LEADING OFF: Aces on mound, Blue Jays at Yanks, Utley back

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



Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw (9-6, 2.37 ERA) faces Pirates righty Gerrit Cole (14-5, 2.29) in the opener of a three-game series between NL playoff contenders. Dallas Keuchel (13-5, 2.35 ERA) starts for the AL West-leading Astros against Oakland's Sonny Gray (11-4, 2.12) in a matchup of All-Star aces.


The first-place Yankees are 4 1/2 games ahead of the surging Blue Jays as they meet in the first of 13 remaining games this season between the AL East rivals, the two highest-scoring teams in the majors. Troy Tulowitzki makes his initial appearance at Yankee Stadium with Toronto, which starts R.A. Dickey (6-10) against Nathan Eovaldi (11-2). New York is batting .185 this season against Dickey and fellow knuckleballer Steven Wright of the Boston Red Sox, who beat the Yankees 2-1 Wednesday night.


Ryan Vogelsong pitches for the Giants in place of ailing newcomer Mike Leake at Wrigley Field. Acquired from Cincinnati last week, Leake (9-6, 3.52 ERA) was scheduled to make his second start with San Francisco. Instead, Vogelsong (7-7, 4.16) will face Jon Lester and the Chicago Cubs in a matchup of playoff hopefuls. Giants manager Bruce Bochy is unsure if Leake's strained left hamstring will force him to miss more than one turn.


Second baseman Chase Utley, on the disabled list since June 23 with right ankle inflammation, is expected to be activated when the Phillies open a nine-game road trip against San Diego. Philadelphia is 13-5 since the All-Star break but still has the worst record in the majors at 42-67.


Cole Hamels makes his second start for the Rangers in the series opener at Seattle. The only loss for Texas its last eight games was Hamels' debut last Saturday night against San Francisco, even though the left-hander worked 7 2-3 innings and left with a three-run lead.


All-Star pitcher Jacob deGrom (10-6, 2.09 ERA) expects to have a large cheering section on hand when he starts close to home at Tropicana Field for the NL East-leading New York Mets. The right-hander has a 1.47 ERA over his last 13 starts. Jake Odorizzi (6-6, 2.86) goes for the Rays.