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Weekend Series Rankings: Can Nationals turn tide against Cards?

By Matt Snyder | Baseball Writer

More MLB: Power Rankings | Expert Picks | Latest news & notes | Fantasy news

The weekend is upon us once again. Well, OK, technically Saturday and Sunday are the only weekend days, but for baseball purposes our weekend series begin on either Thursday or Friday. Let's take a look at what's on tap in MLB's offerings this time around.

Cardinals atNationals

St. Louis Cardinals at Washington Nationals
Thursday: Cardinals 8, Nationals 0
Friday: Michael Wacha (2-0) vs. Gio Gonzalez (2-1)
Saturday: Lance Lynn (3-0) vs. Jordan Zimmermann (1-0)
Sunday: Shelby Miller (1-2) vs. Stephen Strasburg (1-2)
Why Watch?
Lots of reasons here. First of all, it's two teams with winnings records. Considering how much mediocrity there's been so far, that's a great start. Next, how about all the young fireballers that will take the mound -- which isn't even mentioning the talent in the bullpen for either club. And, of course, these two have a recent history that includes the Cardinals storming back from a six-run, third-inning deficit in Game 5 of the 2012 NLDS.

Oh, and in 2013 the Cardinals were 6-0 against Washington.

What To Watch For: The Nationals are 8-1 against the Mets and Marlins but now 1-6 against the Braves and Cardinals after Thursday's beatdown. Are they only good at beating up on weak teams? Do the Mets even count as "weak," though, since they're 8-4 against everyone not from D.C. so far this year? Regardless of what we want to say about the Mets, the Nationals have some proving to do in this one. They don't need to even win the series, instead they probably just need to split the four games to show everyone they can hang with elite teams. The Cardinals might be like the Braves in terms of a sort of monkey on their back, too.

Finally, Strasburg has been beat up a bit so far this year. For a guy with his kind of electric stuff, that shouldn't be happening. The powerful Cardinals will be a nice test.

Brewers atPirates

Milwakee Brewers at Pittsburgh Pirates
Thursday: Pirates 11, Brewers 2
Friday: Kyle Lohse (2-1) vs. Charlie Morton (0-1)
Saturday: Matt Garza (0-2) vs. Wandy Rodriguez (0-2)
Sunday: Marco Estrada (1-1) vs. Gerrit Cole (2-1)
Why Watch?
We all know the Pirates' 2013 story by now and surely they'd just assume move on and be the 2014 Pirates. They've started the season 8-8 with four wins coming against the lowly Cubs. Still, there's talent here. The Brewers, meanwhile, are coming off a bad 2013 season but stormed out of the gate to the tune of a 10-2 start this season. Plus, what about the revenge factor? The Brewers swept the Pirates last week. And, of course, these are division rivals.

What To Watch For: The Brewers have lost three of four since that hot start. Can they stop the slight bleeding, or was that start a mirage? The Pirates, meanwhile, had lost five of six before Thursday's win, so they need to start playing better as well.

Orioles atBoston Red Sox

Baltimore Orioles at Boston Red Sox
Friday: Chris Tillman (1-1) vs. John Lackey (2-1)
Saturday: Bud Norris (0-1) vs. Felix Doubront (1-2)
Sunday: Ubaldo Jimenez (0-3) vs. Jake Peavy (0-0)
Monday: Wei-Yin Chen (2-1) vs. Clay Buchholz (0-1)
Why Watch?
It's the defending champions at home on Boston Marathon weekend (yes, I know it's technically Monday morning) against a worthy in-division opponent.

What To Watch For: The Red Sox have still yet to really get going this year and now would be the perfect time with the whole Boston Strong theme and all the civic pride on display. They've won two close ones in a row heading into the series, too. Then again, the Orioles have a potentially very powerful offense and won't be intimidated. In fact, they were the only AL East team with a winning record (11-8) against Boston last year. Also, Jimenez has been brutal this year and the natives are getting restless in Baltimore.

New York Yankees atRays

New York Yankees at Tampa Bay Rays
Thursday: Yankees 10, Rays 2
Friday: Hiroki Kuroda (2-1) vs. Erik Bedard (0-0)
Saturday: Ivan Nova (2-1) vs. Chris Archer (1-1)
Sunday: TBD vs. Cesar Ramos (0-1)
Why Watch?
Don't look now, but guess who has a two-game lead in the vaunted AL East? Yes, the most polarizing team in baseball, those Bronx Bombers. That alone should be enough against a team many picked to win the AL East this year.

What To Watch For: Sunday should be fun for those who love offense. The Yankees haven't even named a starter yet while the Rays are using Ramos, who sports a 5.14 ERA in four career starts. The Yankees have crushed him in his career, too, as he has a 7.62 ERA in 13 innings against them.

Otherwise, the pitching matchups seem to favor the Yankees Friday and Rays Saturday. Then again, the Yankees went off on David Price Thursday, so things don't always go as planned.

Angels atTigers

Los Angeles Angels at Detroit Tigers
Friday: Jered Weaver (0-2) vs. Drew Smyly (1-0)
Saturday: C.J. Wilson (2-1) vs. Max Scherzer (0-1)
Sunday: Hector Santiago (0-2) vs. Rick Porcello (1-1)
Why Watch?
Let's start with the last two MVP debates, as this is the Cabrera-Trout Bowl. That's our jumping off point for the next reason, which is the starpower. Cabrera, Trout, Albert Pujols, Scherzer, Weaver and more, this battle is chock full of household names, even if Justin Verlander isn't pitching.

Oh yeah, and does anyone remember if Tigers fans like Jered Weaver? I can't remember (cough, cough).

What To Watch For: It kind of feels like each team could use a jumpstart. The Tigers haven't really played all that well thus far as Cabrera and Torii Hunter haven't yet hit their stride. The Angels are actually 7-5 since getting swept to open the season against the Mariners, but they've lost Josh Hamilton and Kole Calhoun from the offense while Weaver and a few important relievers (Ernesto Frieri, Joe Smith) have struggled.

Braves atMets

Atlanta Braves at New York Mets
Friday: Aaron Harang (2-1) vs. Jon Niese (0-1)
Saturday: Ervin Santana (1-0) vs. Bartolo Colon (1-2)
Sunday: David Hale (0-0) vs. Zack Wheeler (1-2)
Why Watch?
It's the Braves and Mets rivalry. Not only that, but the Mets are only two games out of first place right now. That means if they sweep and the Nationals are man-handled by the Cardinals -- which may not be a bad bet -- the Mets would actually be in first place.

What To Watch For: The Mets are coming off a series in which they scored 21 runs in three games, but that was against possibly the worst rotation in the majors. OK, not possibly. It is the worst right now. And now the Mets get to face the Braves. Here are the ERAs of the respective Braves starters in this series: 0.96, 0.64, 2.89. Add those up and the D-Backs starters are still jealous.

Blue Jays atIndians

Toronto Blue Jays at Cleveland Indians
Friday: Drew Hutchison (1-1) vs. Justin Masterson (0-0)
Saturday: Mark Buehrle (3-0) vs. Corey Kluber (1-1)
Sunday: Brandon Morrow (1-1) vs. Carlos Carrasco (0-2)
Why Watch?
Power, man. There's some heavy artillery here and the potential for the pitching staff of either team to disappear is pretty high.

What To Watch For: Someone is going to turn it around. The Indians have lost five of seven while the Blue Jays were just embarrassed in a day-night double-header in Minnesota -- one via blowout and one via a bullpen implosion. Also, ther's the contract-year struggles of Masterson on Friday, a chance to see if Buehrle's early magic can continue on Saturday and the potential for either double-digit strikeouts or double-digit runs allowed by Morrow on Sunday.

White Sox atRangers

Chicago White Sox at Texas Rangers
Friday: Felipe Paulino (0-1) vs. Martin Perez (2-0)
Saturday: Jose Quintana (1-0) vs. Colby Lewis (0-1)
Sunday: Erik Johnson (0-1) vs. Robbie Ross (1-0)
Why Watch?
The White Sox have had one of the most exciting offenses in baseball to this point and the Rangers play in one of the most offensive-friendly ballparks in the bigs. It's not like the Rangers are lacking firepower, either. If you're into that sort of thing, Alexei Ramirez has a 16-game hitting streak.

Also, it is Alex Rios against his former team.

What To Watch For: The pitching matchups seem staggered. Perez, Quintana and Ross have all been excellent so far, but it's a real small sample. Overall, the White Sox were off to a great start and now they've dropped two heartbreakers in a row. How will they respond?

Giants atPadres

San Francisco Giants at San Diego Padres
Friday: Matt Cain (0-2) vs. Tyson Ross (1-2)
Saturday: Tim Hudson (2-0) vs. Eric Stults (0-2)
Sunday: Tim Lincecum (0-1) vs. Robbie Erlin (1-1)
Why Watch?
It's the first-place Giants and the weather in San Diego is always incredible.

What To Watch For: The Padres desperately need to avoid a bad series here. After a 3-6 start they have gone 4-3 thus far on their homestand. After this three-gamer, they'll hit the road for 10 against the Brewers, Nationals and Giants. A poor series here and they could be in very bad shape heading into May.

Twins at Royals

Minnesota Twins at Kansas City Royals
Friday: Ricky Nolasco (1-1) vs. Jason Vargas (1-0)
Saturday: Kevin Correia (0-1) vs. Bruce Chen (0-1)
Sunday: Phil Hughes (0-1) vs. Yordano Ventura (1-0)
Why Watch?
The Royals were completely and utterly embarrassed last weekend in Minnesota, being outscored 21-5 in a three-game sweep. Revenge at home?

What To Watch For: The pitching matchups appear, overall, to favor the Royals a bit, but the Twins' offense is humming right now, having scored 40 runs in the past six games. The Twins won five of those six. The Royals have won three straight, but those were against the Astros. Still, do they have their confidence back? Are they ready to turn the tide?

Astros atA's

Houston Astros at Oakland Athletics
Friday: Jarrod Cosart (1-1) vs. Sonny Gray (2-0)
Saturday: Brett Oberholtzer (0-3) vs. Scott Kazmir (2-0)
Sunday: Brad Peacock (0-1) vs. Jesse Chavez (0-0)
Why Watch?
Because watching the A's is real fun. Also, the Astros just called up George Springer!

What To Watch For: Jesse Chavez entered the season with a career 5.48 ERA and only two starts (with 189 relief appearances). In three starts this season he has a 1.35 ERA with 22 strikeouts and two walks in 20 innings. He's not facing a tough opponent, but if he's a complete fluke, the opponent shouldn't much matter and things should catch up to him. Keep an eye on how well he pitches.

Reds atCubs

Cincinnati Reds at Chicago Cubs
Friday: Alfredo Simon (1-1) vs. Jeff Samardzija (0-1)
Saturday: Tony Cingrani (1-1) vs. Edwin Jackson (0-1)
Sunday: Homer Bailey (0-1) vs. Carlos Villanueva (1-3)
Why Watch?
With Samardzija and Cingrani there's potential to see dominant outings. Still, this would have been a "slider" if not for the fact that the Reds were the biggest disappointment in the early going after a 3-8 start before winning three of their last four games. A sweep here is very attainable and gets the Reds to .500 (9-9) before facing the Pirates and Braves for seven games.

What To Watch For: In Joey Votto's last eight games, he's hitting .407/.548/.889 with four homers and eight RBI. Can Billy Hamilton got on base enough to help him up that RBI total even more? Homer Bailey needs to get on track and facing the Cubs -- who were shut out in 18 innings in Yankee Stadium this week -- should do the trick.

Diamondbacks at Dodgers

Arizona Diamondbacks at Los Angeles Dodgers
Friday: Wade Miley (2-2) vs. Zack Greinke (3-0)
Saturday: Mike Bolsinger (0-0) vs. Dan Haren (2-0)
Sunday: Josh Collmenter (0-1) vs. Josh Beckett (0-0)
Why Watch?
Because you didn't get enough the first five times these teams played, the D-Backs rotation is on a historically bad pace and maybe, just maybe, Kirk Gibson could be the first manager fired this season.

What To Watch For: It's still real early in the season, but the D-Backs can't afford another sweep here. If they start the season 4-17, it's over. Yes, already. On the Dodgers end, they'd probably like to see at least one outing where Brian Wilson and Kenley Jansen make things easy in the late innings instead of making everyone hyperventilate. Or maybe they'd just rather see three blowouts and give the late-inning duo a break from high-leverage situations.

Phillies atRockies

Philadelphia Phillies at Colorado Rockies
Friday: Jonathan Pettibone (0-0) vs. Tyler Chatwood (0-0)
Saturday: Kyle Kendrick (0-1) vs. Jordan Lyles (2-0)
Sunday: Roberto Hernandez (1-0) vs. Juan Nicasio (2-0)
Why Watch?
What's not to like about two mediocre ballclubs playing a three-game series with no great pitchers in Coors Field?

What To Watch For: Can Chase Utley continue to play out of his mind? Can Charlie Blackmon? Will LaTroy Hawkins continue to be a more productive closer than Jonathan Papelbon? Just look at all this drama.

Mariners atMarlins

Seattle Mariners at Miami Marlins
Friday: Chris Young (0-0) vs. Nate Eovaldi (1-1)
Saturday: Roenis Elias (1-1) vs. Henderson Alvarez (0-2)
Sunday: TBD vs. Kevin Slowey (0-0)
Why Watch?
Maybe to protest having these two teams play without getting to see either Felix Hernandez or Jose Fernandez pitch? That's just terrible. Otherwise there are some offensive players to enjoy, namely Robinson Cano and Giancarlo Stanton. Die-hard fans might enjoy Eovaldi's stuff (it really is good, I swear) and some of the young position players on each side.

What To Watch For: The Mariners were really hoping to contend this year and started 5-2, but they're 2-6 since then. Is this what the doctor ordered? Well, the Marlins are actually 6-4 at home, so maybe not.

 
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