We are now in the middle of August and some playoff races are getting closer while others are getting broken wide open. There are currently 3 teams on winning streaks over 5 games (Guardians-5, Mets-6, Dodgers-10) and the Phillies just had their 7 game winning streak snapped on Thursday. Now unfortunately, both Cy Young frontrunners in Justin Verlander and Sandy Alcantara pitching on Wednesday against the Rangers and Phillies, respectively. So they won’t be pitching this weekend and neither will Shoehei Ohtani, Gerrit Cole, or Dylan Cease. But according to my calculations, it’s still aces wild this weekend as we have over a dozen top starters pitching over the next three days.
Max Scherzer, Mets (Friday, 7:10) vs Phillies
Nathan Eovaldi, Red Sox (Friday, 7:10) vs Yankees
Carlos Rodon, Giants (Friday, 10:15) vs Pirates
Max Fried, Braves (Saturday most likely, TBD) vs Marlins
Shane McClanahan, Rays (Saturday, 4:10) vs Orioles
Yu Darvish, Padres (Saturday, 7:05) vs Nationals
Jacob deGrom, Mets (Saturday, 7:10) vs Phillies
Aaron Nola, Phillies (Saturday, 7:10) vs Mets
Corbin Burnes, Brewers (Saturday, 7:15) vs Cardinals
Adam Wainwright, Cardinals (Saturday, 7:15) vs Brewers
Logan Webb, Giants (Saturday, 9:05) vs Pirates
Shane Bieber, Guardians (Sunday, 1:37) vs Blue Jays
Kevin Gausman, Blue Jays (Most likely Sunday, 1:37) vs Guardians
Zack Wheeler, Phillies (Sunday, 1:40) vs Mets
Martin Perez, Rangers (Sunday, 2:35) vs Mariners
There are still storylines abound this weekend as Juan Soto and Josh Bell make their returns to DC just 10 days after the blockbuster trade. The Orioles and Rays are within half a game of each other for the final AL Wildcard and the Brewers and Cardinals are also within a half game of each other for the NL Central lead. The Phillies have to face Mad Max and Jacob deGrom just days after facing down Sandy Alcantara. Aaron Judge is having the season of his life but it’s still likely not enough for the AL MVP award with Shohei Ohtani existing. And both Nolan Arenado and Paul Goldshmidt are putting in MVP seasons for the Cardinals but will their pitching hold it together? For the Nats, it’s all about the prospects and Joey Menesis apparently. Both Abrams and Gore should be making their Nats debuts over the coming weeks but until then, it’s going to be a tough ride. And that’s why I’m here to provide you with some alternative games to watch!
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. Houston Astros 72-41 (AL West Leaders)
2. New York Yankees 71-41 (AL East Leaders)
3. Cleveland Guardians 59-52 (AL Central Leaders)
4. Toronto Blue Jays 60-50 (Wildcard #1)
5. Seattle Mariners 61-52 (Wildcard #2)
6. Tampa Bay Rays 58-52 (Wildcard #3)
Baltimore Orioles 58-53 (0.5 GB in Wildcard)
Minnesota Twins 57-53 (1.5 GB in AL Central, 1 GB in Wildcard
Chicago White Sox 56-56 (3.5 GB in AL Central, 3 GB in Wildcard)
Boston Red Sox 54-58 (4.5 GB in Wild Card)
1. Los Angeles Dodgers 77-33 (NL West Leaders)
2. New York Mets 73-39 (NL East Leaders)
3. St. Louis Cardinals 61-50 (NL Central Leaders)
4. Atlanta Braves 66-46 (Wildcard #1)
5. Philadelphia Phillies 62-49 (Tied-Wildcard #2)
6. San Diego Padres 63-51 (Wildcard #3)
Milwaukee Brewers 60-50 (0.5 GB back in NL Central, 1 GB in Wildcard)
San Francisco Giants 54-57 (7.5 GB in Wildcard)
Four Series to Watch
1. Guardians (59-52, 1st AL Central) at Blue Jays (60-50, 2nd AL East)
Friday, 7:07: Cal Quantrill (8-5, 3.88 ERA) vs Jose Berrios (8-4, 5.19 ERA)
Saturday 3:07 (MLB Network 4pm): Tristan McKenzie (8-8, 3.16 ERA) vs TBD
Sunday, 1:37: Shane Bieber (7-6, 3.21 ERA) vs TBD
Mitch White potentially on Saturday though Gausman would be on regular rest.
The Cleveland Guardians have won 5 in a row and find themselves atop the AL Central standings in part thanks to the Twins having the face the Dodgers in a two game series this week. They lead the Twins by 1.5 games now and the White Sox by 3.5 games. They were criticized for not making any moves at the deadline but it seems like they knew what they were doing as they are 6-3 since those games which includes an impressive series split against the AL’s best team in the Houston Astros. On the other side, the Blue Jays are firmly entrenched in a spot for the Wild Card, despite two losses at Camden Yards this week. That entrenchment might erode very quickly with a poor series here as they only lead the Orioles by 2.5 games.
Obviously most of the talk about the Guardians will be in regards to their pitching, and for good reason, but don’t let their lineup pass you by. Andres Giminez has been outstanding for the Guardians lately, hitting .327 over the past 15 games and currently leads the team with a .304 average on the season overall. Oregon State alumnus Steven Kwan was a big hit (pun intended) early in the season but he’s stayed hot and is hitting .340 in the same time frame. Those two underrated players have taken a bit of the pressure of Jose Ramirez, who continues to be one of the best in baseball and sports a .891 OPS on the season.
We all know how dangerous this Blue Jays lineup can be at time and it looks like it could be getting even better as Matt Chapman and Bo Bichette begin to get hot. Half of Chapman’s 22 home runs have come in the last 30 games and he’s hitting .305 in those games. In the same time frame, Bo Bichette is hitting .282 with 5 of his 17 home runs, including 2 oppo shots against the Orioles on Tuesday night. With those two heating up alongside the likes Vladdy, Alejandro Kirk, and Lourdes Gurriel Jr, the Blue Jays best offense play may yet still be to come.
Let’s talk pitching. The Blue Jays haven’t announced starters for Saturday or Sunday, but I’d expect to see Mitch White on Saturday and ace Kevin Gausman on Sunday, though Gausman could go Saturday on normal rest if they wanted him to. Outside of Gausman, this weekend’s pitching matchup favors the Guardians. Tristan McKenzie, who starts on Saturday, was brilliant last time out against the Astros going 8 scoreless innings in a 1-0 win. 2-time Cy Young winner and ace Shane Bieber will likely be facing Gausman on Sunday in a battle of aces, while youngster Cal Quantrill will face the struggling Jose Berrios on Friday night.
The Saturday game will be on MLB Network starting at 4pm unless you live outside the MASN broadcast area, in which case the game will be the Orioles vs Rays. All three games can be seen on MLBtv.
2. Orioles (58-53, 4th AL East) at Rays (58-52, 3rd AL East)
Friday, 7:10: Austin Voth (2-1, 5.53 ERA) vs Corey Kluber (7-6, 4.05 ERA)
Saturday, 4:10: TBD vs Shane McClanahan (10-5, 2.24 ERA)
Sunday, 1:40: TBD vs Drew Rasmussen (6-4, 2.96 ERA)
Okay I’m not longer shocked that for the second segment in a row, one of the “big” series involves the Baltimore Orioles, who are now just half a game back in the AL Wild Card. They traded away their clubhouse leader in Trey Mancini and All Star closer Jorge Lopez at the beginning of the month and yet the O’s keep finding ways to win. They have won 7 of 9 since a disappointing series loss to the Reds at the end of July.
The Rays are going in the other direction and they’re the team currently in the third spot for the AL Wild Card and only half a game ahead of those O’s. After taking 3 of 4 from the Tigers last weekend, they ran into problems on the road in Milwaukee and were swept in a short 2-game series and are now just 58-52. Despite the most injuries in MLB, they have managed to stay relatively safe in the playoff positions but that is now hanging by the balance as they head to the Bronx to take on the Yankees following this series against Baltimore.
Matt Chapman has been on a hot streak for the Jays over his last 15 games. He’s hitting .302 with 6 home runs in that span while playing his normal spectacular defense at third base. He’ll face Orioles pitcher Jordan Lyles on Monday night and will hope to continue his success against him. Chapman has hit .353 in 19 plate appearances against Lyles with 3 home runs. Vladdy is likewise heating up, having hit .400 over his last 15, though with only 3 home runs. The Blue Jays bolstered their lineup by adding Whit Merrifield (who has confirmed his vaccination status) who will most often play center field with George Springer a bit injured.
The Orioles will have their work cut out for them as they face Corey Kluber on Friday, 2022 All Star and Rays ace Shane McClanahan on Saturday, and Drew Rassmussen on Sunday. McClanahan did have a bit of a rough start last time out in Detroit against the Tigers, as he gave up 4 earned runs in 6.1 innings and taking the loss in a 9-1 ballgame. On the other side, the Orioles are getting some production out of their starting rotation as of late. Former National Austin Voth gets the nod on Friday night and is 2-1 with a 3.19 ERA in 12 games (8 starts) for the O’s since coming over from DC. Spenser Watkins will likely take the mound Saturday, while Jordan Lyles will most likely get the call in the finale on Sunday. Lyles was solid last time out against the powerful Blue Jays lineup, going 5.2 innings and only giving up 2 earned runs while earning the win in a 7-4 ballgame.
Offensively for the Orioles, we have to talk about rookie catcher Adley Rutschman. In his last 30 games, the phenom has hit .309 and has more walks (27) than strikeouts (18). The Orioles are 42-29 since calling him up in late May. Ryan Mountcastle is doing Ryan Mountcastle things while Austin Hays gives the lineup a big boost with his return. Shortstop Jorge Mateo has been playing really well as of late and has 4 home runs over his past 15 games. Anthony Santander is having a career year and is hitting .365 over the last weeks with 3 home runs, which included his career best tying 20th of the year against the Blue Jays during the week.
For the Rays, they’ve managed to keep winning despite injury after injury. Wander Franco has been out for about a month but is set to begin a rehab assignment soon. Brandon Lowe returned from injury in the middle of July and is hitting .289 with 8 extra base hits since then. New acquisition David Peralta from the Arizona Diamondbacks has only played in 8 games for the Rays, but he’s hit the ground running and is 10/33 (.303) since arriving in St. Pete. Expect the Rays to continue to get contributions from random and surprising areas as they’ve routinely done over the last couple of years.
None of the games will be on national broadcasts, but are available on MASN or to stream through MLBtv if you live outside the blackout area.
3. Brewers (60-50, 2nd NL Central) at Cardinals (61-50, 1st NL Central)
Friday, 8:15: Eric Lauer (8-3, 3.59 ERA) vs Jordan Montgomery (4-3, 3.53 ERA)
Saturday, 7:15: Corbin Burnes (8-5, 2.45 ERA) vs Adam Wainwright (8-8, 3.42 ERA)
Sunday, 2:15: Aaron Ashby (2-10, 4.32 ERA) vs Miles Mikolas (8-9. 3.50 ERA)
It’s been a struggle since the trade deadline for the Milwaukee Brewers as they dropped out of the NL Central lead as the lost 5 of 6 games to the Pirates and Reds. But they got back on track a bit with a short series sweep of the Tampa Rays in the middle of the week and now they can regain the division lead with a series win over the Cardinals this weekend. On the flip side, the Cardinals lost a series to the woeful Rockies during the week after sweeping the Yankees and Cubs last week. They lead the Brewers by just half a game heading into this massive series.
While the Cardinals won’t have to see Brandon Woodruff or the underperforming Freddy Peralta in this series, they will have to contend with Brewers’ ace Corbin Burnes on Saturday. The Cardinals, who have seen struggles with their pitching throughout the year, are going with newly acquired Jordan Montgomery on Friday, veteran Adam Wainwright on Saturday, and Miles Mikolas on Sunday.
While Paul Goldschmidt is having an MVP season, teammate Nolan Arenado isn’t far behind him, especially over the last few weeks in which he’s hit 6 home runs. Another guy that’s going under-the-radar for the Cards but has been producing is shortstop Paul DeJong, who is hitting .297 with 4 home runs since his return. Meanwhile the underwhelming Brewers’ offense is led by Rowdy Tellez, Christian Yelich, Willy Adames, and Andrew McCutchen.
None of the games will be on national broadcasts for some reason, but are available to stream through MLBtv.
4. Phillies (62-49, 3rd NL East) at Mets (73-39, 1st NL East)
Friday, 7:10 (AppleTV+): Ranger Suarez (8-5, 3.68 ERA) vs Max Scherzer (8-2, 1.98 ERA)
Saturday, 7:10: Aaron Nola (8-8, 3.17 ERA) vs Jacob deGrom (1-0, 2.53 ERA)
Sunday, 1:40 (MLB Network): Zack Wheeler (11-5, 2.63 ERA) vs TBD
Two of the hottest teams in baseball throw down this week in Queens as the Philadelphia Phillies take on the NL East leading New York Mets. The Mets have won six in a row while the Phillies had won 7 in a row before their winning streak was snapped by the Miami Marlins on Thursday afternoon. The Phillies are currently 10.5 games behind the Mets and in third place for the division, but are currently sitting in the NL’s second wildcard spot, just half a game ahead of the San Diego Padres.
The Phillies are in the midst of a four day span where they are facing or have faced Sandy Alcantara, Max Scherzer, and Jacob deGrom. Now, they already managed to pass the first test against Sandy Alcantara on Wednesday evening after chasing the NL Cy Young favorite in the 8th inning and coming from behind to win 4-3. The good news for the Phillies is that they have their two best pitchers in Aaron Nola and ace Zack Wheeler pitching on Saturday and Sunday in this series respectively. The bad news is that once they get past Mad Max and deGrom, they’ll likely have to face Chris Bassitt who is coming off 8 innings of great work against the Reds this past Monday.
In terms of hitting matchups, Kyle Schwarber (if he starts) is hitting .364 with 2 home runs against Max Scherzer in 15 plate appearances. For the Mets, Francisco Lindor has been red hot over the last two weeks, hitting .420 with 4 homers and 14 RBI. Teammate Jeff McNeil has also gotten hot and is hitting .407 with 3 home runs in the same timeframe. Fore the Phillies, they’ll need to continue to rely on Rhys Hoskins, JT Realmuto, and Kyle Schwarber to generate enough offense to keep up with the Mets.
The Friday night showdown between Ranger Suarez and Max Scherzer will be on AppleTV+ while the Sunday finale will be on MLB Network. Both Saturday and Sunday’s games will also be available on MLBtv.
The Rest of the Games
Padres (63-51) at Nationals (37-76)
Fri 7:05 (AppleTV+), Sat 7:05, Sun 12:05 (Peacock)
2019 World Champion and former Nats superstar Juan Soto makes his return to Nationals Park just 10 days after being acquired by the San Diego Padres in a blockbuster deal that also included first baseman Josh Bell. Padres ace Yu Darvish will pitch Saturday but at least the Nats will avoid seeing Joe Musgrove this time around.
Cubs (46-65) at Reds (44-67)
Thu (Cubs W 4-2), Sat 6:40, Sun 1:40
The Cubs won the series opener on Thursday night in the Field of Dreams Game in Iowa, and now both teams will get Friday off to return to Wrigley Field in Chicago before the series continues Saturday and concludes on Sunday. The Northsiders have won 3 of 4 this week, and looking for more against the Reds.
Braves (66-46) at Marlins (50-61)
Fri 6:40, Sat 1:10 (MLB Network), Sat 7:10, Sun 1:40
After a rough series in Queens last weekend, the Braves were able to get back on track with a short 2-game sweep of the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park in the middle of the week. Their starting pitchers haven’t been announced yet, but the Braves will likely feature some combination of Ian Anderson, ace Max Fried, and Spencer Strider over the weekend to face the Marlins. Luckily, they’ll avoid facing Marlins ace Sandy Alcantara who pitched on Wednesday night against the Phillies.
Tigers (43-70) at White Sox (56-56)
Fri 7:10, Sat 7:10, Sun 2:10
The White Sox lost three of four to the Royals during the week and now find themselves back at .500. They are now 3.5 games back of the Cleveland Guardians in the AL Central and 3 games back of the Tampa Bay Rays in the AL Wildcard. A home series against the offensively challenged Detroit Tigers might be just what the doctor ordered for this underperforming White Sox team.
Yankees (71-41) at Red Sox (55-58)
Fri 7:10 (MLB Network), Sat 7:15, Sun 7:08 (ESPN)
You know it’s a big baseball weekend when Yankees/Red Sox aren’t a Top 5 series to watch in the middle of August. The Yankees are scuffling and are 7-13 since the All Star Break and are now a half game back of the Houston Astros for the American League’s best record. Now they’ll travel to Fenway to take on their arch-rival in the Boston Red Sox, who just won a makeup game against the surging Baltimore Orioles on Thursday night. No Gerrit Cole or Nestor Cortes for this series, but Frankie Montas will be making his second start in pinstripes against Kutter Crawford on Saturday evening.
Mariners (61-52) at Rangers (49-62)
Fri 8:05, Sat 7:15 (FOX), Sun 2:35
The Mariners won another big series over the struggling New York Yankees and are now 61-52. They almost certainly won’t catch the Astros for the division crown, but the Mariners are well on their way to their first playoff appearance in over 20 years. In even bigger news for the Mariners, rookie stud Julio Rodriguez has been re-instated from the IL and is expected back in the lineup this weekend.
Dodgers (77-33) at Royals (47-66)
Fri 8:10, Sat 7:10, Sun 2:10
The best team in baseball is also currently the hottest team in baseball. The Los Angeles Dodgers have won 10 in a row with sweeps of the Giants in San Francisco and the Padres and Twins at home. At 77-33, they are a full 5 games ahead of the Mets for the NL’s (and MLB’s) best record. With Kershaw sidelined with back issues again, they’ll turn to Tony Gonsolin, Andrew Heaney, and Tyler Anderson to take care of business against the Royals. I would not be surprised to see the winning streak continue and for the Dodgers to get to 80 wins by the end of the weekend.
Athletics (41-71) at Astros (71-41)
Fri 8:10, Sat 7:10, Sun 2:10
Athletics are 6-6 vs Astros this year.
This may look like a mismatch on paper and it should be, but the Astros and Athletics are actually 6-6 against each other this season. An elite pitching staff in Houston is getting a boost as Lance McCullers Jr is slated to make his first start of the season on Saturday. With the Yankees reeling, the Astros have a chance to build a lead atop the American League standings.
Diamondbacks (51-60) at Rockies (50-64)
Fri 8:40, Sat 8:10, Sun 3:10
The Diamondbacks are actually significantly closer to a playoff spot (10.5 GB) than the Padres are to catching the Dodgers (16 GB) but still bad at 51-60. Luckily for them they’re playing a worse team in the 50-64 Rockies. Enough said about this series.
Twins (57-53) at Angels (49-63)
Fri 9:38, Sat 9:07 (MLB Network, 10pm), Sun 4:07 (MLB Network, 430pm)
The Twins fell out of the AL Central lead after running into the buzzsaw that is the LA Dodgers during the week and are now hoping to climb their way back past the Cleveland Guardians as they face LA’s other team, the Angels. The Twins are a 1.5 games back in the division and just 1 game back of the Tampa Bay Rays for the final AL Wildcard spot, though they’d also have to leapfrog the Baltimore Orioles to get there. They avoid having to face Shohei Ohtani on the mound, but of course they’ll have to face his lethal bat in the lineup.
Pirates (45-67) at Giants (54-57)
Fri 10:15, Sat 9:05, Sun 4:05
The Giants lost a series to the Padres and are now 7.5 games out of the Wild Card race. They chose not to trade Carlos Rodon or Joc Pederson at the deadline and that now looks to be a costly mistake as their playoff hopes are fading fast. The aforementioned Rodon pitches Friday night and ace Logan Webb goes for them on Saturday.