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Posted at 07:15 AM ET, 07/08/2011

Leading off: Atlanta Braves set to visit Philadelphia Phillies in National League East showdown

Game of the day: Atlanta at Philadelphia, 7:05 p.m. As well as the Phillies (55-33) have played this season as they amassed the best record in the major leagues, the division-rival Braves (53-36) have been almost as good. Philadelphia leads the National League East by 2.5 games heading into this three-game series, and the outcome this weekend will set the tone for what could be an exciting division race after the all-star break. Atlanta has won nine of its last 10 games and 14 of their last 17, and the Braves will send right-hander Brandon Beachy (3-1) to the mound on Friday night. After missing more than a month with an oblique strain, Beachy is 2-0 with a 2.65 ERA in three starts since he returned from the disabled list on June 22. Right-hander Roy Halladay (11-3) will pitch for the Phillies, looking for his seventh consecutive win. Philadelphia has won Halladay’s last nine starts, with the last loss coming against Atlanta on May 15.

Other game to watch:

Tampa Bay at New York Yankees, 7:05 p.m. The Rays are trying to stay close to the Yankees in the American League East, but Friday could also be the night when Derek Jeter makes history. Jeter went 1 for 5 in the Yankees’ 5-1 loss Thursday night, leaving him two hits shy of becoming the 28th player — and first Yankee — to reach 3,000 career hits. Jeter and the Yankees will face young Tampa Bay right-hander Jeremy Hellickson (8-7), whom Jeter is 1 for 2 against in his career. Right-hander Freddy Garcia (7-6) will pitch for the Yankees, going for his sixth straight start allowing three earned runs or fewer.

Games you should have seen :

Cleveland 5, Toronto 4. Travis Hafner blasted a walk-off grand slam as the Indians scored all five of their runs in the bottom of the ninth inning to beat the Blue Jays. Hafner went 3 for 5 on the night to improve his season batting average to .347. Cleveland’s late rally spoiled six scoreless innings by Blue Jays starter Carlos Villanueva. Jose Bautista hit his 29th home run of the year for Toronto.

Chicago Cubs 10, Washington 9. The Cubs stormed back from an 8-0 deficit through five innings to stun the Nationals. After Washington scored seven runs in the bottom of the third inning and added another run in the fourth, Chicago scored six in the sixth on a home run by Blake DeWitt and RBI hits by Alfonso Soriano and Darwin Barney. Barney also hit an RBI double in the top of the ninth inning to break a 9-9 tie. According to Stats LLC, it was the largest blown lead in the history of the Montreal/Washington franchise.

Stat you should know: 714. The number of games Joe Mauer had played in the major leagues and started at catcher before the Twins star made his first career start at first base Thursday in Minnesota’s 6-2 win over the White Sox. Mauer went 3 for 5 with two RBI at the plate, and did not make an error at his new position in the field.

Star of the night: Rangers left-hander Derek Holland pitched a four-hit shutout Thursday, striking out seven and walking two in Texas’s 6-0 win over Oakland. The masterpiece came just five days after Holland couldn’t make it out of the first inning in his previous start Saturday against the Marlins.

Chatter: “That was an amazing comeback. Before that, it was eight of the most boring innings all season. I thought it would be a wasted night.” — Indians manager Manny Acta, reflecting on his club’s improbable ninth-inning comeback when Cleveland scored five runs to beat Toronto 5-4.

By Greg Schimmel  |  07:15 AM ET, 07/08/2011

 
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