Major League Baseball
White Sox vs. Cubs
Things have already kicked off in Chicago, with the Cubs winning the first game of the series on a walk-off homerun from Aramis Ramirez. These two teams are at the top of their respective divisions for a reason. They both have had solid pitching, and have lineups that are capable of giving those pitchers decent run support.
Look for an 8-7 or 7-6 game on Saturday, followed by a close, but much lower-scoring contest, when Javier Vazquez and Ryan Dempster hit the bump on Sunday. Dempster is 8-2 on the season, with a 2.76 ERA, while Vazquez sports a mediocre 7-5 record, but has fanned 93 batters so far this season.
Twins vs. Diamondbacks
If the Twins look in the rearview mirror, they’re going to see a Tiger team edging up fast. And while Minnesota has been playing good ball, the Tigers are the team with the should-be All-Star lineup... and that linup is starting to come alive. Even with a decimated pitching staff, Detroit should have no trouble taking two of three from the lowly San Diego Padres, this weekend.
If the Twinkies want to hold on to their second-place spot in the AL Central, they absolutely need to win this series against the NL West-leading Diamondbacks. The Twins will have their work cut out for them, though. They will face Randy Johnson, Micah Owings and Brandon Webb. Webb will be looking to bounce back from an awful last performance, in which he gave up 7 earned runs in only 3.1 innings. Owings, meanwhile, could be trying to help his team with more than his arm; serving as designated hitter for the interleague series.
Angels vs. Phillies
The weekend’s second battle of first place teams kicks off Friday in Philadelphia, with the NL East-leading Phillies playing host to the top team in the AL West; the Los Angeles Angels. The Halos have played spectacular on the road, posting a 21-12 record away from home.
Philadelphia has cooled off after winning seven of eight to start the month. The team now holds a slim, two-game lead over the surprising Marlins. They will likely struggle against Angel pitchers Ervin Santana and Joe Saunders, before facing Jered Weaver on Sunday. Cole Hamels takes the mound for the Phils on Sunday, so I’ll say they go 1-2 in the series, and retain a one-game lead over Florida.
-The Olympic torch makes its way to Tibet on Friday... What could possibly go wrong? You might see more coverage of this on the news than on the sports stations. I’m just hoping that we don’t have to hear about Chinese police brutalizing protesters, or monks lighting themselves on fire.
-NASCAR is in Sonoma on Sunday, for the first road race of the season. For a lot of fans, this is not a must-see race, but I think it’s an interesting blend of open-wheel and stock car. I probably won’t watch the whole event, but I’ll probably give it a couple looks as I flip from game-to-game.
-The NHL draft will be held this weekend, and for hockey fans, this is obviously a pretty huge deal. The Tampa Bay Lightning have the first pick this year, and have already said that they plan on taking forward Steven Stamkos. Listed at just under 6-feet and 176 pounds, Stamkos is a skilled two-way player with exceptional speed, who produced 197 points (100 goals, 97 assists) in 124 games with Sarnia of the Ontario Hockey League over the past two seasons.
-The PGA Tour is in Cromwell, Conn. for the Travelers Championship. It’s obviously a huge letdown from the U.S. Open, but it still has some appeal. Young players, and even some old guys, should be in contention for the win. This course also offers a lot more scoring opportunities then Torrey Pines did. And, of course, Tiger-haters can rejoice at the fact that someone else will have a chance to win.
-The College Baseball Word Series is in progress in Omaha, and the Championship teams will be determined this weekend. The five remaining teams are Georgia, Stanford, Fresno State, North Carolina and LSU.
-Saturday, MMA fans will probably want to check out the finale for the seventh season of Spike TV’s The Ultimate Fighter series. The final match will be part of a three-hour card featuring Kendall “Da Spyder” Grove taking on middleweight champ Evan Tanner. I’m not a huge fan of mixed martial arts, but it’s free, and past finales have been pretty solid.