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April 11 Weekend Series Rankings: Yankees, Red Sox renew rivalry

By Mike Axisa | Baseball Writer

More MLB: Scoreboard | Standings | Probable Pitchers | Sortable Stats | Odds

The weekend is upon us, so it is time for another round of our series rankings. Here is a reminder of what we're doing:

The idea is simple: We're ranking the series (plural!) in tiers represented by delicious sandwiches. The first tier, meaning the best series, will be footlongs. The second tier is six-inch heroes, the third tier is wraps, the last little sliders. The bigger the sandwich, the more important the series. Got it? Of course you do.

These rankings are completely subjective and you are very welcome to disagree with them. This weekend is loaded with second tier matchups, very good but not truly great series. Think of it as the Braves rotation of weekends.

Boston Red Sox atNew York Yankees

Boston Red Sox (4-6) at New York Yankees (5-5)
Thursday: Yankees 4, Red Sox 1
Friday: LHP Jon Lester (0-2) vs. LHP CC Sabathia (1-1)
Saturday: RHP John Lackey (2-0) vs. RHP Hiroki Kuroda (1-1)
Sunday: LHP Felix Doubront (1-1) vs. RHP Ivan Nova (1-1)
Why Watch?
It's Yankees vs. Red Sox, isn't that good enough of a reason? This rivalry has lost a little something in recent years -- Boston being terrible in 2012 and New York being not very good in 2013 didn't help -- but these games are still very intense and often very close with lots of lead changes. The Yankees took the opener of the four-game series on Thursday.

What To Watch For: The Red Sox offense. They had the best offense in baseball by a decent margin a year ago, but they have only scored 36 runs in 10 games so far. Dustin Pedroia, Jonny Gomes and Daniel Nava all have sub-.570 OPSes.

Washington Nationals atAtlanta Braves

Washington Nationals (7-2) at Atlanta Braves (5-4)
Friday: RHP Tanner Roark (1-0) vs. RHP Julio Teheran (1-1)
Saturday: RHP Taylor Jordan (0-0) vs. LHP Alex Wood (1-1)
Sunday: LHP Gio Gonzalez (2-0) vs. RHP Aaron Harang (1-1)
Why Watch?
There's a pretty good chance these two clubs will be fighting for the NL East crown all summer. The Braves gave the Nats their only two losses last weekend in Washington, and this weekend is the top of one team's rotation against the bottom of the other's.

What To Watch For: Bryce Harper. He started the season in a big slump, but he hit that monster home run the other day and has three hits in his last four games. There are some signs of life and he could be poised to go off any minute now.

Chicago Cubs at St. Louis Cardinals

Chicago Cubs (3-6) at St. Louis Cardinals (5-4)
Friday: RHP Jeff Samardzija (0-1) vs. RHP Joe Kelly (1-0)
Saturday: RHP Carlos Villanueva (1-2) vs. RHP Adam Wainwright (1-1)
Sunday: RHP Edwin Jackson (0-0) vs. RHP Michael Wacha (1-0)

Why Watch?
Even though these two teams have been on the opposite ends of the success spectrum in recent years, this is still one of the greatest historic rivalries in baseball. The fans get into it, the players get into it, it's an awful lot of fun. Plus Wainwright and Wacha are always worth watching.

What To Watch For: Is Starlin Castro really back? He had a two-homer game on Tuesday and has 11 hits in his last 21 at-bats. Castro was terrible last year but he is still only 24 with a load of talent.

Los Angeles Dodgers at Arizona Diamondbacks

Los Angeles Dodgers (6-4) at Arizona Diamondbacks (4-8)
Friday: RHP Brandon McCarthy (0-1) vs. LHP Hyun-Jin Ryu (1-1)
Saturday: RHP Zack Greinke (2-0) vs. LHP Wade Miley (2-1)
Sunday: RHP Dan Haren (1-0) vs. RHP Trevor Cahill (0-3)
Why Watch?
The Dodgers and Diamondbacks developed a pretty intense rivalry last year, both on the field (beanball wars) and off the field (pool incident, war of words). Arizona is off to a miserable start but there is always a chance things will get chippy between these two clubs.

What To Watch For: How Ryu rebounds from his last start, in which he allowed eight runs in two innings. He started three of the team's first six games and was dealing with a toenail problem, so the Dodgers took advantage of off-days to give him extra rest this week.

Pittsburgh Pirates at Milwaukee Brewers

Pittsburgh Pirates (6-3) at Milwaukee Brewers (7-2)
Friday: LHP Francisco Liriano (0-1) vs. RHP Wily Peralta (0-0)
Saturday: RHP Edinson Volquez (0-0) vs. RHP Yovani Gallardo (2-0)
Sunday: RHP Charlie Morton (0-0) vs. RHP Kyle Lohse (1-1)

Why Watch?
The Brewers are off to a very nice start, allowing the fewest runs in baseball (team 1.95 ERA). The Pirates play nothing but close games it seems and they rely on their run prevention heavily, so this series has the potential for more than one excellent pitcher's duel.

What To Watch For: Pedro Alvarez, who looks like he is on the 2013 Chris Davis breakout plan. Alvarez has hit five homers already this year and Miller Park is a great place to hit.

Toronto Blue Jays at Baltimore Orioles

Toronto Blue Jays (5-5) at Baltimore Orioles (4-5)
Friday: RHP Dustin McGowan (0-1) vs. RHP Chris Tillman (1-0)
Saturday: RHP Drew Hutchison (1-1) vs. RHP Bud Norris (0-1)
Sunday: LHP Mark Buehrle (2-0) vs. RHP Ubaldo Jimenez (0-2)

Why Watch?
This series features two of the most powerful lineups in baseball with Davis, Jose Bautista, Adam Jones, Nelson Cruz, Edwin Encarnacion and others. The ball is going to fly this weekend. If you dig the longball, this is the series to watch.

What To Watch For: Davis, who is still looking for his first home run of 2014 after leading the league with 53 last summer. He insists he's not pressing, for what it's worth.

Tampa Bay Rays at Cincinnati Reds

Tampa Bay Rays (5-5) at Cincinnati Reds (3-6)
Friday: LHP David Price (1-0) vs. RHP Johnny Cueto (0-1)
Saturday: RHP Alex Cobb (0-1) vs. RHP Alfredo Simon (1-0)
Sunday: TBA vs. LHP Tony Cingrani (0-1)

Why Watch?
For starters, that Price vs. Cueto game. It's the best pitching matchup of the weekend. The Reds have had some problems scoring runs so far but I still think they will be one of the better teams in the league when it's all said and done. The Rays are always right there as well. Plus, you know, Joey Votto and Evan Longoria.

What To Watch For: Who will the Rays start on Sunday? Matt Moore is on the DL and is facing Tommy John surgery, and there is no pitching wunderkind to call up. It might be veteran journeyman Erik Bedard.

Detroit Tigers at San Diego Padres

Detroit Tigers (5-2) at San Diego Padres (3-6)
Friday: RHP Rick Porcello (1-0) vs. RHP Andrew Cashner (0-1)
Saturday: RHP Justin Verlander (0-1) vs. RHP Ian Kennedy (1-1)
Sunday: RHP Max Scherzer (0-0) vs. RHP Tyson Ross (0-2)

Why Watch?
Man those are some fun pitching matchups. I just wish Cashner was going head-to-head with Verlander, that would be great. Also, Verlander and Scherzer in Petco Park? Can they hold a team to negative-runs?

What To Watch For: Austin Jackson, who is off to a very hot start: 10-for-28 (.357) with three doubles, a triple, a home run and one stolen base. He has gone from leadoff hitter to run producer and, at age 27, he might in the middle of a breakout/career year.

Oakland Athletics at Seattle Mariners

Oakland Athletics (6-3) at Seattle Mariners (5-3)
Friday: LHP Tommy Milone (0-0) vs. RHP Felix Hernandez (2-0)
Saturday: RHP Sonny Gray (1-0) vs. RHP Erasmo Ramirez (1-1)
Sunday: LHP Scott Kazmir (2-0) vs. RHP Chris Young (0-0)

Why Watch?
Both teams are off to very nice starts, and obviously the Mariners have a lot to prove after spending so much on Robinson Cano this offseason, a clear "win now" move. The A's took two of three from Seattle last week, but each game was close and that series was in Oakland. These are the games the Mariners have to win if they want to be taken seriously.

What To Watch For: Cano, who is still homerless on the season. He's hitting (.300) but the power is not there just yet. At some point he'll go deep, possibly even this weekend.

Colorado Rockies at San Francisco Giants

Colorado Rockies (5-5) at San Francisco Giants (6-4)
Friday: LHP Jorge De La Rosa (0-1) vs. LHP Madison Bumgarner (1-0)
Saturday: LHP Brett Anderson (0-2) vs. RHP Matt Cain (0-1)
Sunday: RHP Tyler Chatwood (0-0) vs. RHP Tim Hudson (2-0)

Why Watch?
Some of the game's very best players will be in AT&T Park this weekend. Carlos Gonzalez, Brandon Belt, Buster Posey, Troy Tulowitzki, on and on it goes. The Giants are suddenly an offensive powerhouse (46 runs in 10 games) and the Rockies, well, let's just say they've had some pitching problems.

What To Watch For: Cain because it looks like his career-long home run suppressing ability is starting to wane. He has given up three dingers in 11 innings this year after posting a career-high 1.1 HR/9 in 2013. Cain will soon turn 30 and he already has over 1,700 innings on his arm, so we can't simply write the homeritis off as a fluke.

Cleveland Indians at Chicago White Sox

Cleveland Indians (5-5) at Chicago White Sox (5-5)
Thursday: White Sox 7, Indians 3
Friday: RHP Carlos Carrasco (0-1) vs. LHP Chris Sale (2-0)
Saturday: RHP Justin Masterson (0-0) vs. RHP Felipe Paulino (0-1)
Sunday: RHP Corey Kluber (1-1) vs. LHP Jose Quintana (1-0)

Why Watch?
Sale is a pretty excellent reason all by himself. You can make a really strong case that he's the best pitcher in the AL right now. Neither team has gotten off to a great start, so this weekend is all about Sale and a division rivalry.

What To Watch For: The Indians have four regulars (Nick Swisher, Jason Kipnis, Michael Brantley, Asdrubal Cabrera) with a sub-.700 OPS and another (Carlos Santana) right at .700. Is the weekend their offense clicks? With Sale and Quintana lined up to pitch, probably not.

Houston Astros at Texas Rangers

Houston Astros (4-6) at Texas Rangers (4-5)
Friday: RHP Scott Feldman (2-0) vs. RHP Yu Darvish (1-0)
Saturday: RHP Jarred Cosart (1-1) vs. RHP Tanner Scheppers (0-1)
Sunday: LHP Brett Oberholtzer (0-2) vs. LHP Martin Perez (1-0)

Why Watch?
Um, in-state rivalry? In all seriousnessness, each game features at least one really exciting pitcher and the Astros quietly rank second in baseball with 14 home runs. Young shortstop Jonathan Villar has two homers and three steals, and is heading towards a 20-20 year in his first full season.

What To Watch For: Prince Fielder, who is hitting only .162 and has yet to go deep. He's not exactly assuaging concerns that last season was the start of a decline.

New York Mets at Los Angeles Angels

New York Mets (4-5) at Los Angeles Angels (4-5)
Friday: RHP Dillon Gee (0-0) vs. LHP Tyler Skaggs (1-0)
Saturday: LHP Jonathon Niese (0-1) vs. RHP Jered Weaver (0-2)
Sunday: RHP Bartolo Colon (1-1) vs. LHP C.J. Wilson (1-1)

Why Watch?
The Mets are returning to Anaheim for the first time since the Willie Randolph firing fiasco, though that is more of a footnote than a reason to watch. Skaggs and Colon are pretty fun, and there's always Mike Trout. Josh Hamilton was off to a crazy hot start, so his thumb injury takes a bite out of this weekend's watchability.

What To Watch For: Weaver. He's been roughed up for nine runs and four home runs in 11 innings so far this season. His fastball continues to slide into the mid-80s and even though he's never been a huge velocity guy, at some point the kitchen sink approach stops working.

Miami Marlins at Philadelphia Phillies

Miami Marlins (5-5) at Philadelphia Phillies (3-6)
Friday: RHP Jose Fernandez (2-0) vs. RHP A.J. Burnett (0-1)
Saturday: RHP Nate Eovaldi (1-1) vs. RHP Jonathan Pettibone (0-0)
Sunday: RHP Henderson Alvarez (0-2) vs. RHP Kyle Kendrick (0-1)

Why Watch?
Fernandez! He's the best pitcher in baseball right now since Clayton Kershaw is on the DL. Giancarlo Stanton too! He's a blast. Chase Utley? Sure, he's pretty great. Ryan Howard? Uh. Casey McGehee? Welp.

What To Watch For: Just watch Fernandez. He is everything that is right with baseball.

Kansas City Royals at Minnesota Twins

Kansas City Royals (4-4) at Minnesota Twins (3-6)
Friday: LHP Bruce Chen (0-0) vs. RHP Kyle Gibson (1-0)
Saturday: RHP James Shields (0-1) vs. RHP Ricky Nolasco (0-1)
Sunday: LHP Jason Vargas (1-0) vs. RHP Kevin Correia (0-1)

Why Watch?
Somehow the Twins spent more than $80 million on pitching this winter and still have a team 6.31 ERA two weeks into the season. They have used 13 different pitchers in 2013 and only five have a sub-5.85 ERA. Brutal.

What To Watch For: Will the Royals hit another home run? Alex Gordon hit their first and only homer of 2014 earlier this week. No other team has hit fewer than four home runs. Crazy.

 
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