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. Let's dig in. Nom, nom, nom!
Washington Nationals (35-30) at St. Louis Cardinals (34-32)
Friday: RHP Jordan Zimmermann (5-2) vs. RHP Lance Lynn (6-4)
Saturday: RHP Stephen Strasburg (6-4) vs. RHP Shelby Miller (7-5)
Sunday: RHP Doug Fister (5-1) vs. LHP Jaime Garcia (2-0)
After an inconsistent start to the season, it appears the Nationals are starting to fire on all cylinders. Not coincidentally, Fister, Ryan Zimmerman and some others have recently come off the disabled list. Washington has won 10 of their last 13 games, outscoring their opponents 71-28. Gio Gonzalez and Bryce Harper are due back in the coming weeks to make them even more dangerous. The whole is finally starting to equal the sum of the parts.
The Cardinals, on the other hand, have dropped nine of their last 14 games, and they continue to struggle to score runs, averaging only 3.14 runs per game during that 14-game stretch. Allen Craig still has not gotten going, Matt Holliday isn't hitting for the same power as in the past, and Kolten Wong has not grabbed the second base job and run with it just yet. Aside from the obvious 2012 NLDS rematch storyline, this series is about the Nats trying to extend their lead in the NL East and the Cardinals trying to figure out a way to keep pace with the Brewers.
Los Angeles Angels (36-29) at Atlanta Braves (34-31)
Friday: LHP C.J. Wilson (7-5) vs. RHP Aaron Harang (4-5)
Saturday: RHP Garrett Richards (6-2) vs. RHP Gavin Floyd (1-2)
Sunday: LHP Hector Santiago (0-6) vs. LHP Mike Minor (2-4)
At one point this year, the Braves were 17-7 and looking like the best team in baseball. They are now 34-31 and have a really hard time scoring runs. It doesn't make sense given the talent on the roster. Atlanta has won only one of their last five series despite playing a relatively soft schedule to date. Seven straight against the D-Backs and Rockies? Three wins ain't good enough.
The Angels have been one of the best teams in baseball over the last month or so, and they just took two of three from the Athletics to climb to within 3.5 games of the AL West lead. These two clubs are very similar in the sense that they have a ton of talent and are very flawed. The Halos have done a better job of overcoming their weaknesses (pitching depth, mostly) than the Braves (offense!) recently, and right now these are two teams heading in opposite directions.
Toronto Blue Jays (39-29) at Baltimore Orioles (34-31)
Thursday: Orioles, 4, Blue Jays 2
Friday: RHP Drew Hutchison (4-4) vs. RHP Ubaldo Jimenez (2-7)
Saturday: RHP R.A. Dickey (6-4) vs. RHP Bud Norris (5-5)
Sunday: LHP J.A. Happ (5-3) vs. RHP Chris Tillman (5-3)
The AL East is a total mess this season, and for a while it appeared the Blue Jays would pull away from the pack and run away from the division. Do what everyone expected them to do last year, basically. Toronto has lost three straight and five of their last six games because they uncharacteristically couldn't score runs. That figures to change very soon. It's only a matter of time before they start mashing the ball all over the yard again.
The Orioles, meanwhile, have a chance to chip away at the division lead -- Thursday's win brought them to within 3.5 games -- and finally stop playing .500-ish ball, which they've been doing just about all season. If you're looking for a reason to watch, watch Nelson Cruz vs. Edwin Encarnacion, Chris Davis vs. Jose Bautista, Adam Jones vs. Melky Cabrera. Despite Thursday's relatively low score, this series should feature lots and lots of offense.
Arizona Diamondbacks (29-40) at Los Angeles Dodgers (35-33)
Friday: RHP Chase Anderson (5-0) vs. LHP Clayton Kershaw (5-2)
Saturday: RHP Josh Collmenter (4-3) vs. RHP Dan Haren (6-4)
Sunday: RHP Bronson Arroyo (6-4) vs. RHP Josh Beckett (4-3)
The D-Backs have played much better of late, but these are two teams who have played below expectations thus far. The Dodgers especially. They've got some guys banged up and/or underperforming, and sooner or later they're going to have to go on a little run if they want to make the Giants sweat a little in the NL West race. Win 12 of 15 or 18 of 24. Something like that.
A series between two disappointing teams usually isn't one to get excited about, but there is legitimate bad blood between Arizona and Los Angeles. They brawled last year, there was the whole Chase Field pool incident, and more than a few barbs have been exchanged through the media. There haven't been any issues in their other series this year, though the frustration with their seasons could boil over at any moment.
Pittsburgh Pirates (32-34) at Miami Marlins (34-31)
Friday: LHP Jeff Locke (0-1) vs. RHP Nate Eovaldi (4-2)
Saturday: RHP Charlie Morton (3-7) vs. LHP Randy Wolf (1-2)
Sunday: TBA vs. RHP Henderson Alvarez (3-3)
This is my pick for the most under-the-radar fun series of the weekend. For starters, Eovaldi and Alvarez are great. Very exciting to watch. Two, Gregory Polanco and Christian Yelich! Andrew McCutchen and Giancarlo Stanton! Come on, it's tough to top that. Some of the game's best young players will be under one roof this weekend and I wish I was in Miami to see them live. This series would make for an awesome weekend.
New York Yankees (34-31) at Oakland Athletics (40-26)
Friday: RHP David Phelps (1-4) vs. RHP Sonny Gray (6-2)
Saturday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda (4-4) vs. LHP Scott Kazmir (7-2)
Sunday: LHP Vidal Nuno (1-2) vs. RHP Jesse Chavez (5-4)
It's David vs. Goliath! Except the Athletics are the best team in the league and the Yankees are struggling to remain in the postseason mix. Their payrolls aren't comparable, but come on, that storyline got played out sometime in 2006. Let's drop the underdog shtick and look at Oakland as the AL's dominant team. They've earned it. The Yankees? Well, Masahiro Tanaka is pretty awesome. Too bad he's not pitching these next few days.
Cincinnati Reds (31-34) at Milwaukee Brewers (40-27)
Friday: RHP Homer Bailey (7-3) vs. RHP Matt Garza (4-4)
Saturday: RHP Mat Latos (0-0) vs. RHP Yovani Gallardo (4-4)
Sunday: RHP Mike Leake (3-6) vs. RHP Marco Estrada (5-3)
Latos is finally coming off the disabled list to help fantasy teams and maybe even boost the Reds back into NL Central contention. The Brewers have impressively maintained a comfortable (but not too comfortable) lead in the NL Central after hitting the skids a few weeks ago. I thought they were crashing back to Earth. I really did. But, they've rebounded. Good for them. If the Reds are going to make a serious run at getting back in the race for a postseason spot, this is the weekend to start.
Cleveland Indians (33-34) at Boston Red Sox (30-36)
Thursday: Red Sox 5, Indians 2
Friday: RHP Justin Masterson (4-4) vs. RHP John Lackey (7-4)
Saturday: LHP T.J. House (0-1) vs. RHP Jake Peavy (1-4)
Sunday: RHP Corey Kluber (6-4) vs. RHP Brandon Workman (0-1)
There are a lot of ties between the Indians and Red Sox. Masterson, Grady Sizemore, Terry Francona, David Murphy, Edward Mujica, Mike Aviles, Nick Hagadone, George Kottaras ... I think that's it. Anyway, the Tribe has lost three straight after winning nine of 10, which is good enough to bring them to within shouting distance of first place in the AL Central. The Red Sox are just bad. Unless they're good. Every time you look up they're either winning like seven straight or losing five straight. At some point they have to start racking up regular wins if they want to defend their title come October.
Texas Rangers (32-34) at Seattle Mariners (34-32)
Friday: RHP Nick Tepesch (2-2) vs. RHP Felix Hernandez (8-1)
Saturday: LHP Joe Saunders (0-2) vs. RHP Erasmo Ramirez (1-4)
Sunday: RHP Nick Martinez (1-3) vs. RHP Hisashi Iwakuma (4-3)
Oh boy. On paper, these pitching matchups are very one-sided. At least the first and third games. The Rangers have been devastated by injuries -- they have eight players on the 60-day DL and that does not yet include Prince Fielder -- and the Mariners are kinda sorta contending. They won eight of nine before being swept by the Yankees this week. Know what? If you want to be taken seriously as a contender, beat up on an injury-riddled team at home with your two aces on the mound.
Colorado Rockies (31-35) at San Francisco Giants (43-24)
Friday: LHP Jorge De La Rosa (6-5) vs. RHP Tim Lincecum (5-4)
Saturday: RHP Christian Bergman (0-1) vs. RHP Ryan Vogelsong (4-3)
Sunday: RHP Juan Nicasio (5-5) vs. LHP Madison Bumgarner (8-4)
Remember when the Rockies were 22-14 and sitting atop the NL West? It feels like it was just yesterday. Well they've since lost 21 of 30 and are 11.5 games back in the division. That got ugly in a hurry, huh? The Giants, meanwhile, are the best team in the league by a significant margin. They did just lose three of four to the Nats, but that's not big deal. Bump in the road.
Minnesota Twins (31-33) at Detroit Tigers (34-28)
Friday: RHP Kyle Gibson (5-5) vs. LHP Drew Smyly (3-5)
Saturday: RHP Samuel Deduno (2-4) vs. RHP Anibal Sanchez (2-2)
Sunday: RHP Ricky Nolasco (4-5) vs. RHP Rick Porcello (8-4)
The Tigers have been in a tailspin of late, losing 16 of 22 (!) before Max Scherzer threw his first career shutout on Thursday. The division lead that was once seven games is now only 2.5. The Twins signed Kendrys Morales earlier this week in a move that indicated they are trying to make a run in the wide-open AL, so this weekend is as good a time as any to take advantage of a struggling team and climb the standings.
Kansas City Royals (33-32) at Chicago White Sox (33-34)
Friday: RHP Jeremy Guthrie (2-6) vs. LHP Jose Quintana (3-6)
Saturday: LHP Danny Duffy (3-5) vs. RHP Hector Noesi (2-4)
Sunday: RHP James Shields (7-3) vs. RHP Andre Rienzo (4-3)
Both the Royals and White Sox sit close behind the Tigers in the mediocre AL Central. You know Kansas City desperately wants to win after swinging the Shields trade last year, but the ChiSox more or less qualify as a surprise team. Of course, we are talking about two teams that are both one game away from .500, so it's not like they've had great seasons. Win some games against a division rival and put yourself in a better position to contend. The comment applies to both clubs.
Tampa Bay Rays (25-42) at Houston Astros (31-37)
Friday: RHP Alex Cobb (1-4) vs. RHP Collin McHugh (4-3)
Saturday: RHP Chris Archer (3-3) vs. RHP Jarred Cosart (5-5)
Sunday: LHP David Price (4-6) vs. RHP Brad Peacock (2-4)
One of these teams has the worst record in baseball. The other is the Astros. How many starts are left in Price's career with the Rays? Five? Ten? I bet it's fewer than 20 at this point. What a weird season.
Chicago Cubs (26-38) at Philadelphia Phillies (28-36)
Friday: RHP Jake Arrieta (1-1) vs. RHP Roberto Hernandez (2-4)
Saturday: RHP Edwin Jackson (4-6) vs. RHP Brian Buchanan (1-3)
Sunday: LHP Travis Wood (6-5) vs. RHP A.J. Burnett (6-5)
How many years ahead of the Phillies are the Cubs in the rebuilding process? Three? Maybe four? I get the feeling the 2014 Cubs will be better than the 2018 Phillies for some reason.
San Diego Padres (28-38) at New York Mets (29-37)
Friday: RHP Andrew Cashner (2-5) vs. RHP Bartolo Colon (5-5)
Saturday: RHP Tim Stauffer (2-2) vs. RHP Zack Wheeler (2-5)
Sunday: RHP Ian Kennedy (5-7) vs. RHP Daisuke Matsuzaka (3-0)
The Mets can't score at home (3.12 runs per game) and the Padres can't score in general (3.03 runs per game). If you're a fan of, uh, pitching duels, this will be the series for you.