Another week of baseball is upon on, so it's time to break out the hoagie scale and rank all 15 upcoming series. Consider this a preview of the week with a big helping of personal bias attached. If you're unhappy with the rankings and think I hate your favorite team, you're probably right.
St. Louis Cardinals (16-16) at Atlanta Braves (17-13)
Monday: RHP Shelby Miller (3-2) vs. RHP Aaron Harang (3-2)
Tuesday: LHP Tyler Lyons (0-2) vs. RHP Gavin Floyd (0-0)
Wednesday: RHP Adam Wainwright (5-2) vs. LHP Mike Minor (0-1)
Both the Cardinals and Braves had rough weeks last week, but that's not enough to put a damper on this marquee matchup. These teams had the two best records in the NL last season and there's little reason to think they won't be in contention right down to the wire this year.
The key to this series -- or really the thing to watch, that seems more appropriate -- is the powerhouse Atlanta rotation against the struggling St. Louis lineup. The Cardinals have had some serious trouble scoring runs this year, partly due to their inability to repeat last season's historic production with runners in scoring position. The Braves, meanwhile, seem to pull quality starters out of nowhere. Harang is the latest example, though he got knocked around last time out. Will Floyd be next? He is making his season debut following Tommy John surgery.
Los Angeles Dodgers (18-14) at Washington Nationals (17-14)
Monday: RHP Zack Greinke (5-0) vs. RHP Jordan Zimmermann (2-1)
Tuesday: LHP Clayton Kershaw (2-1) vs. TBD
Wednesday: RHP Dan Haren (4-0) vs. TBD
I'm not sure any team came into the season with more hype and greater expectations than the Nationals and Dodgers. Both clubs have been good in the early going but not truly great, with the whole seemingly less than the sum of the parts. As we saw with Washington's great second half in 2012 and Los Angeles' dominant second half last summer, teams with tons of talent can take off in a hurry. It's not crazy to think this will be an NLCS preview, but we're getting ahead of ourselves.
This series is all about Kershaw's return to the mound after a back issue sidelined him for more than a month. That could prove to be a blessing in disguise if he helps keep him fresh later in the season and potentially the postseason. The Nationals have not yet announced their starters for Tuesday and Wednesday, so the pitching matchups are a bit of a mystery. Doug Fister's return is scheduled for Friday, so he isn't an option.
New York Yankees (16-14) at Los Angeles Angels (15-15)
Monday: RHP David Phelps (0-0) vs. RHP Jered Weaver (2-2)
Tuesday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda (2-3) vs. LHP C.J. Wilson (4-2)
Wednesday: LHP Vidal Nuno (0-0) vs. LHP Hector Santiago (0-5)
Both the Yankees and Angels are off to good but not great starts this year. The Yankees have some serious pitching problems right now thanks to Ivan Nova's season-ending elbow injury and Michael Pineda's suspension/back injury, so this series could get ugly quick given the Angels' high-powered offense. They lead the league with an average of 5.3 runs per game even though Josh Hamilton has been on the shelf for several weeks now.
San Francisco Giants (20-11) at Pittsburgh Pirates (12-19)
Monday: RHP Yusmeiro Petit (2-1) vs. LHP Jeff Locke (0-0)
Tuesday: RHP Tim Hudson (4-0) vs. RHP Charlie Morton (0-4)
Wednesday: RHP Tim Lincecum (2-1) vs. RHP Gerrit Cole (2-2)
Against my better judgement, I'm making this series a six-inch instead of a wrap. I know the Pirates just took two of three from the Blue Jays, but they have still lost 16 of their last 22 games. I guess the "do nothing other than sign Edinson Volquez" offseason plan wasn't a good idea after all.
The Giants have been excellent so far this year after a Murphy's Law season in 2013, when everything that could go wrong did go wrong. Also, that Tuesday pitching matchup is a total reverse lock. A 4-0 pitcher against a 0-4 pitcher? Too easy, baseball gods. Not fooling me this time. Matt Cain was scheduled to start Monday's game, but he was placed on the 15-day DL with a cut on his finger Sunday.
The Red Sox are in the middle of the homestand that never ends -- 13 of their last 16 games have been in Fenway Park and these next two will make it 15 of 18 -- and so far they haven't really taken advantage, going 6-7 in those 13 games. The defending World Series champions have not yet gotten on any kind of extended roll and, when you consider just how much went right last season, you wonder if they will put together than one dominant stretch that moves them to the top of the AL East.
The Reds are hurtin' bad. Jay Bruce needs knee surgery and will miss 3-4 weeks, so he'll join Mat Latos, Aroldis Chapman, Tony Cingrani and Devin Mesoraco on the disabled list. (Chapman is due back later this week.) Billy Hamilton is banged up as well. Brandon Phillips is hitting only .279/.299/.377 so far this year and there's no better time for him to pick up his play than right now.
Texas Rangers (17-14) at Colorado Rockies (19-14)
Monday: LHP Martin Perez (4-1) vs. RHP Jordan Lyles (3-0)
Tuesday: LHP Robbie Ross (1-2) vs. RHP Juan Nicasio (3-1)
Wednesday: RHP Colby Lewis (3-1) vs. LHP Jorge De La Rosa (3-3)
Thursday: LHP Matt Harrison (0-0) vs. LHP Franklin Morales (3-1)
This is actually two two-game series -- the Rangers and Rockies are playing two games at Coors Field then another two games at Globe Life Park in Arlington. It's a home-and-home, a rarity in baseball.
The Rockies are an offensive juggernaut at home, so much so that it feels like we're back in the early years of Coors Field, when no one knew what a humidor was. All eyes will be on star in the making Nolan Arenado, who brings a 24-game hitting streak into the series. It's the longest active hitting streak in baseball (duh) and three short of Michael Cuddyer's club record 27-game hitting streak, set just last season. Arenado has a long way to go before catching Joe DiMaggio, but the team record is well within reach.
Seattle Mariners (14-15) at Oakland Athletics (19-12)
Monday: RHP Chris Young (1-0) vs. LHP Scott Kazmir (4-0)
Tuesday: LHP Roenis Elias (2-2) vs. RHP Jesse Chavez (2-0)
Wednesday Game One: RHP Felix Hernandez (3-1) vs. RHP Dan Straily (1-2)
Wednesday Game Two: TBD vs. TBD
When these clubs last met, the Mariners were flying high thanks to their early season success while the A's had stumbled out of the gate a little bit. Now the Athletics looks very much like the best in the AL while Seattle again appears to be a cellar dweller. Nothing misleads quite like the first week of April.
The A's have gotten excellent work from Kazmir, Chavez and Sonny Gray, but Straily and Tommy Milone have been shaky at best. The team's pitching depth took a big hit with the Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin injuries and they're said to be looking for more starters. For the time being, they need their offense and bullpen to pick up the slack. Beating up on clubs like the Mariners is what they need to do to stay in first place. These two teams will play a doubleheader on Wednesday to make up a rainout earlier in the season. No word on the pitchers just yet.
Baltimore Orioles (15-14) at Tampa Bay Rays (15-17)
Tuesday: RHP Chris Tillman (3-1) vs. RHP Chris Archer (2-1)
Wednesday: RHP Bud Norris (2-2) vs. LHP Cesar Ramos (1-1)
Thursday: RHP Ubaldo Jimenez (1-4) vs. LHP David Price (3-2)
The AL East is a total mess this year -- the five teams are separated by three games in the standings and the Blue Jays have the best run differential at zero -- and none of the five clubs looks like they are in position to run away with things. They're all flawed. That means the division is wide open and these head-to-head matchups are incredibly important. Ubaldo seemed to turn a corner last time out (10 strikeouts in 7.1 scoreless innings) and the Orioles need him to continue that to have a chance. He can be a difference maker.
Arizona Diamondbacks (11-23) at Milwaukee Brewers (21-11)
Monday: RHP Mike Bolsinger (1-1) vs. RHP Matt Garza (1-3)
Tuesday: RHP Josh Collmenter (1-2) vs. RHP Marco Estrada (2-1)
Wednesday: RHP Bronson Arroyo (2-2) vs. RHP Wily Peralta (4-1)
The Brewers just lost three of their last four games, yet they still have the best record and most wins in all of baseball. The D-Backs have won three of their last four and nearly swept the Padres this weekend, but they still have the worst record in baseball. This is a mismatch on paper but that doesn't mean much. This series ranks has high as it does only because there could be some serious offensive fireworks. The hard-hitting Brewers could be in for a huge weekend against Arizona's weak staff even with Ryan Braun on the DL.
Houston Astros (10-21) at Detroit Tigers (17-9)
Monday: RHP Jarred Cosart (1-2) vs. RHP Max Scherzer (3-1)
Tuesday: LHP Brett Oberholtzer (0-5) vs. LHP Robbie Ray (0-0)
Wednesday: RHP Brad Peacock (0-2) vs. RHP Rick Porcello (4-1)
Thursday: LHP Dallas Keuchel (2-2) vs. LHP Drew Smyly (2-1)
It's the best record in the AL against the worst record in the AL. The only reason this series ranks as highly as it does is Ray, the pitching prospect who was the key piece of the Doug Fister trade. Who thought he would make his season debut before Fister? Baseball is weird. It's tough to find anyone who thinks the Tigers received fair value for Fister, so now it's time to see what Ray has to offer and why Detroit was so high on him.
Chicago White Sox (15-17) at Chicago Cubs (11-18)
Monday: LHP Jose Quintana (1-2) vs. RHP Jeff Samardzija (0-3)
Tuesday: RHP Hector Noesi (0-2) vs. RHP Edwin Jackson (2-2)
Wednesday: LHP John Danks (2-2) vs. LHP Travis Wood (2-3)
Thursday: RHP Scott Carroll (1-1) vs. RHP Jake Arrieta (0-0)
Another home-and-home series -- the first two games of this four-game set will be in Wrigley Field, the next two in U.S. Cellular Field. The Quintana-Samardzija matchup is sneaky good despite their records, but with the White Sox coming back to Earth, these are four games between two teams who won't sniff contention this year. No Chris Sale either (he's hurt)? Lame.
New York Mets (16-14) at Miami Marlins (16-15)
Monday: LHP Jonathon Niese (2-2) vs. RHP Nate Eovaldi (2-1)
Tuesday: RHP Bartolo Colon (2-4) vs. RHP Henderson Alvarez (1-2)
Wednesday: RHP Zack Wheeler (1-3) vs. RHP Tom Koehler (3-2)
The Marlins have the best home record in baseball (14-5) and they perform so much better offensively at Marlins Park that they were recently accused of stealing signs. The Mets won Sunday but their pitching staff was wrecked by the Rockies in Colorado the previous three days, so this could be another long series for the Amazin's if the Fish continue to rake at home.
Toronto Blue Jays (14-17) at Philadelphia Phillies (15-14)
Monday: LHP J.A. Happ (0-0) vs. RHP Kyle Kendrick (0-2)
Tuesday: RHP Drew Hutchison (1-2) vs. LHP Cole Hamels (0-2)
Wednesday: LHP Mark Buehrle (5-1) vs. LHP Cliff Lee (3-2)
Thursday: RHP R.A. Dickey (2-3) vs. RHP A.J. Burnett (2-1)
This is another one of those home-and-home series (first two in Citizens Bank Park, next two in Rogers Centre), and this series is all about Buehrle and Lee. They are meeting head-to-head and could very well be the two best starting pitchers on the trade market later this summer. You can bet there will be scouts on hand even though it's still early May.
Kansas City Royals (14-16) at San Diego Padres (14-18)
Monday: RHP Yordano Ventura (2-1) vs. LHP Eric Stults (1-3)
Tuesday: RHP Jeremy Guthrie (2-2) vs. LHP Robbie Erlin (1-4)
Wednesday: RHP James Shields (3-3) vs. RHP Andrew Cashner (2-4)
I really thought these two teams would contend for a wild-card spot this season and, while it's still early, they aren't looking so hot right now. They've hit the fewest and second fewest home runs in the game (12 for the Royals, 16 for the Padres), so expect a series of slapped singles and small ball. Shields-Cashner will be good, Ventura-Cashner would be better.
Minnesota Twins (14-15) at Cleveland Indians (13-18)
Monday: RHP Kyle Gibson (3-2) vs. RHP Zach McAllister (3-2)
Tuesday: RHP Samuel Deduno (0-1) vs. RHP Josh Tomlin (0-0)
Wednesday: RHP Ricky Nolasco (2-3) vs. RHP Danny Salazar (1-3)
Thursday: RHP Kevin Correia (1-3) vs. RHP Justin Masterson (1-1)
The Twins have won their last two games, so they're kind of on a roll, but four games between these two teams? Really? Maybe someone will throw a no-hitter or turn an unassisted triple play to spice things up.