The new week of baseball brings us a busy Monday, at least by Monday standards. Thirteen of the 15 early-week series start on Monday, including all of the ones with intrigue. Let's break down the upcoming matchups:
Hamilton vs. the Rangers, Part Two
Josh Hamilton returned to Texas as a visiting player for the first time in the second series of the season a few weeks ago, and the Rangers faithful booed him mercilessly as he went 3-for-13 (.231) with four strikeouts for the Angels in the three-game set. Now the scene shifts to Anaheim, as Hamilton will get to face his old mates on his new turf. The 31-year-old outfielder is off to a slow start this season -- .176/.247/.324 with two homers in 17 games -- and I can't imagine there would be a better time for him to break out than during this three-game meeting. Fellow former Ranger C.J. Wilson is not scheduled to pitch this series.
The Cardinals knocked the upstart Nationals out of the postseason last year with a dramatic four-run comeback in the ninth inning of Game 5 of the NLDS. The two teams are meeting for the first time in 2013 this week, with three games to be played in Washington. Both clubs are 10-8, but the Cardinals own the much more impressive run differential (+22 vs. -14). There's a lot less on the line this time, but you can be sure the Nationals still have the bitter taste of the NLDS defeat in their mouths and are looking for some revenge.
The Battle for AL Supremacy
Only three AL teams have won 12 games this year, and two of them are meeting for three games this week: the Athletics and Red Sox (the Rangers are the other). Oakland is in Boston for a three-game series with the best record in the AL basically on the line, though both clubs are riding short losing streaks -- the Royals swept the Sox in Sunday's doubleheader while the Rays swept the A's in their three-game set over the weekend.
In case you're looking for some extra intrigue, guys like Josh Reddick, Brandon Moss, Coco Crisp, Bartolo Colon, Andrew Bailey, Jed Lowrie, Stephen Drew, Clayton Mortensen and Jonny Gomes will all be facing their former teams in this series. That seems like an awful lot of common players. I wonder what the average is for a typical series.
AL East Up-and-Comers
Following their busy offseason, the Blue Jays were a trendy pick to win the AL East this year. The Orioles, on the other hand, were also a trendy pick following their surprise 93-win season a year ago. Toronto is off to a slow start (8-11) and currently sits in last place in the division while Baltimore is in third at 10-8. If either of these teams wants to live up to its preseason promise, kicking the week off with a series win over a division rival would be a next step.