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On Deck is FanHouse's look at the day's most intriguing baseball matchups

While they have had many chances to take over the AL Central lead from the Chicago White Sox, the Minnesota Twins had been faltering all summer to capitalize on Chicago's mistakes. They would get to within a half-game of the White Sox only to lose every time Chicago opened the door.

That is, until yesterday. After taking three of four from the Sox and two of three from the Indians over the weekend, the Twins are finally on top of the division (again) where nobody expected them to be (again). Now today the Twins will begin to find out that sometimes the only thing tougher than catching the team in front of you is staying ahead of them once you get there.

Is it a coincidence that on the day the Twins finally woke up and brought Francisco Liriano back from minor league purgatory that they gained control of the division? Probably, but his presence in the rotation will go a lot further in helping them hold onto it than Livan Hernandez would have.

Will they hold onto their lead, or let it slip through their grasp? It's still too early to tell but they will begin their quest to put some distance between themselves and the competition after the jump.

Seattle Mariners (42-69) vs. Minnesota Twins (62-49) - 10:10PM Est.

Well, if the Twins are going to pad their lead they sure found the perfect opponent to achieve their goal with. The Twinkies will begin a six-game road trip tonight in Seattle, and no doubt they'll be looking to take advantage of the nine games they have against baseball's worst team this month.

Minnesota has won six of their last seven games against Seattle, and the Mariners have lost seven of their last eight at home, so all signs point to a 23-1 Mariners rout tonight. Glen Perkins will be taking the mound for the Twins hoping to keep that from happening, but he might be due for a bad outing himself.

Glen has won six of his last eight starts, but this will be the rookie's first time facing the mighty Mariners. Miguel Batista takes the ball for Seattle, and he's long overdue for a decent start. Batista's 6.67 ERA is the worst among Major Leaguers who have made at least 15 starts this season, and he's gone 1-7 with a 7.11 ERA since May 18th.

Chicago Cubs (67-45) vs. Houston Astros - 7:05PM Est. - ESPN

While their neighbors to the south have run themselves off the road after looking in the rearview mirror too much, the Chicago Cubs have said screw the rearview and just hit the gas pedal. After the Brewers crept up to within a game of them last week, the Cubs swept a four-game series in Milwaukee, and have now built their division lead back up to five games over the Brewers.

They'll look to keep cruising along tonight as they prepare to take on the Houston Astros at Wrigley Field where tonight's starter, Ryan Dempster, has been untouchable. Dempster is 10-1 with a 2.73 ERA in 13 starts at the Friendly Confines this season. Still, that lone loss did come in his last two starts there, as Ryan has managed to walk nine guys in his last 12 2/3 innings at Wrigley.

He did shutout the Astros in Houston for eight innings back on July 20th, though, and will look to match that feat tonight.

The Astros will turn to Brian Moehler, and he's coming off his best start of the season. Moehler held the Reds to two runs in 8 2/3 innings in his last start and has beaten the Cubs once already this season. This will be his first start at Wrigley since 2000.

Los Angeles Angels (69-42) vs. Baltimore Orioles (53-57) - 10:05PM Est.

The Angels have made quite a few statements over the last week. Aside from adding Mark Teixeira to their lineup to provide some power to the offense, they also gave notice to the Red Sox and Yankees that they are not to be trifled with.

The Angels swept the Red Sox in a three-game set at Fenway last week, and were a few errors away from taking three of four from the Yankees at the Stadium. Still, despite the late inning gaffes on Sunday, the Angels still finished their 10-game east coast swing with a 7-3 record.

That trip started in Baltimore where they took two of three, and now the Orioles travel west for some revenge. It won't be easy as Joe Saunders will be pitching for the Halos tonight, and he'll be looking to pick up his 15th win of the season. Joe picked up a win against the Orioles at Camden Yards in that series, but just because he's 4-0 against them in his career doesn't particularly mean he enjoys facing them.

The Orioles have hit Saunders to the tune of a .344 average in his career, and Joe has an ERA of 5.16 against them. Dennis Sarfate will be making his second career start after getting rocked by the Yankees in his first start last week. Sarfate is yet to allow a run in 4 1/3 innings of relief work against the Angels.

Everybody Else

  • Blue Jays vs. Athletics - 6:07PM
  • Reds vs. Brewers - 7:10PM
  • Rays vs. Indians - 7:10PM
  • Rangers vs. Yankees - 8:05PM
  • Royals vs. Red Sox - 8:10PM
  • Rockies vs. Nationals - 9:05PM
  • Diamondbacks vs. Pirates - 9:40PM
  • Giants vs. Braves - 10:15PM

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