams that were hot on his trail before he was traded to the Dodgers, with Jayson Stark of MLB Network noting that the Baltimore front office did some extensive scouting on a number of the top prospects in the Philadelphia system.Even after signing Jake Arrieta and Carlos Santana last offseason, the Phillies payroll still stands at just over $102 million. That's 23rd in the majors, according to Spotrac.Compare that to the 2014 season, when the Phillies ranked third in baseball with a payroll over $175 million, and it's clear they have the resources to offer up the megadeal that Machado will be seeking.If there's a dark horse in the race to land Machado, it might be the Miami Marlins, as Ely Sussman of SBNation speculated.Machado grew up in the Miami area, and the Marlins have plenty of money to spend after slashing payroll this past offseason. While replacing the contract of Giancarlo Stanton with another massive long-term deal for Machado might seem like a contradictory move, Machado is two years younger and doesn't have the same injury history as Stanton.Prediction:Phillies sign Machado to an eight-year, $304 million deal.Josh DonaldsonTom Szczerbowski/Getty ImagesOh, what could have been for both Josh Donaldson and the Toronto Blue Jays.Donaldson was one of baseball's truly elite players from 2013 to 2017. During that span Hisashi Iwakuma Jersey , he racked up an impressive 31.3 WARwhile taking home 2015 AL MVP honors and finishing in the top five in the voting two other times.Even in an injury-plagued 2017 campaign, he still posted a 147 OPS+ with 33 home runs in 113 games en route to a 4.8 WAR season.Unfortunately, he's been unable to shake a nagging calf injury this season that has been sidelined since May 28. He's played in just 36 games and was hitting a less-than-stellar .234 with a 107 OPS+ at the time of the injury.As a result, he likely cost himself a good chunk of change on the free-agent market, while simultaneously costing the Blue Jays an incredibly valuable trade chip.There's still a chance he returns healthy before the Aug. 31 waiver-trade deadline and shows enough that the Blue Jays are willing to flip him for a decent return.General manager Ross Atkins told reporters that the team had "a lot of discussions" about Donaldson leading up to the deadline. So it stands to reason that if he can get back on the field, interest would only increase.If they don't find an offer to their liking, a qualifying offer is a given and the Blue Jays would then be able to recoup some prospect talent through the draft.But might Donaldson consider accepting the offer?The 32-year-old is making $23 million this season, and the qualifying offer last season was worth $17.4 million, so it would likely mean a marginal pay cut.However, it would give Donaldson a chance to rebuild his value without rolling the dice on a free-agent market that has been wildly unpredictable in recent years.Otherwise, he might be inclined to settle for a one-year deal with a second-year player option, which would be an attractive roll of the dice for more than a few teams.Prediction:Indians sign Donaldson to a two-year, $50 million deal that includes an opt-out after 2019.Other Notable Free-Agent Hitters:IF Asdrubal Cabrera (PHI), DH Nelson Cruz (SEA) Ken Griffey Jersey , 2B Brian Dozier (MIN),C Yasmani Grandal (LAD), CF Adam Jones (BAL), 2B Jed Lowrie (OAK), RF Nick Markakis (ATL), CF A.J. Pollock (ARI), C Wilson Ramos (PHI)All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs, unless otherwise noted.
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