Happy Weekend! At 58-82, the Washington Nationals have officially clinched a losing season for the second year in a row. And yes, I know I used an old photo of Max in a Nats jersey for this article on purpose, despite him pitching for the Dodgers this weekend. I just couldn’t bring myself to publish two articles in a row with him wearing Dodger blue instead of Nationals Red. Anyways…
The playoff races, particularly the Wild Card races in both leagues, is getting very exciting. We’ll have an article from CK coming out tomorrow breaking down those Wild Card races. With the Nats struggling and in a full rebuild for the rest of the season, some fans might be looking for some alternatives for their baseball watching needs.
Four Series to Watch
Yankees (78-62, 3rd AL East) at Mets (70-71, 3rd NL East)
Friday, 7:10 (MLB Network): Jordan Montgomery vs Tylor Megill
Saturday, 7:45 (FOX): Corey Kluber vs Taijuan Walker
Sunday, 7:05 (ESPN): TBD vs Carlos Carrasco
The Yankees and Mets are both in desperation mode with about 20 games left in the season. The Yankees were just swept by the streaking Blue Jays and have now lost 6 in a row. Just a few weeks ago, it looked like they could possibly catch the Tampa Bay Rays for the division title. That’s out the window now. They’re desperately fighting just to make the playoffs, and their Wild Card lead has been trimmed to just ½ a game over the Blue Jays. The Mets, on the other hand, have completely fallen apart after leading the NL East for much of the year. At 70-71, they are under .500 and trail the division leading Braves by 5 games. They also trail the second Wild Card by 5 games.
Gerrit Cole left Tuesday’s start against Toronto with hamstring soreness. He is not going on the IL but whether he starts Sunday or sometime next week remains to be seen. The Yankees are going to need him if they’re to make the playoffs. Michael King may come off the IL and make the spot start for the Yankees on Sunday. And I’d say that if the Mets don’t win this series, they can kiss their playoff chances goodbye, but nobody seems to want to win the NL East so who knows if losing the series truly puts them out of the race.
Because of the large market, the desperation mode of both teams, and this weekend being the 20th anniversary of 9/11, all three games will get national TV coverage, culminating with ESPN Sunday Night Baseball. I believe both teams will be wearing caps representing different first responders. It should be an interesting series to say the least.
Red Sox (80-62, 2nd AL East) at White Sox (80-60, 1st AL Central)
Friday, 8:10: Tanner Houck vs TBD
Saturday, 7:10: TBD vs Dylan Cease
Sunday, 2:10 (TBS): TBD vs TBD
The Red Sox managed to avoid the sweep to Tampa on Wednesday night which allowed them to take over the first AL Wild Card spot from the Yankees. They currently stand one game ahead of the Yankees for the first Wild Card and 1.5 games over the Blue Jays. The White Sox, on the other hand, hold a commanding 10 game lead over Cleveland in the AL Central and are just trying to get healthy before the playoffs.
I’d expect to Carlos Rodon to return from injury for the White Sox and make the start on Friday night. Lance Lynn is expected to be the starter on Sunday, and Lucas Giolito should return sometime next week. The Sunday pitching matchup between Chris Sale and Lance Lynn was easily going to be the most intriguing of the three games, with Chris Sale scheduled to make just his 6th start since returning from major injury. He got roughed up a bit on Labor Day by the Rays, giving up 5 runs on 10 hits in 3.2 innings pitched, but only one of them was earned. Just moments before published this article, it was announced that Sale had tested positive for COVID-19, and would not be making his scheduled start on Sunday.
Reds (74-67, 2nd NL Central) at Cardinals (71-68, 3rd NL Central)
Friday, 8:15: Tyler Mahle vs Jon Lester
Saturday, 7:15: Luis Castillo vs Miles Mikolas
Sunday, 2:15: Sonny Gray vs JA Happ
The Reds lost a costly series to the Chicago Cubs this past week, and now sit 1 game behind the San Diego Padres for the final NL Wild Card Spot. The Cardinals battled the Dodgers and managed to get a split from the four-game series, keeping them 2 games behind the Reds and 3 games behind the Padres. This is a crucial series for both teams. The Reds are hoping to gain ground with the Padres in LA, while the Cardinals are hoping to build momentum and get closer to the playoffs.
Padres (74-65, 3rd NL West) at Dodgers (88-53, 2nd NL West)
Friday, 10:10: Joe Musgrove vs Julio Urias
Saturday, 9:10: Chris Paddack vs Walker Buehler
Sunday, 4:10: Blake Snell vs Max Scherzer
One of the most fun matchups of the last two seasons is back for another edition. Sure, the Padres have slightly disappointed and haven’t been quite as good as we’d hoped, but they’re still fighting for a playoff spot and this rivalry has been intense every time they’ve played. This could be the match-up for the NL Wild Card game, which would be a dream come true for many MLB fans. The Padres currently have a 1 game lead over the Reds for that final NL Wild Card spot, while the Dodgers are attempting to catch the Giants for the NL West title in hopes of avoiding the Wild Card game. They trail San Francisco by 2.5 games.
Walker Buehler gets his first start since the Giants lit him up last Sunday. Since then, the NL Cy Young Race seems to have opened back up, but he can set himself apart once more by getting back on track with a fantastic outing against the Padres on Saturday night. But more importantly, future Hall of Famer Max Scherzer goes for his 3,000th strikeout on Sunday. Standing at 2,994 for his career, he needs just 6 strikeouts to reach that milestone.
Despite this being one of the highest rated matchups of the season, not a single one of the three games will be getting national coverage, which seems to be a mistake on MLB’s part, particularly with Max’s historic milestone likely occurring on Sunday. It’s sad that we won’t be able to see him accomplish this feat in a Nats jersey, but at least we can watch him pitch on MLBTV. Nationals fans love you 3000, Max Scherzer.
Nationals at Pirates
The Nats lost 2 of 3 from the Braves this week and officially clinched a losing season. Some Nats fans will be hoping they don’t win too much this weekend in hopes of catching the Pirates for a better draft pick.
Giants at Cubs
The Giants hold a 2.5 game lead over the Dodgers and will hope to extend that lead with a good series in Chicago. They’ll be on MLB Network both Friday and Saturday afternoons at 2:20 PM.
Blue Jays at Orioles
The Blue Jays just swept the New York Yankees in the Bronx and have now won eight in a row. Sitting just a ½ game back of the Yankees for the Wild Card, they’ll be heading to Baltimore in hopes of continuing their hot streak. AL Cy Young contender and former Nationals farmhand Robbie Ray pitches for the Blue Jays on Friday night. This is a four game series with a doubleheader on Saturday.
Rockies at Phillies
The Rockies are 19-50 on the road this season, but that didn’t stop them from beating the Phillies in the first game of their four-game set in Philadelphia on Thursday night. The Phillies, who are 3.5 games back in both the division and the Wild Card, must find a way to win this series if they hope to make the playoffs for the first time since 2011.
Rays at Tigers
The Rays took 2 of 3 in Boston and are coasting to an AL East division title. AJ Hinch has gotten the most out this Tigers team, who sit at 66-75, just two years removed from a 47-win season in 2019. The Tigers have a lot of young talent that could see them compete for a playoff spot as soon as 2023.
Brewers at Indians
The Indians are 69-69, good for them. The Brewers have a 12-game lead for the NL Central. If you need a reason to tune into this series, Corbin Burnes pitches on Saturday and Brandon Woodruff pitches on Sunday.
Marlins at Braves
The Braves barely won the series against the Nationals and hope to create more breathing room in their NL East lead with a series win over the Marlins. A battle of talented rookie pitchers matches up on Friday when Trevor Rogers faces Ian Anderson.
Angels at Astros
A series win over the Mariners have given the Astros a comfortable 5.5 game lead in the division. The Angels are essentially out of the playoff race, but Shohei Ohtani pitches on Friday night, so there’s that.
Royals at Twins
The two bottom feeders of the AL Central face off.
Rangers at Athletics
After a disappointing series to the Blue Jays and dropping the opener to the White Sox, the Athletics finally got back on track a bit with two wins and sit just 2 games back of the second wild card. The 51-win Rangers are the perfect opponent to try and build off those wins and gain ground in the playoff race.
Diamondbacks at Mariners
The Mariners struggled in Houston but managed to win one game and are still in good position for the playoffs. They have the same record as the Athletics and are just 2 games behind the Yankees for the second Wild Card. They’ll be looking for a repeat of last weekend, when they swept the D-backs in three games.