Every Monday and Friday morning for the rest of the season, we'll take a look at the most interesting storylines heading into the week and weekend, respectively. This edition looks at, among other highlights, two big series going down in California this weekend ...
Two august and bitter rivals, one tight division race. It's been a back-and-forth affair atop the NL West this season, as the Giants held the top spot from April 25 through July 2, at which point they ceded the lead to the Dodgers. The Giants reclaimed it days ago, but we all expect top honors to be passed back and forth between these two teams over the remainder of the season.
In this one, the Giants are at home, but they catch the business end of the Dodger rotation: Zack Greinke on Friday, Clayton Kershaw on Saturday and Hyun-Jin Ryu in the finale on Sunday. On the other hand, the Giants are 7-3 against the Dodgers in 2014.
As for the long view, over at FanGraphs they give the Dodgers a 54.2 percent chance of taking the flag even though they trail the Giants by 1 1/2 games at this writing.
Here's a big four-game set between two (likely) playoff-bound teams who have each been busy addressing bullpen problems in recent days. The Angels are the second-best team in baseball right now (they have the misfortune of sharing a division with the best team in baseball), and Detroit boasts the biggest division lead of all. As a backdrop, we have the usual Miguel Cabrera-Mike Trout debate (although there's no debate to be had this year -- Trout is easily having the better season). The Tigers took the opener on Thursday night (DET 6, LAA 4) in a duel of aces (Max Scherzer vs. Garrett Richards).
Given the significant advantage to winning the division as opposed to making the playoffs via the wild card, this series means more to the Angels, who are presently in wild-card position. However, the Tigers still want to keep the Royals and Indians at a safe distance, and they also have legitimate designs on top overall seed in the AL.
Two ace lefties match wits and pitches on Friday night at the Trop, and both have been the subject of recent scuttle. Lester (137 IP, 2.50 ERA, 4.58 K/BB, 157 ERA+ in 2014) is in his walk year, and his future with the Red Sox is highly uncertain. As for Price, the Rays' ace (155 2/3, 3.06 ERA, 8.24 K/BB, 123 ERA+) isn't a free agent until after next season, but he's likely bound for a record-busting arbitration payday this winter. That's why the Rays, although surging of late, may be looking to move him before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. In a very real sense, every start for Price is an audition. Beyond all that, though, this is a match-up of two of the best pitchers in baseball.
As mentioned, the non-waiver trade deadline isn't until next Thursday (July 31), but, as you're surely aware, there will be deals going down in advance of that final day. Names like Jeff Samardzija, Jason Hammel, Chase Headley, Huston Street and Kendrys Morales are already off the board. But what about Price? What about a host of Phillies? Are the Yankees done? There will also be some surprises, of course. As always, our MLB insider Jon Heyman is here to help.