These are the best games each day this week
Playoff vibe on tap as A's-Astros, D-backs-Dodgers, Cubs-Phillies meet
This is the week when lots of games are going to have a playoff feel to them. If you're wondering what that means, check out the Athletics-Astros series at Minute Maid Park. Or the Cubs-Braves game on Thursday. Or the D-backs and Dodgers this weekend.
Fourteen teams are within five games of a postseason berth -- six in the American League, eight in the National League. This week may not bring much clarity to things, but it's a great week to be a baseball fan.
Here are my pick for the best game each day.
Monday: Athletics at Astros (8:10 p.m. ET, MLB.TV)
The Astros lead the A's by 1 1/2 games in the AL West as they begin a three-game series that will be the final regular-season meeting between the teams. The A's have baseball's best record (45-16) since mid-June when they were 11 1/2 games behind the Astros. The Astros return home from a 6-3 road trip to try to get on track at Minute Maid Park. At 47-21, they've got baseball's best road record and highest-scoring road offense (5.5 runs per game). At Minute Maid Park, they're barely over .500 (33-29) and scoring more than a run per game less (4.4).
Tuesday: Nationals at Phillies (7:05 p.m. ET, MLB Network, MLB.TV)
No game on Tuesday is likely to beat a Max Scherzer and Aaron Nola matchup that pits two of the three leading NL Cy Young candidates (Mets ace Jacob deGrom is in that conversation, too.). This is one of those playoff-type series for the Phillies, who've lost 11 of 17 to slip three games behind the Braves in a race that may not be decided until late September, when the teams play seven times. Philadelphia's 5.68 bullpen ERA is the second-worst in baseball in this stretch.
Wednesday: D-backs at Giants (10:15 p.m. ET, MLB Network, MLB.TV)
The D-backs begin the week with a one-game lead over the Rockies in the NL West as Arizona begins a seven-game trip to San Francisco and Los Angeles. Arizona's offense sputtered a bit in losing two of three to the Mariners. But the D-backs have been very good overall, going 19-11 since July 22 with outfielder David Peralta and first baseman Paul Goldschmidt both among the hottest hitters in the game.
Thursday: Cubs at Braves (7:35 p.m. ET, MLB Network, MLB.TV)
This makeup game begins an important 11-game road trip for the Cubs that will continue with stops in Philadelphia, Milwaukee and Washington. The Cubs have won five in a row and are playing their best baseball of the season and have opened up a four-game lead over the Cardinals in the NL Central. The Braves are coming off a difficult weekend in which they lost two of three to the Marlins.
Friday: D-backs at Dodgers (10:10 p.m. ET, MLB.TV)
The Dodgers completed a much-needed three-game sweep of the Padres this weekend to end a stretch in which they'd lost nine of 12 games, thanks in large part to a bullpen that has struggled in the wake of injuries and poor performances. On Saturday, Player Page for Max Muncy became the 23rd Dodger to hit 30 home runs in a season. The Dodgers lead the NL with 182 home runs and are second in the Majors, behind only the Yankees. The last time the Dodgers led the NL in home runs was 1983 (146).
Saturday: Rays at Indians (7:10 p.m. ET, MLB.TV)
The Indians, who are coasting to an AL Central title, snapped a four-game losing streak on Sunday. Meanwhile, the Rays are in position to play the role of spoiler. They begin the week with an eight-game winning streak -- and a 41-12 run differential during the streak -- thanks to a pitching staff that has allowed three runs or fewer in eight straight games. Since the debut of the "opener" starting-pitching plan, Tampa Bay has a 3.29 ERA, second-lowest in the Majors and tops in the AL.
Sunday: Cubs at Phillies (1:35 p.m. ET, TBS, MLB.TV)
There's a decent chance these two teams will see each other again in the postseason. If the Phillies miss the postseason, they may point to a 7-12 record against the Blue Jays and Mets. The Braves have gone 14-6 against those two teams. How's this for pitching? Cubs starters have a 1.67 ERA in their last nine games, while relievers have a 1.72 ERA.