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Pitchers Cole, Lester do battle; Texas showdown

A look at what's happening around the major leagues today:

Let's settle this now

Gerrit Cole (17-8, 2.64 ERA) gets the start when Pittsburgh opens a pivotal three-game series in Chicago against the Cubs, who could clinch their first postseason berth in seven years before the night is through. The playoff-bound Pirates are trying to catch first-place St. Louis in the NL Central or at least hang onto the top NL wild card. Chicago is 3 1/2 games behind Pittsburgh. Cole is 6-1 with a 3.10 ERA in eight career starts against the Cubs, who turn to lefty Jon Lester (10-11, 3.46).

How the West was won?

The first-place Rangers can all but put away the Astros in the AL West this weekend when the teams play three times in Houston. With Adrian Beltre leading the offensive charge, Texas has scored eight or more runs in six of its past eight games. Houston, meanwhile, has lost seven of its last eight series against division opponents. Trailing the Rangers by 3 1/2 games, the Astros send out Scott Kazmir (7-10) against Yovani Gallardo (12-11).

Keep it down

Mets rookie Noah Syndergaard tries to break his recent habit of giving up homers. He's allowed two long balls in four of his last eight starts, and he's pitching at Great American Ball Park — one of the most homer-friendly stadiums in the majors. Syndergaard won his only previous outing against the Reds, allowing one run in eight innings of a 2-1 victory June 26 at Citi Field.

CC looks A-OK

CC Sabathia (5-9, 4.80 ERA) looks to build on his late-season resurgence as the Yankees continue a four-game series against the White Sox. Since missing 2 1/2 weeks with a knee injury, Sabathia has allowed one earned run or fewer in three straight outings. He earned his first win since July 8 last time out against the Mets. Rookie left-hander Carlos Rodon (8-6, 3.78) is up for Chicago.


Marlins ace Jose Fernandez (5-0) has never lost in Miami. He tries to improve to a major league-record 17-0 at home to start his career when he faces the Atlanta Braves.

Not over the hill

Rich Hill (1-0, 1.92 ERA) takes his third turn in Boston's rotation since going six years between big league starts. The 35-year-old lefty went from an independent league back to the majors this season and became the first Red Sox pitcher to strike out at least 10 batters in his first two starts with the team. Wei-Yin Chen (10-7, 3.36) goes for Baltimore.

Pittsburgh starting pitcher Gerrit Cole goes for his 18th victory today in the start of a pivotal three-game series against the Chicago Cubs. AP PHOTO