We'll begin a new week with another Braves-Phillies series and end it with a Angels-Yankees pitching matchup -- Shohei Ohtani vs. Masahiro Tanaka -- that'll resonate across at least two continents. Grab your popcorn and enjoy the show.As for the Braves and Phillies, this will be the fourth series between
We'll begin a new week with another Braves-Phillies series and end it with a Angels-Yankees pitching matchup -- Shohei Ohtani vs. Masahiro Tanaka -- that'll resonate across at least two continents. Grab your popcorn and enjoy the show.
As for the Braves and Phillies, this will be the fourth series between the two contenders in the National League East, currently led by Atlanta. But this time, it'll have a different feel because we're way past the point of thinking, "Aren't they cute, this pretending to be in contention and all?"
As we approach the one-third point of the season, these teams have convinced just about everyone that they're the real deal and are good enough to contend for an NL playoff berth.
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That point was driven home again Sunday when the Braves ground out a string of remarkable at-bats and scored six -- count 'em six -- runs in the bottom of the ninth inning to stun the Marlins, 10-9.
That's symbolic of something larger: 18 teams being within 3 1/2 games of first place, all of them thinking, like the Braves and Phils, "We can do this."
Let's run down this week's schedule and pick the best of each day:
MONDAY:Yankees at Rangers(8:05 p.m. ET,MLB Network,MLB.TV)
Wait, what? Aren't the Braves and Phillies beginning a three-game series at Citizens Bank Park? Yes, they are, and it'll be a good one, beginning with Mike Foltynewicz going for the Braves and Nick Pivetta for the Phils. The Braves lead the series, 6-3, in a division that the Nationals were supposed to control. But we can't resist a Yankees-Rangers contest that will feature two of the great pitching craftsmen in the game: Tanaka and Bartolo Colon. Memo to every young pitcher: Pay attention to this one and be reminded why location, movement and arm action are just as important as velocity. If you love the art of pitching -- not the power, but the art -- this one is for you.
TUESDAY:Rockies at Dodgers(10:10 p.m. ET,MLB.TV)
Can the Rockies return to the postseason with baseball's 22nd highest-scoring offense and a rotation that has yet to get untracked? It surely says something good that they've crept to near the top of the NL West with a long list of issues. As for the Dodgers, third baseman Justin Turner's return has sparked a mini hot streak, and now there's optimism that Clayton Kershawcould soon return. Those two developments won't automatically spark a run to the top of the NL West, but it's a great place to start.
WEDNESDAY:D-backs at Brewers(1:10 p.m. ET,MLB Network,MLB.TV)
Arizona's grip on the NL West has slipped away, thanks to a combination of pitching injuries and an offense that is scoring less than three runs a game this month. With center fielder A.J. Pollock injured, the D-backs need first baseman Paul Goldschmidt to get got. Meanwhile, the Brewers are back atop the NL Central, where they spent a large chunk of last season. They appear to be the team most capable of stealing the division from the Cubs.
THURSDAY:Astros at Indians(6:10 p.m. ET,MLB Network,MLB.TV)
These two teams play for the second time in as many weekends, and they would surprise almost no one with another friendly little head-to-head matchup in October. The Astros and Indians probably have baseball's two best rotations. Houston's bullpen is better, and both teams are attempting to get their offenses on track.
FRIDAY:Braves at Red Sox(7:10 p.m. ET,MLB.TV)
How about we hype this series as a 2018 World Series preview? The Red Sox began this season as one of a handful of teams that would surprise no one by returning to the Fall Classic, and they have passed pretty much every test so far. No team has been more fun to watch than the Braves, and their mix of veterans and kids is gaining confidence day by day.
SATURDAY:Cardinals at Pirates(4:05 p.m. ET,MLB.TV)
Injuries have hit the Cardinals hard in recent days. To lose shortstop Paul DeJong (broken hand), ace Carlos Martinez (pec muscle) and catcher Yadier Molina (pelvic area surgery) and still stay competitive, speaks well of the organization's depth. The Pirates are one of baseball's feel-good stories in riding a bunch of young guys to the top of the NL Central.
SUNDAY:Angels at Yankees(1:05 p.m. ET,MLB Network,MLB.TV)
Shohei Ohtani's every pitching start -- if not every at-bat -- has become must-watch baseball. This one has the added twist of Ohtani pitching against his fellow countryman, someone whose career he followed closely while honing his own game. It doesn't get any better than this one.
Richard Justice has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2011. Read his columns, listen to his podcast and follow him on Twitter at @RichardJustice.