MLB Weekday Series Rankings: AL East powers test their mettle

By Dayn Perry | Baseball Writer

Ian Kinsler (left), Melky Cabrera and the Tigers and Blue Jays will clash this week. (USATSI)
Ian Kinsler's Tigers and Melky Cabrera' Blue Jays will clash this week in Detroit. (USATSI)

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It's hoagie scale time, so let's check out how hungry we are to consume the 15 weekday series in Major League Baseball. The bigger the sandwich, the more juicy the matchup. Let's dig in. Nom, nom, nom!

Blue Jays atTigers

Toronto Blue Jays at Detroit Tigers
Tuesday: R.A. Dickey vs. Anibal Sanchez
Wednesday: J.A. Happ vs. Rick Porcello
Thursday: Drew Hutchison vs. Justin Verlander

Potential playoff preview, this one. The Jays come in with the better run differential and the better winning percentag by one one-thousandth of a point. In a related matter, they've also been playing much better than Detroit of late. Is Justin Verlander ever again going to pitch like something close to vintage form? The Tigers enter this four-game set with an 8-1 record against teams from the AL East.

A's atYankees

Oakland Athletics at New York Yankees
Tuesday: Scott Kazmir vs. Hiroki Kuroda
Wednesday: Jesse Chavez vs. Vidal Nuno
Thursday: Drew Pomeranz vs. Masahiro Tanaka

Once you take into account strength of schedule and run differential, the Athletics are pretty clearly the best team in baseball thus far. It's a team lacking in superstars but also lacking in weaknesses. Speaking of which, the Yanks will face three tough starters, but they will be able to trot out Tanaka for the finale. He has been among the very best starters in baseball this season.

Mariners atBraves

Seattle Mariners at Atlanta Braves
Tuesday: TBA vs. Gavin Floyd
Wednesday: Hisashi Iwakuma vs. Mike Minor

This quick two-game interleague encounter presents the M's with their latest opportunity to get above the .500 mark. Floyd (2.37 ERA after five starts) is surely pitching over his head, but, to be fair, he has strong peripheral numbers thus far. Robinson Cano is coming off a month of May in which he batted a more characteristic .355/.393/.458.

Giants at Reds

San Francisco Giants at Cincinnati Reds
Tuesday: Tim Lincecum vs. Homer Bailey
Wednesday: Ryan Vogelsong vs. Tony Cingrani
Thursday:
Madison Bumgarner vs. Mike Leake

The Giants have the best record in the NL, while the Reds are lugging around playoff odds of 17.7 percent. That said, the Reds come in having won three in a row. Bryan Price's team badly needs to go on a further roll. Despite the struggles and disappointments thus far, the Reds are just 2½ games out of wild-card position.

Twins at Brewers

Minnesota Twins at Milwaukee Brewers
Monday: Kyle Gibson vs. Matt Garza
Tuesday: Samuel Deduno vs. Yovani Gallardo

Milwaukee Brewers at Minnesota Twins
Wednesday: Marco Estrada vs. Ricky Nolasco
Thursday:
Wily Peralta vs. Kevin Correia

The Brewers have been alone in first place in the NL Central since April 9, and they now have a seven in 10 chance of making the playoffs. In this one, they'll have the good fortune of missing out on Minnesota's de facto ace Phil Hughes, who dominated the Yanks on Sunday. As for the Twins, they've dropped seven of 10 yet find themselves in third place in the generally lackluster AL Central.

Orioles atRangers

Baltimore Orioles at Texas Rangers
Tuesday: Bud Norris vs. Joe Saunders
Wednesday: Ubaldo Jimenez vs. Nick Martinez
Thursday:
Miguel Gonzalez vs. Colby Lewis

Two preseason contenders, two teams that are each one game above the .500 mark. The Rangers have of course been wracked by injuries this season, which explains the presence of Nick Martinez and Joe Saunders in the rotation. As for the Orioles, after this series they'll have played 35 of their 57 games on the road. At least they have a home-heavy schedule the rest of the way to look forward to.

Royals atCardinals

Kansas City Royals at St. Louis Cardinals
Monday: Danny Duffy vs. Shelby Miller
Tuesday: James Shields vs. Jaime Garcia

St. Louis Cardinals at Kansas City Royals
Wednesday: Adam Wainwright vs. Jason Vargas
Thursday:
Michael Wacha vs. Yordano Ventura

Interleague and intra-state hostilties! Rematch of the 1985 World Series! This also matches up two nominal contenders headed in the wrong direction of late. The Royals are so middling, particularly on the offensive end (the worst power team in baseball so far), that a deadline sell-off isn't out of the question. The Cardinals, meantime, were expected to run away with the NL Central, but the Brewers have been in first almost every day of the season. St. Louis comes in having dropped five of seven. All that said, Michael Wacha opposite Yordano Ventura on Thursday is indeed appointment baseball.

Angels at Astros

Los Angeles Angels at Houston Astros
Tuesday: C.J. Wilson vs. Collin McHugh
Wednesday: Garrett Richards vs. Jarred Cosart
Thursday:
Tyler Skaggs vs. Brad Peacock

Believe it or not, the Astros mustered a winning record for the month of May. George Springer has been a house afire, and McHugh is also a 2014 surger. The Angels, however, are coming off a devitalizing sweep in Oakland. Consider Wilson-McHugh to be your "stealth" good pitching matchup of the week.

White Sox atDodgers

Chicago White Sox at Los Angeles Dodgers
Monday: Jose Quintana vs. Clayton Kershaw
Tuesday: Hector Noesi vs. Dan Haren
Wednesday: John Danks vs. Josh Beckett

It's June and the Dodgers are one game better off than the White Sox. Who'da thunk? Sure, we expect the Dodgers to contend and the Sox to fade given time, but they're in very similar straits more than one-third of the way through the 2014 season. Good news for LA? They miss out on Chris Sale. Bad news for LA? Jose Abreu returns Monday. More bad news for LA? Kershaw has a 5.40 ERA over his past four starts.

Red Sox atIndians

Boston Red Sox at Cleveland Indians
Monday: John Lackey vs. Justin Masterson
Tuesday: Jake Peavy vs. T.J. House
Wednesday: Brandon Workman vs. Corey Kluber

We have a pair of 2013 playoff teams that are trying to right the ship in 2014. The Sox come in having won seven in a row (after losing 10 straight), and the Indians managed a 15-13 record in May. They're also 19-9 at home this season, to the extent that that means anything two months in. These teams are playing better of late, but there's much work to do in order to make up for earlier stumbles. Masterson comes in having logged only one quality start in his past five outings.

Phillies atNationals

Philadelphia Phillies at Washington Nationals
Tuesday: David Buchanan vs. Jordan Zimmermann
Wednesday: A.J. Burnett vs. Stephen Strasburg
Thursday:
Kyle Kendrick vs. Doug Fister

The Nats are closer to the Phillies in the standings than they are to the Braves. Of course, being that this is the relentlessly mediocre NL East, no team is out of it. The Phils, though, are lucky to be within spitting distance of relevance, as only the Diamondbacks have a worse run differential among NL teams. Regarding the Nats, one of these days they should get around to rising up to meet expectations. After this series, Washington will undertake a 10-game road trip.

Diamondbacks atRockies

Arizona Diamondbacks at Colorado Rockies

Tuesday: Chase Anderson vs. Jorge De La Rosa
Wednesday: Josh Collmenter vs. Jordan Lyles
Thursday:
Bronson Arroyo vs. Juan Nicasio

The Diamondbacks seem to be bound headlong for the top overall draft pick in 2015. On the other side, some of the shine has come off the Rockies in recent days. Thanks to a recent skid, they've slipped to .500. The good news is that they'll be at home, where they're an MLB-best 16-7 this season. Colorado badly needs to arrest recent trends, as it has dropped or tied four straight series.

Rays atMarlins

Tampa Bay Rays at Miami Marlins
Monday: Alex Cobb vs. Randy Wolf
Tuesday: Chris Archer vs. Henderson Alvarez

Miami Marlins at Tampa Bay Rays
Wednesday: Tom Koehler vs. David Price
Thursday:
Jacob Turner vs. Jake Odorizzi

Yes, the Marlins have been significantly better than the Rays thus far. That's surprising on two fronts. Miami is .500 and just three games out. No, they almost certainly won't contend long-term, especially without Jose Fernandez and especially now that the offense is starting to regress. But here they are for now. The Rays, meanwhile, are on pace for 97 losses, and only the Astros and D-Backs have worse run differentials. No Wil Myers for this series, as he hit the DL on Sunday.

Pirates atPadres

Pittsburgh Pirates at San Diego Padres
Monday: Charlie Morton vs. TBA
Tuesday: Gerrit Cole vs. Tim Stauffer
Wednesday:
Francisco Liriano vs. Ian Kennedy

The Pirates are actually pretty fortunate to be just four games below .500. The future remains bright in Pittsburgh, but 2014 reeks of a lost season already. Across the way, the San Diego offense is terrible even after you adjust for Petco. Add their playoff odds together and you still don't crack 20 percent.

Mets atCubs

New York Mets at Chicago Cubs
Tuesday: Zack Wheeler vs. Jake Arrieta
Wednesday: Daisuke Matsuzaka vs. Edwin Jackson
Thursday:
Jacob deGrom vs. Travis Wood

Call it the "Squandered Market Size Bowl." The Mets aren't a bad team so far, but neither are they a relevant team. They're playing to save jobs, basically. The Cubs, though, are indeed bad and playing for draft position. Anthony Rizzo's ongoing breakout is something to monitor. No Jeff Samardzija in this one.

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