We've got a lot of the Detroit Tigers on the menu this week, which tells you the American League Central race hasn't unfolded the way some of us predicted. That's a good thing, right?We've also got baseball's second-most famous two-way player on the schedule and a series in which the
We've got a lot of the Detroit Tigers on the menu this week, which tells you the American League Central race hasn't unfolded the way some of us predicted. That's a good thing, right?
We've also got baseball's second-most famous two-way player on the schedule and a series in which the Seattle Mariners could make a significant statement to the defending World Series champions. Let's run down the week and come up with the best game of each day:
Monday: Yankees at Tigers doubleheader (1:10 and 7:10 p.m. ET, MLB Network first game, MLB.TV both games)
The Tigers have played very good baseball for a couple of weeks and also have the No. 1 pick in the Draft on Monday. Regardless, there's no better test than playing the Yankees twice. With young players dotting the roster, Detroit has closed the gap on the Indians in the AL Central. Right fielder Nicholas Castellanos is playing the best baseball of his young career, and third baseman Jeimer Candelario and righty Joe Jimenez are establishing themselves as potential cornerstones for the future.
Tuesday: Rays at Nationals (7:05 p.m. ET, MLB.TV)
If it's Tuesday, it must be Max Scherzer's pitching day. On Saturday afternoon in Atlanta, he showed that he's not just a one-trick pony when he came off the bench to deliver a pinch-hit single in the 14th inning, then scored what turned out to be the winning run on a triple by Wilmer Difo. His pitching is going well, too. He leads the National League with 13.6 K/9, 0.85 WHIP and nine victories. He's the frontrunner to become the fifth pitcher in history to win four Cy Young Awards.
Wednesday: Mariners at Astros (8:10 p.m. ET, MLB.TV)
The Mariners have been one of baseball's hottest teams over the last three weeks, thanks mostly to a pitching staff that has been baseball's best. At a time when the Astros' bullpen has had a couple of hiccups, the Mariners have established themselves as a serious postseason contender. As for the defending champs, the Astros are finding that life after a magical season is tougher with a big fat bullseye on their backs.
Thursday: Phillies at Cubs (2:20 p.m. ET, MLB.TV)
The Cubs have looked like a complete team lately with runs coming in bunches and a pitching staff having its best stretch of the season. But the Brewers, Cardinals and Pirates have made the NL Central a lot tougher -- and a lot more interesting -- than some of us predicted. For the Phillies, the bats have gone quiet this past weekend in San Francisco. Wrigley Field will be the final stop on a 10-game, three-city trip that began with series against the Dodgers and Giants.
Friday: Yankees at Mets (7:10 p.m. ET, MLB Network and MLB.TV)
Let's be honest about this series. You pretend you don't care. You're out in Dallas or Phoenix, and what do you care about the Yankees and Mets? But we do care. Plenty of baseball fans do. There's a little extra vibe in the crowds, especially at Citi Field, and at a time when the Mets are hit hard by injuries and fighting to remain competitive in the NL East, this series has something extra on the line.
Saturday: D-backs at Rockies (7:15 p.m. ET, FOX)
These two teams have spent virtually the entire season atop the NL West as the Dodgers and Giants have fought through injuries and slumps. The D-backs and Rockies haven't met since Arizona won two of three at Chase Field to open the season. They'll play three this weekend, then three more at Coors Field shortly before the All-Star break.
Sunday: Braves at Dodgers (4:10 p.m. ET, MLB.TV)
The Dodgers have played their best baseball of the season since Justin Turner's return three weeks ago, but with star shortstop Corey Seager out for the season and ace Clayton Kershaw sidelined indefinitely with a back problem, the Dodgers have been tested again and again. The Braves have cooled off since their fast start, but they haven't been more than 1 1/2 games out of first place since late April.
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.