Rivalry Week matchups among series to watch

May 1st, 2023

While any given week will have some notable matchups to watch, this week hits different: it’s Rivalry Week. In accordance with this, MLB Network will be broadcasting each of the following games: Braves-Mets on Monday, Dodgers-Padres on Friday, Yankees-Rays on Saturday and Astros-Mariners on Saturday. Braves-Mets is the finale of a three-game series, but the other matchups are all part of series that begin this week, as all three are featured in our five series to watch during the week of May 1:

Pirates (20-9) at Rays (23-6)
3 games (Tuesday-Thursday)

Head to head: The Rays went 3-0 against the Pirates last season in Tampa, with the three wins coming by a combined four runs.

Storyline: When the MLB’s only two 20-win teams face off, the storyline writes itself. Tampa Bay’s dominant start has already been well-documented, but you might not know quite as much about the Pirates, whose 20-9 record is their best through 29 games since starting 21-8 in 1992 -- the last time they reached the NLCS.

Watch out for: . After hopping around four different franchises from 2018-22, the 36-year-old’s reunion tour in Pittsburgh is going as well as anyone could ask. His .478 slugging percentage is his highest since 2017 (.486), which happens to be his most recent season with the Pirates.

Diamondbacks (16-13) at Rangers (17-11)
2 games (Tuesday-Wednesday)

Head to head: These teams last played in 2021, when they split a two-game series in Texas, and the Rangers swept a two-game series in Arizona.

Storyline: It’s fair to call this the Surprise Series. Both of these teams finished fourth in their division last season, more than 35 games behind the winners (Astros in the AL West, Dodgers in the NL West). But both squads have turned the tide so far in 2023, each leading their division. There has never been a team in MLB’s divisional era (since 1969) to win its division one season after finishing 35-plus games out of first.

Watch out for: . Perdomo’s improvement is one of several reasons that Arizona has surged to the top of the NL West. The 23-year-old’s on-base percentage of .456 ranks fourth among all MLB players with at least 60 plate appearances.

Dodgers (16-13) at Padres (15-14)
3 games (Friday-Sunday)

Head to head: These teams have not yet played in 2023. The Dodgers dominated San Diego (and everyone else) in the 2022 regular season, winning 14 of 19 matchups. But the Padres stunned the Dodgers, 3-1, in the NLDS, earning their first NLCS appearance of the 21st century.

Storyline: Are the Padres finally not the little brother? The Padres weren’t shy about their intentions to catch the Dodgers last season, with owner Peter Seidler referring to them as “that dragon up the freeway that we’re trying to slay.” With that magical four-game stretch in October, the dragon was indeed slayed. In the teams’ first matchup since then, the Dodgers will be hungry to re-establish their dominance, perhaps adding some more notable moments to an intra-state rivalry that has been filled with them lately.

Watch out for: . Betts struggled in last season’s NLDS, finishing 2-for-14 across the four games against San Diego. And if getting revenge for last season’s playoff exit isn’t enough motivation, perhaps Betts will also be intrigued by the chance to beat his longtime Red Sox teammate: first-year Padres shortstop .

Yankees (15-14) at Rays (23-6)
3 games (Friday-Sunday)

Head to head: These teams have not yet played in 2023. The Yankees went 11-8 against the Rays in 2022.

Storyline: These are two of the three AL teams to reach each of the past four postseasons, joining the Astros. Remarkably, the Yankees and Rays have only played each other in the playoffs once in that span, when the Rays won a memorable 2020 ALDS in five games thanks to a game-winning, eighth-inning home run from  in the deciding game.

Additionally, another story worth watching out for is the status of Aaron Judge. Judge recently had an MRI for a right hip injury, and it has not yet been determined if he will be placed on the IL.

Watch out for: . Among the plethora of Rays to be having career-best seasons is Ramírez, who has broken out in his second season in Tampa. The 28-year-old is one of three Tampa Bay players to have an OPS of at least 1.000 (, ).

Astros (15-13) at Mariners (12-16)
3 games (Friday-Sunday)

Head to head: These teams have not yet played in 2023. The Astros went 12-7 against the Mariners in the 2022 regular season, and they also swept Seattle in the 2022 ALDS.

Storyline: Similar to the Padres-Dodgers dynamic, the Mariners have been chasing the juggernaut of their division for years, and they made significant progress in 2022, securing their first playoff appearance in 21 years. But unlike San Diego, they were not able to take that juggernaut down, losing the three ALDS games by a combined four runs (including a 1-0, 18-inning loss to finish the series). In their first matchup since then, Seattle will look to close the gap even further.

Watch out for: . Kelenic just might be the most improved player in MLB this season. After hitting .168 across his first two seasons, the 23-year-old has emerged with a stellar .308/.366/.615 line this season, ranking ninth among qualified hitters with a .982 OPS.