Another week brings another set of strong matchups to keep your eye on -- several of which could shake things up at the top of a tightly contested division. Here are five series to have your eye on for the week of June 12, including three intradivision matchups, a faceoff between two of baseball’s most dynamic players and the first entry into the 2023 Subway Series.
Angels (36-31) at Rangers (41-23)
4 games (Monday-Thursday)
Head-to-head: The first-place Rangers have absolutely steamrolled their division rivals in 2023, posting a 14-5 record against all AL West opponents. In the first meeting between the clubs in early May, the Rangers took two of three from the Angels, outscoring them in the series by a margin of 30-14.
Storyline: Yet again, we have to ask -- is Texas the best team in the American League? The Rangers, whose 41 wins through their first 64 games set a new franchise record, haven't found themselves in first place this late into the season since they won the AL West in 2016, and despite the Rays’ absurd head start, they now boast the best run differential in baseball, with a number of key players heating up in recent weeks.
Watch out for: Corey Seager and Marcus Semien -- two of the aforementioned keys to the Rangers’ success. Since Seager's return from the injured list on May 17, he's hitting .348 with six home runs and 29 RBIs. Meanwhile, after a down season in his first year with the Rangers, Semien has been the picture of consistency in the leadoff spot in 2023, ranking fourth in baseball in hits (79) and fifth in RBIs (51).
Phillies (32-33) at D-backs (40-25)
4 games (Monday-Thursday)
Head-to-head: They split their head-to-head matchups in 2022, but in recent history, things have been a bit lopsided between these two clubs -- the Phillies just barely avoided a sweep at the hands of the D-backs last month and haven’t won a season series against them since 2015.
Storyline: You’d have been hard-pressed to find an analyst who had the D-backs winning the NL West in March. But at the end of play Sunday, they sit in first, 3.5 games up on the Dodgers, tied for the best record in the National League.
Watch out for: Two of baseball’s most exciting players, Trea Turner and Corbin Carroll, are squaring off in this one -- and if you blink, you might miss them. They rank third and fourth in MLB in sprint speed, respectively, and while you’re probably already familiar with Turner and his slick slides, there's a chance this could be your first look at the rookie Carroll, who leads his team in both home runs (13) and stolen bases (19).
Yankees (38-29) at Mets (31-35)
2 games (Tuesday-Wednesday)
Head-to-head: While the Yankees boast a .565 regular-season winning percentage against the Mets, the clubs have been remarkably well-matched in recent years, splitting the Subway Series in four of the last five seasons (2018-20, ‘22).
Storyline: Both clubs are 9.5 games out of first place in their respective divisions -- despite that, they’re trending in opposite directions. The Yankees have recovered from a lackluster start to the season, putting up the third-best record in the American League since May 1 (23-14). Across town, the Mets have only just recovered from a brutal seven-game losing streak that highlighted weaknesses in their lineup and exposed the back end of their bullpen.
Watch out for: With both Aaron Judge and Pete Alonso hitting the injured list this past week, neither lineup will feature its premier power hitter. But if it’s home runs you’re after, look to the Mets’ rookie backstop, Francisco Alvarez, who already has 12 through his first 43 games. His rate of 11.67 at bats per home run ranks fourth among players with at least 100 at-bats this season, just behind Judge (9.2), Alonso (10.4) and Max Muncy (11.61).
Blue Jays (37-30) at Orioles (41-24)
3 games (Tuesday-Thursday)
Head-to-head: The Orioles have resumed giving their division rivals a run for their money. The Blue Jays went 14-5 against the Orioles in 2021, then barely edged them out in 2022, taking 10 of 19 head-to-head matchups. In their first meeting of 2023, Baltimore swept Toronto with three come-from-behind wins, two in extras.
Storyline: Despite all the talk of the AL East’s dominance through the first two months of the season, the Blue Jays were notably absent from those conversations. While the Orioles, Rays, Red Sox and Yankees had a cumulative .580 win percentage in May, the Blue Jays lagged behind, going 11-17 (.393). June has been a different story. They’re now 8-3 this month, and the Orioles, despite their strong record, once again have something to be concerned about in the Blue Jays.
Watch out for: The headlines out of the Blue Jays’ rotation recently have revolved around the struggles and subsequent demotion of Alek Manoah, but José Berríos, in line to get the start Wednesday, deserves some attention. The right-hander, who seemed on track for another rough season after coming out of his first two starts with an 11.17 ERA, is 6-2 with a 2.53 ERA in his last 11.
Pirates (34-30) at Brewers (34-32)
3 games (Friday-Sunday)
Head-to-head: The overall head-to-head between the division rivals leans heavily in favor of Milwaukee, especially recently -- since 2019, the Brewers have a 45-22 record (.672) against the Pirates.
Storyline: The clubs that have been tussling for NL Central dominance all year will meet for the first time in 2023 at a perfect time -- as of Sunday, despite some recent hiccups, the Brewers are just a game back of the Pirates in a division that, given the persistent struggles of the Cardinals and Cubs, is entirely up for grabs.
Watch out for: Ke'Bryan Hayes. Despite how little his bat factored into the Pirates' strong start, the 26-year-old has been a force of nature of late, going 17-for-37 (.483) with a 1.270 OPS in June. Given his incredible defense at third base (his +10 Outs Above Average lead MLB), a red-hot Hayes is a veritable one-man show.