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5 series to closely track this weekend

MLB.com @castrovince

Why spend your whole weekend arguing with people over whether it's "Laurel" or "Yanny" when you can watch some quality Major League Baseball?

Here are five topics worth tracking this weekend.

Why spend your whole weekend arguing with people over whether it's "Laurel" or "Yanny" when you can watch some quality Major League Baseball?

Here are five topics worth tracking this weekend.

1. He Phil'd a need: Jake Arrieta was a tempting-but-treacherous target in free agency. We all remember his historic run to the National League Cy Young Award in 2015, and his tenacity and postseason pedigree are unquestioned. But his stuff had diminished over the past couple years, and ultimately, clubs were scared away by the price tag, the age (32) and the uncertainty over what they'd get from Arrieta at this stage of his career.

We are just seven starts into the three-year, $75 million deal Arrieta had to wait until deep into Spring Training to sign with the Phillies, but right now, there are plenty of clubs who probably wish they had extended such an offer to the right-hander. He takes a 3-1 record, 2.59 ERA and 152 ERA+ into tonight's start opposite Michael Wacha and the Cardinals at 8:15 p.m. ET at Busch Stadium in the continuation of a four-game wraparound set between these two NL contenders. The Phillies are contending in part because of Arrieta, who is accumulating outs in a different manner than he did last year:

2016: 23.1 percent strikeout rate, 45.1 percent ground-ball rate

2017: 16.5 percent strikeout rate, 57.9 percent ground-ball rate

Maybe we should call him … Groundieta?

2. No spin zone: Barring some extra-innings insanity, Trevor Bauer will not be appearing in the Indians-Astros series this weekend. That's notable after Bauer's little Twitter tussle with some members of the Astros earlier this month, when he kinda/sorta hinted that Astros pitchers -- specifically his former UCLA teammate Gerrit Cole -- were using pine tar to improve their spin rates.

Video: CLE@HOU: Clevinger, Morton face off in Houston

But even without Bauer -- or Cole -- on the hill for this weekend's three-game set at Minute Maid Park, there's still plenty to like about a series featuring these two potential October opponents. In tonight's 8:10 opener, it's Charlie Morton opposite Mike Clevinger, then a matchup of American League Cy Young winners Dallas Keuchel and Corey Kluber on Saturday at 4:10 p.m., and finally, Lance McCullers Jr. and Carlos Carrasco on Sunday night at 8:08.

A continued area of intrigue is the Indians' unreliable bullpen (MLB-worst 5.68 ERA), which has undone some of the offensive work of the red-hot Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez. The Astros have had some bullpen issues of their own at points this season (insert image of Ken Giles punching himself in the face here), but it hasn't prevented them from holding the top spot in an improved AL West. The Indians sit at a surprising .500, but that's still good enough for first place in what has been a weak AL Central.

3. Kids are all right: The Brewers and Twins might have been baseball's biggest surprise clubs in 2017, contending arguably ahead of schedule. The Brewers fell a game short of an October berth, while the Twins were one and done in the AL Wild Card Game, but it was still major organization progress that the two clubs tried to build upon in the offseason.

They meet this weekend at Target Field with very different records (the Brewers are 26-18, the Twins 18-21) but similar relevance in their respective division races. And though neither wound up landing what you'd consider a truly big-ticket acquisition on the starting-pitching front this winter (read: Arrieta or Yu Darvish), both have seen some upside internally.

Video: MIL@COL: Peralta strikes out 13 over 5 2/3 in debut

That's what makes Saturday's 7:10 p.m. game such an interesting pitching pairing -- with potentially a ton of swings and misses. The 21-year-old Freddy Peralta struck out 13 Rockies batters over 5 2/3 innings in his debut for the Twins on Sunday. He'll oppose fellow rookie right-hander Fernando Romero, who has allowed just one run on 11 hits, 20 strikeouts and nine walks in 16 2/3 innings thus far in the bigs. If these kids keep it up, perhaps the Brewers and/or Twins will go quite a bit deeper than they did a year ago.

4. Recovery process: The Dodgers and Nationals are supposed to be two of baseball's superpowers this season, so it was a little surprising to see them both sitting a few games under .500 at the end of April. Still, one figured the bumpy road of the first few weeks would smooth out eventually.

Well, the path is looking quite a bit less rocky in the District, where the Nats will host the Dodgers in a three-game set that begins tonight with the incredible Max Scherzer (1.69 ERA, 0.82 WHIP) on the mound. Mother Nature might have cooled the Nats' momentum with that suspended series against the Yankees this week, but they've won eight of their past 10.

Video: WSH@ARI: Scherzer K's 11, records 2 hits vs. D-backs

The Dodgers, on the other hand? They're still skidding and screeching in this month of May. They've lost series to the rebuilding Padres, Reds and Marlins and created serious concern that a rut that has seen Clayton Kershaw and Corey Seager hit the shelf will be too much to overcome. But if nothing else, they're getting a little healthier, with Justin Turner and Logan Forsythe activated earlier this week and Rich Hill (blister) currently scheduled to come off the DL to make Saturday's start in D.C.

5. From hot to not: April flowers bring May showers.

Yes, that is intentionally backward, because this is a (remarkably clever) means of pointing out that the D-backs and Mets have followed up their awesome Aprils with mostly miserable Mays. These clubs that meet this weekend at Citi Field had the NL's two best records at the end of April -- the D-backs at 20-8, the Mets at 17-9. In May, they have two of the NL's worst records -- the D-backs at 5-10, the Mets at 3-10.

Video: Russo discusses the D-backs, A.J. Pollock's injury

What happened here? Losing two catchers and, at various points, Jacob deGrom, Yoenis Cespedes and Todd Frazier and watching Matt Harvey implode before he was sent off to Cincinnati caught up with the Mets and has sunk them in the newly competitive NL East. The D-backs, meanwhile, have maintained the top spot out West, but it's a tenuous position if they don't find a way to overcome the absence of A.J. Pollock (who was having an MVP-like impact before he broke his left thumb this week), Taijuan Walker and Robbie Ray and the puzzling slow start of Paul Goldschmidt.

So this will be an interesting series, beginning with deGrom's start opposite Zack Godley at 7:10 tonight (deGrom was pulled after 45 pitches in one inning in his first start back from a hyperextended right elbow) and lasting through a Zack Greinke-vs.-Noah Syndergaard finale on Sunday.

Anthony Castrovince has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2004. Read his columns, listen to his podcast and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince.