LONG WAIT Cleveland starter Danny Salazar makes his first big league appearance since the 2017 playoffs when the Indians host Houston in the rubber match of a three-game series between AL pennant contenders. Salazar, an All-Star in 2016, missed last season because of arm trouble and had shoulder surgery. All-Star Gerrit Cole (12-5, 2.94 ERA) looks to continue his dominant stretch for the Astros. He's 7-0 with a 1.88 ERA in 11 starts since June 1, piling up 100 strikeouts in 72 innings.
CENTRAL SHOWDOWN After combining for all of five runs over the past two days, the Cubs and Cardinals decide their three-game set in St. Louis. The longtime rivals are tied for first place in the NL Central at 57-50 after Kyle Hendricks pitched Chicago to a 2-0 victory Wednesday night. Jon Lester (9-6, 3.63 ERA) starts the series finale for the Cubs against Jack Flaherty (4-6, 4.17), who has permitted two runs or less in each of his last four outings.
STAYING PUT Still with the Mets, right-hander Zack Wheeler (7-6, 4.71 ERA) starts in Chicago as they try to extend their longest winning streak since April 2018 to seven games. Hoping this recent surge leads to a legitimate playoff push, New York held onto Wheeler and several other trade candidates at Wednesday's deadline. Wheeler, who can become a free agent after the season, beat Pittsburgh last time out after returning from the injured list. Rookie right-hander Dylan Cease (1-3, 6.86) pitches for the White Sox in the series finale.
PUNISHMENT The Pirates and Reds are waiting to hear about probable suspensions from Major League Baseball following Tuesday's brawl between the teams. Cincinnati manager David Bell certainly faces discipline for coming back onto the field an inning after being ejected for arguing balls and strikes, and seven other players and coaches were thrown out of the game.
More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports