It might be a late Friday night for baseball junkies on the East Coast tonight.
Two games between four playoff hopefuls will feature some spectacular pitching wherever you look. Aces from Los Angeles, Oakland, Seattle and Washington all battle on the West Coast in games that start after 10 PM ET.
The Athletics and Angels resume their chase for the American League West tonight. Oakland took two out of three in the Bay last weekend to slash the Halos' lead in the West.
But Los Angeles walked off with a 4-3 win last night in game one of a four-game set this weekend. Now Oakland sends Jon Lester to the hill, trying to cut back into the Angels' two-game lead. He threw seven innings and gave up just a single run last weekend to beat Los Angeles 2-1. And Oakland will look for more of the same out of their to-the-end-of-the-year rental from the Boston Red Sox.
Weaver has it all to do
Lester will be opposed by the lone Angel ace who remains - Jered Weaver. Weaver beat Oakland on Sunday Night Baseball in game three of last weekend's series to help his team regain a lead in the division. And he faces about as much pressure as any pitcher in baseball without his partner in crime Garrett Richards throwing alongside. With Richards out for the season, Weaver will need to win just about every time out for an Angels team facing a big deficiency in the starting rotation.
But while the Angels and A's are the two primary contenders to claim the division out West, the Seattle Mariners have playoff aspirations of their own. The M's haven't been to the playoffs since 2001 when that team won 116 games before falling short of the World Series.
This year's Mariners aren't nearly as dominant as the 2001 edition, but they have been winning with pitching and just enough offense. The biggest reason their pitching has been so good is no secret. And he's throwing tonight when Seattle welcomes Washington to Safeco Field.
Felix Hernandez gets the start for the Mariners, who find themselves in a tie with Detroit for the American League's second Wild Card spot. Hernandez appears to be closing in on his second career Cy Young Award and might just be having the finest year of his MLB career. "The King" has accumulated a 13-4 record with a 2.07 ERA. He's also maintained a silly 0.88 WHIP and recorded his 200th strikeout his last time out against Boston at Fenway Park.
Hernandez goes up against a pitcher who might be the most overlooked in the game. Jordan Zimmermann just keeps getting batters out for Washington. He's 9-5 this season and has another season with a sub-3 ERA.
His 2.93 ERA and 1.13 WHIP line up fairly evenly with his career numbers, now six seasons long. And with the inconsistencies with Stephen Strasburg, it would not be outrageous to consider Zimmermann the Nationals' ace. He'll get the chance to prove himself against one of the game's best tonight.
With playoff implications all around and aces up, it doesn't get much more exciting in the regular season. If you find yourself alone late on a Friday night, it might not be such a bad thing on this particular evening.