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Week Ahead: Astros streak on, Nats visit LA

Pedroia, Pence, Matz among players expected back from DL
MLB.com

The first full week of June features some big series between postseason contenders in both leagues and the expected return of several impact players.

The Astros look to stay red-hot as they bring a 10-game winning steak into Monday's series opener against the Royals in Kansas City. Houston has swept its last three series and owns the best record in the Majors at 41-16, which is the best record for a big league club after 57 games since the 2001 Mariners were 45-12 en route to a 116-win season.

The first full week of June features some big series between postseason contenders in both leagues and the expected return of several impact players.

The Astros look to stay red-hot as they bring a 10-game winning steak into Monday's series opener against the Royals in Kansas City. Houston has swept its last three series and owns the best record in the Majors at 41-16, which is the best record for a big league club after 57 games since the 2001 Mariners were 45-12 en route to a 116-win season.

"This team continues to show up every single game with a great will to win," said Astros manager A.J. Hinch. "We take the aggressive approach and have done a lot of damage. I love the makeup of this team, the resolve to come in and play against teams no matter where we are, no matter who we're playing. We've got a pretty good vibe going."

Video: The first-place Astros roll to 10 consecutive wins

Astros ace Dallas Keuchel will try to become the first pitcher in the Majors to reach 10 wins this season when he takes the mound Wednesday at Kauffman Stadium. The left-hander is 9-0 with a 1.67 ERA and the Astros have won his last nine starts. The last opponent to win when Keuchel starts? The Royals on April 8 in Houston.

Also on Monday, the first-place Nationals and contending Dodgers open a three-game series in Los Angeles.

Max Scherzer is scheduled to start Tuesday for Washington, in advance of Wednesday's expected pitchers' duel between Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw and Nationals flamethrower Stephen Strasburg.

It's certainly a big series for the Nationals, who were eliminated from the 2016 postseason by the Dodgers. Nationals star outfielder Bryce Harper elected to serve his suspension last week to be available against the Dodgers, who trail the Rockies by a half-game in the National League West.

"It's a big series down in L.A. we got, so trying to get it done as quick as possible, get it out of the way," said Harper, who returned Sunday.

Video: WSH@LAD: Gonzalez, Ryu to battle in Los Angeles

The Yankees have a big week ahead of them as they look to hold on to the top spot in the American League East. New York leads the Red Sox by two games and is 3 1/2 games ahead of the Orioles. The Yankees will host both Boston and Baltimore for three games this week, with a series beginning Tuesday against the Sox.

The division-leading Rockies, one of the early surprises this season, have an important week ahead against the clubs who met in the 2016 World Series. Colorado hosts the Indians in a two-game Interleague series Tuesday and Wednesday before traveling to Wrigley Field for a four-game set with the Cubs.

The Indians expect to have outfielder Lonnie Chisenhall back from the seven-day concussion disabled list. He was scheduled to wrap up a rehab assignment Sunday.

"He moved around really well and ran the bases a couple of times," said Cleveland manager Terry Francona. "From all accounts, everything went well. As long as he's OK [Sunday], he'll meet us in Denver."

Dustin Pedroia is expected to return to the Red Sox in time for Friday's series opener against the Tigers at Fenway Park, the first day the second baseman is eligible to come off the disabled list. Pedroia is recovering from a sprained left wrist.

"We project that his first day eligible, he'd be ready to go," said Red Sox manager John Farrell. "There's been really good improvement with the condition of his hand and wrist."

Giants outfielder Hunter Pence was activated from the disabled list Sunday, but he did not start the series finale against the Phillies. Expect to see Pence back in the lineup for San Francisco this week. The Giants open a four-game series with the first-place Brewers on Monday in Milwaukee and then return home Friday to host the first-place Twins in a weekend series.

The Mets also have key players scheduled to return this weekend in starting pitchers Steven Matz and Seth Lugo. Both completed rehab assignments and will join the rotation this weekend against the Braves in Atlanta, according to Mets manager Terry Collins. At 24-31, the Mets could use a boost to their rotation.

"We're pretty confident that our rotation is going to start getting it going," Collins said. "And we're going to need it."

Austin Laymance is a reporter for MLB.com.