Tomorrow is the trade deadline and with rumors and speculation flying around, especially on Nats Twitter, it could be a week to watch some different baseball match-ups. Especially if Juan Soto is gone come Tuesday.
As the calendar turns to August 1st, we are officially in the dog days of summer and this is really where the playoff picture really starts to become more clear. What teams are going to bolster their chances of playing deep into October? Is Aaron Judge going to break the Yankee HR record held by Roger Maris? Will Jacob deGrom remain healthy as the Mets seek their first World Series Championship since 1986? It’s going to be a fun final two months of the season, unless you’re only watching the Nationals. Then it might just be a sad final two months of the season.
Current Playoff Picture
This year will be the first year with expanded playoffs as the field as gone from 10 teams to 12. Gone are the one game Wild Cards, replaced with a Wild Card Round that pits the #3-6 seeds in each league in a best of 3 series with the higher seed hosting all three games of the series. The top 2 teams in each league will get a bye into the Divisional Round.
1. New York Yankees 69-34 (AL East Leaders)
2. Houston Astros 67-36 (AL West Leaders)
3. Minnesota Twins 53-48 (AL Central Leaders)
4. Toronto Blue Jays 57-45 (Wildcard #1)
5. Seattle Mariners 55-48 (Wildcard #2)
6. Tampa Bay Rays 54-48 (Wildcard #3)
Cleveland Guardians 52-49 (1 GB in AL Central, 1.5 GB in Wild Card)
Chicago White Sox 51-50 (2 GB in AL Central, 2.5 GB in Wild Card)
Baltimore Orioles 51-51 (3 GB in Wild Card)
Boston Red Sox 51-52 (3.5 GB in Wild Card)
1. Los Angeles Dodgers 68-33 (NL West Leaders)
2. New York Mets 64-37 (NL East Leaders)
3. Milwaukee Brewers 57-45 (NL Central Leaders)
4. Atlanta Braves 62-41 (Wildcard #1)
5. San Diego Padres 57-46 (Wildcard #2)
6. Philadelphia Phillies 55-47 (Wildcard #3)
St. Louis Cardinals 54-48 (3 GB in NL Central, 1 GB in Wildcard)
San Francisco Giants 51-51 (4 GB in Wildcard)
Three Series to Watch
1. Mariners (55-48, 2nd AL West) at Yankees (69-34, 1st AL East)
Monday, 7:05: Marco Gonzalez (6-10, 3.66 ERA) vs Domingo German (0-1, 8.22 ERA)
Tuesday, 7:05: Logan Gilbert (10-4, 2.78 ERA) vs Jameson Taillon (10-2, 3.72 ERA)
Wednesday, 1:05 (MLB Network): Luis Castillo (4-4, 2.86 ERA) vs Gerrit Cole (9-3, 3.30 ERA)
The only one of my three highlighted series to begin on Monday and is it a biggie. The Mariners fell just one game short of their first playoff berth since 2001 a year ago and they aren’t messing around this year as they made a blockbuster trade to acquire Reds ace Luis Castillo just days ago. They currently sit half a game ahead of the Rays for the 5th seed, but just 2 games ahead of the Cleveland Guardians who are currently on the outside looking in. Meanwhile the Yankees are the best team in baseball and primed to make some blockbuster deals of their own this week.
If you’re only able to watch one game from this series, let it be the Wednesday matinee game on MLB Network. Luis Castillo will be making his Mariners debut against the team most people thought he’d end up on. He’ll be facing Gerrit Cole in that game for what looks to be a marquee pitching matchup while most people are at work.
Rookie phenom Julio Rodriguez is on the IL after being hit by a pitch and Ty France is having wrist issues which will lead to an MRI to see if there is any further damage. With those two big bats out of the Mariners’ lineup, Seattle’s offense could have a brutal series in the Bronx against Yankee pitching. They’re coming off a disappointing series against the Astros in which they lost 3 of 4, and the only team better than the Astros in the American League are the New York Yankees, led by slugger Aaron Judge and his MLB leading 42 home runs.
Both Monday and Tuesday’s games will be available on MLBtv and Wednesday’s matinee will be on MLB Network.
2. Blue Jays (57-45, 2nd AL East) at Rays (54-48, 3rd AL East)
Tuesday, 7:10 (MLB Network): Kevin Gausman (7-8, 3.30 ERA) vs Drew Rasmussen (6-3, 3.17 ERA)
Wednesday, 12:10: Yusei Kikuchi (4-5, 4.89) vs TBD
The Blue Jays and Rays take up two of the three current AL Wild Card spots heading into this week and they’ve got a short 2-game series going head-to-head at Tropicana Field. The Blue Jays are coming off a 4-2 homestand over the Cardinals and Tigers, while the Rays have dropped all three of the series they’ve played since the All Star Break. After losing two of three to Cleveland, the Rays are just 1.5 games ahead of the Guardians for that final Wild Card spot and just 2.5 games ahead of the White Sox.
The Blue Jays will turn to Kevin Gausman on Tuesday night while the Rays will turn to the underrated Drew Rasmussen. Gausman is coming off a rough start against the Cardinals, having given up 5 earned runs on 8 hits in just 4.2 innings of work. Drew Rasmussen likewise didn’t go deep for Tampa last time out, giving up 2 earned over 4.2 innings. If he struggles even a little bit, don’t be surprised to see Kevin Cash with the quick hook given the Rays recent slump. The Rays haven’t announced who will face Kikuchi on Wednesday, but I expect to see Ryan Yarbrough out there after he went 6 innings of 1 run ball against the Orioles last week.
Getting Brandon Lowe back just before the All Star Break was crucial for the Rays as he’s hit .340 since his return on July 16th. If he can continue his hot play, it will go along way for the Rays lineup with Wander Franco out for an extended period of time. For the Blue Jays, the hot hitter since the All Star Break is Matt Chapman, who is hitting .467 with 5 home runs in the last 9 games.
Tuesday’s game will be available on MLB Network, while Wednesday’s matinee will accessible via MLBtv.
3. Phillies (55-47, 3rd NL East) at Braves (62-41, 2nd NL East)
Tuesday, 7:20: Nick Nelson (3-1, 3.94 ERA) vs Spencer Strider (5-3, 2.91 ERA)
Wednesday, 12:20: Zack Wheeler (9-5, 2.77 ERA) vs Charlie Morton (5-5, 4.34 ERA)
It’s another short 2-game series in our highlighted match-ups and another divisional rivalry series between two teams currently in Wild Card spots, albeit this time on the National League side. The Braves and Phillies currently hold the 1st and 3rd Wild Card spots in the National League respectively. The Phillies are just a game ahead of the Cardinals for that final playoff spot so they’ll be looking to at least split this short series in Atlanta.
The first pitching match-up on Tuesday pits two younger pitchers against each other in Nick Nelson of the Phillies and former Clemson Tiger Spencer Strider of the Braves. Strider has been particularly impressive for Atlanta with a 2.91 ERA in 22 games (11 starts). The second pitching match-up favors the Phillies as they trot out ace Zack Wheeler to take on the veteran Charlie Morton on Wednesday afternoon.
Braves third baseman Austin Riley has once again put himself in the NL MVP conversation following a torrid July in which he hit .423 with 11 home runs, 15 doubles, and 25 RBIs in 104 ABs. The 25-year-old now has a .964 OPS on the year and is the most dangerous hitter in the Braves lineup. Meanwhile Kyle Schwarber continues to put the ball in the seats and already has 4 home runs coming out of the All Star Break.
Both games will be able to be seen on MLBtv.
The Rest of the Games
Mets (64-37) at Nationals (35-68)
Mon 7:05, Tue 7:05, Wed 4:05 (MLB Network)
Max Scherzer pitches Monday and Jacob deGrom will make his season debut Tuesday. Combine that with the potential trade of Juan Soto and it could be a very long week for Nationals fans.
Reds (40-61) at Marlins (47-55)
Mon 6:40, Tue 6:40, Wed 6:40
The Marlins offense has been pretty dismal as of late and will hope to get back on track against the woeful Reds pitching staff.
Diamondbacks (45-56) at Guardians (52-49)
Mon 7:10, Tue 7:10, Wed 1:10
The Guardians are surging towards a potential playoff spot. They are just 1.5 games back of the Rays for a Wild Card spot and 1 game back of the Twins for the AL Central.
Tigers (41-62) at Twins (53-48)
Mon 7:40, Tue 7:40, Wed 1:10
The Twins are barely holding onto their division lead in the AL Central as both the Guardians and the White Sox are lurking within 2 games of them. Hosting the struggling Tigers might be just what the doctor ordered to help them stay atop the division.
Orioles (51-51) at Rangers (46-55)
Mon 8:05, Tue 8:05, Wed 2:05
The surprising Orioles are just 3 games back in the AL Wild Card race. They’ll head to Arlington to take on the Rangers and the red hot Marcus Semien.
Red Sox (51-52) at Astros (67-36)
Mon 8:10 (ESPN), Tue 8:10, Wed 2:10
This normally would’ve been one of the highlighted series of the week, but the Red Sox are reeling and going into sell mode. The Astros just extended their division lead after taking 3 of 4 from Seattle and are chasing the Yankees for the American League’s top seed.
Royals (40-62) at White Sox (51-50)
Mon 8:10, Tue 8:10, Wed 2:10
The White Sox have been a disappointment so far this year but they are just 2 games back in the AL Central and 2.5 games back for the 3rd Wild Card Spot. A big series at home against the Royals could propel them past the Guardians and Twins for the division lead.
Rockies (46-57) at Padres (57-46)
Mon 9:40, Tue 4:10, Tue 10:10, Wed 9:40, Thu 4:10
The Padres host the Rockies in a 5 game series this week that includes a day-night double header on Tuesday. The Padres are basically out of the division race at this point, but they’ll look to solidify their NL Wild Card spot over the next two months.
Dodgers (68-33) at Giants (51-51)
Mon 9:45 (MLB Network), Tue 9:45 (TBS), Wed 9:45 (MLB Network), Thu 3:45 (MLB Network)
A four-game series between two of the biggest rivals in baseball begins on Monday and it is a massive series for the Giants. They’re currently 4 games back in the Wild Card and winning this series would go a long way towards their playoff hopes. Lose the series and things will be looking much more dire for the 2021 NL West Champs.
Brewers (57-45) at Pirates (40-62)
Tue 7:05, Wed 7:05, Thu 12:35 (MLB Network)
The Brewers have a 3 game lead over the Cardinals for the NL Central and will be hoping to extend that lead during a 3-game series with the Pirates during the middle of the week.
Cubs (41-60) at Cardinals (54-48)
Tue 7:45, Wed 7:45, Thu 7:45
Another on of baseball’s biggest rivalries, the Cardinals host the Cubs starting Tuesday as they hope to catch the Brewers in the NL Central. They are currently 1 game back of the Wild Card and 3 games back of the Brewers for the division.
Athletics (39-65) at Angels (43-59)
Tue 9:38, Wed 9:38, Thu 4:07
A game between two of the worst teams in the American League but at least Ohtani is slated to pitch on Wednesday night.