It's hoagie scale time, so let's check out how hungry we are to consume the 15 weekend series in Major League Baseball. The bigger the sandwich, the more juicy the matchup in this humble writer's opinion. Let's dig in.
San Francisco Giants at Los Angeles Dodgers
Thursday: Giants 3, Dodgers 1
Friday: Madison Bumgarner (3-3) vs. Paul Maholm (1-2)
Saturday: Matt Cain (0-3) vs. Zack Greinke (5-1)
Sunday: Tim Hudson (4-2) vs. Clayton Kershaw (2-0)
One of baseball's oldest, fiercest and best rivalries is a pretty great place to start.
As things stand, the Giants are the first-place team here and have looked like the best team in the division to this point. Entering the series, the Giants had won four of the previous six games over the Dodgers this season after going 11-8 against the Dodgers last season. Make that 5-2 this year and 16-10 in the last two seasons after Thursday's extra-inning victory.
The Dodgers were, of course, the NL West champs last year, though. They have three games starting Friday to try and flip the head-to-head script while making a dent in the NL West standings.
The pitching matchups favor the Dodgers in two of the three remaining games, but a split doesn't seem good enough right now. The Dodgers need to get to Bumgarner on Friday and then hold serve over the weekend.
Let's just hope all four games are as competitive as Thursday night's beauty.
Lots of good stuff here.
First of all, the big off-season acquisition for the Nationals was Fister and he's finally making his season debut. He's also facing off against former Nationals prospect Milone, who went to Oakland by way of the Gio Gonzalez trade. And Gonzalez is, of course, facing his former team Sunday. A's catcher Derek Norris was also a part of that trade.
Further, the Nationals have never seen Gray before and, well, he's pretty awesome.
The A's come in having lost five of their last seven while the Nationals have won seven of their last 11, so there's the question of momentum continuing or reversing.
Finally, there is the obvious fact here that these are both ballclubs either in first (A's) or within sniffing distance of first (Nats). It should be fun.
A battle of a first-place team against one that is just a half-game out, so that is a plus here. There's more, though.
Remember back in 2008 when Sabathia was traded to the Brewers and went nuts? He was 11-2 with a 1.65 ERA, seven complete games and three shutouts in just 17 starts. He put the Brewers on his back and helped get them to the postseason for the first time since Harvey's Wallbangers were the AL representative in the 1982 World Series.
Saturday's game will mark the first time Sabathia will pitch in Miller Park as a member of the Yankees. So that's something.
Also, can the Brewers stop the bleeding? They've lost six of their last eight and just dropped a series to Arizona.
This one pits a couple of teams with good talent that are collectively only one game over .500. The Red Sox enter having won four of five to get back to .500 for the first time since they were 2-2. It's fair to say they've been disappointing so far, but they're only two games out in the AL East. The Rangers, meanwhile, went into Thursday having lost eight of their last 10, but they salvaged one game from Colorado to prevent themselves from falling below .500 for the first time since they were 6-7.
The pitching matchups all seem uneven at this point, with Friday favoring Texas and the next two games favoring Boston. There's a lot more going on here, though, as the offenses look to get things rolling. We know about the potential firepower, but they're both middle of the road in the AL in terms of runs scored so far.
Of note: Mike Napoli faces his old 'mates. He hit .118/.360/.118 against them last season.
Few teams in baseball are as hot as the Rockies right now. Sure, they lost Thursday night, but before that they had won 15 of their last 20. Their offense is insanely good and while it's not as ridiculous outside Coors Field, Great American Ball Park is a hitter's yard in its own right.
I would say to expect lots of runs here, but Cueto has arguably been the best pitcher in the majors so far this season. Something's gotta give in his outing against the stellar Rockies' offense Friday. They were just shut down Thursday, can they be held down two straight games?
Otherwise, yeah, expects lots of runs.
As for the Reds, they aren't a bad team, but every time it appears they have some momentum, they give it all back. This series marks a nice little test (again).
Finally, Nolan Arenado enters the series with a 28-game hitting streak. Getting to 31 would mean he's done something only happened 30 previous times in MLB history.
St. Louis Cardinals at Pittsburgh Pirates
Friday: Michael Wacha (2-3) vs. Francisco Liriano (0-3)
Saturday: Lance Lynn (4-1) vs. Edinson Volquez (1-3)
Sunday: Shelby Miller (4-2) vs. Wandy Rodriguez (0-2)
Another rematch of the NLDS from last season that went the distance before the mighty Cardinals were finally able to discard the upstart Pirates. These two clubs have already squared off six times this season and each has won three.
At this point in the season, it's fair to say that both of these clubs have been disappointing. The Pirates were awful for a pretty good stretch there, but they have won four of their last six. Still, they're six games under .500 and 7.5 games out in the NL Central.
The Cardinals are a game over .500, but they entered the season looking like one of the best teams in baseball. Just last week they were nearly swept by the Cubs.
Of interest: Last time Wacha pitched in PNC Park, he took a no-hitter into the eighth inning.
Los Angeles Angels at Toronto Blue Jays
Friday: Garrett Richards (3-0) vs. Dustin McGowan (2-1)
Saturday: Tyler Skaggs (2-1) vs. J.A. Happ (1-0)
Sunday: Jered Weaver (3-2) vs. Drew Hutchison (1-2)
Monday: C.J. Wilson (4-2) vs. Mark Buehrle (6-1)
It's the World Series of 2013's biggest disappointments!
Here's the thing: Both are a bit under the radar right now and while it would be a stretch to say they're playing real well on the whole, neither is in bad shape. The Angels have lost three of four, but they're still only three games out in the AL West and have some help on the way in the next few weeks (Josh Hamilton and Kole Calhoun). The Blue Jays are riding high with a five-game winning streak.
Both teams can be a bit rough on the mound but get it done offensively. Even with some talented hurlers toeing the rubber in this four-gamer, expect the runs to be aplenty.
Some things to watch: Jose Bautista hasn't had a game where he didn't reach base since last August. Also, Edwin Encarnacion was in a power slump for much of the early season, but he's now homered four times in the past three games. Finally, Angels rookie C.J. Cron is hitting .421/.450/.579 through five career games.
The Tigers just had an eight-game winning streak snapped, but they'll throw out their pair of aces against a Twins offense that can potentially be pretty bad -- especially without Joe Mauer, and it's possible he misses the series -- and doesn't have much power.
Overall, the Tigers really seem to be hitting their stride while the Twins have lost six of their last nine. This could be a bloodbath, but it merits watching because of the Tigers.
These are now the two teams in the NL East below .500 and neither is playing particularly well right now. The Mets come in having lost six of seven. They've either gotten bad pitching, no offense or a bullpen meltdown. Essentially, they are finding ways to lose.
The Phillies, meanwhile, just got swept in four games by the Blue Jays.
Sunday's pitching matchup is intriguing from the point of view that seeing the names Hamels and Niese might make one think it's to the Phillies' advantage. Niese, though, has allowed one or fewer earned runs in each of his past four starts (1.01 ERA during that span). Hamels is off to an awful start this season (7.02 ERA in three starts), too. He hasn't had good success in his career against the Mets, either, and he's 4-5 with a 4.19 ERA and 1.42 WHIP in 13 career starts in Citi Field.
And, of course, the Phillies-Mets rivalry is always worth at least a quick glance.
A rematch of the 2013 AL wild-card game here, but neither team is particularly exciting right now.
Or are they?
The Indians were 11-17 after a six-game losing streak just over a week ago. They've gone 5-2 since, creeping to within three games of .500. Last season, the Indians were the streakiest team in baseball and started 8-13 before ripping off 18 wins in their next 22 games. So with the current streak, one can't help but wonder if it'll snowball like last season.
Meantime, the Rays just haven't been able to get anything going this season. They've had two injuries to the rotation that hurt in a big way and enter this series five games under .500 and having lost three in a row. Since a 7-5 start, they're 8-15. If we're gonna look at last season with the Indians, let's do the same with these Rays. They were 14-18 before getting on track by winning nine of their next 11 last May.
So this series is at least interesting to see if either of these teams emerges hot.
The worst team in baseball against an Orioles team missing Crush Davis? C'mon.
There is this, though: The Orioles are in first place in the AL East and I'd go as far as to say they haven't even really been playing well. They have a great chance here to run their record to 21-14 without having been at full strength offensively to date. That's promising, Baltimore.
Miami Marlins at San Diego Padres
Thursday: Marlins 3, Padres 1
Friday: Jose Fernandez (4-1) vs. Tyson Ross (3-3)
Saturday: Nate Eovaldi (2-1) vs. Eric Stults (1-3)
Sunday: Henderson Alvarez (2-2) vs. Robbie Erlin (1-4)
This is sure to be met with a collective yawn for most of the country, but it avoids slider status for two reasons.
1. The Marlins enter the series as one of baseball's hottest teams, yet they still have something to prove as they entered the series just 2-10 on the road. After the extra-innings win Thursday, they're 3-10 but that's still not very convincing.
2. Jose Fernandez is facing off against one of the worst offenses in baseball in a pitcher's park Friday. We should probably start the "no-hitter watch" already.
Kansas City Royals at Seattle Mariners
Thursday: Mariners 1, Royals 0
Friday: Jason Vargas (2-1) vs. Brandon Maurer (1-0)
Saturday: Yordano Ventura (2-1) vs. Chris Young (2-0)
Sunday: Jeremy Guthrie (2-2) vs. Roenis Elias (3-2)
Two ballclubs that have been inconsistent this season as they hope to get to the cusp of contention and remain there. The Mariners were the ones who entered the series riding high while the Royals were struggling, but things could flip in a heartbeat with these two teams. After Thursday's game, though, the Mariners were actually only 1.5 games back in the AL West.
Not-so-fun fact: Two of the three longest playoff droughts in MLB reside here. The Mariners haven't been to the playoffs since 2001. Only the Blue Jays (1993) and, yes, the Royals (1985) have gone longer.
The Diamondbacks have won two straight series after winning one of their first 10 series of the season. This is still an objectively pretty bad team, though, squaring off against an ultimately mediocre team -- even if the offense is exciting.
Speaking of offense, this series won't lack it. The White Sox have one of the best offenses in baseball but don't pitch well -- especially with Chris Sale on the shelf. The Diamondbacks have perhaps the worst pitching staff in baseball but do have some offensive potential. Crooked numbers for everyone.
The Cubs are one of the worst teams in the National League. The Braves enter the series having lost eight of their last nine.