Behold, a weekend slate in which every Major League team is in action (weather permitting) today, Saturday and Sunday!This wouldn't ordinarily qualify as a significant scheduling situation, but we've been eased into the 2018 season with a scattered sked featuring some odd Friday and Sunday off-days.No more of that. From
Behold, a weekend slate in which every Major League team is in action (weather permitting) today, Saturday and Sunday!
This wouldn't ordinarily qualify as a significant scheduling situation, but we've been eased into the 2018 season with a scattered sked featuring some odd Friday and Sunday off-days.
No more of that. From now on, the weekends are as they ought to be. So here are five hot topics to track this weekend in a packed MLB slate that will be capped by Sunday's celebration across the baseball universe of the 71st anniversary of Jackie Robinson's debut with the Dodgers.
1. One after .909
You don't have to be a superfan like Jerry Seinfeld to appreciate what the Amazin' Mets are up to. They take a .909 winning percentage and eight-game winning streak into a home set against the Brewers this weekend, beginning with Friday's 7:10 p.m. ET opener pitting Steven Matz against Zach Davies.
We knew the Mets could have a great rotation if everybody stayed healthy, but the real revelation in the early going is how good the bullpen has been. Sparked by closer Jeurys Familia and the successful conversion of Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman, the Mets' relief group has compiled a 1.49 ERA with 51 strikeouts in 42 1/3 innings. That's juxtaposed against a Brewers bullpen that is trying to piece things together without closer Corey Knebel (hamstring). Milwaukee blew the first save opportunities after Knebel's injury, but Matt Albers was able to close it out in a series win over St. Louis on Wednesday.
The Mets and Brewers were billed as National League Wild Card contenders going into the year. Right now, the Mets in particular look like much more than that.
2. Ohtani, of course
What are you doing Sunday at 2:15 p.m. ET? Brunch with friends? Cancel it. Yoga class? Skip it. Your child's birthday party? Reschedule it.
Shohei Sundays are quickly becoming appointment viewing in MLB. Sunday might be a day of rest for some, but for Shohei Ohtani the Pitcher, it's the day of work. His outing in Kansas City will mark his third consecutive Sunday start. Ohtani brilliantly carved up the A's for seven shutout innings last Sunday, retiring the first 19 batters he faced. Yes, the league will adjust to him, but if he's going to keep throwing triple-digit heat on the black with a sick splitter -- and we haven't even seen the best out of his breaking pitches yet -- his early success on the mound is no fluke. Oakland had the unfortunate assignment of facing Ohtani in consecutive weeks. Now it's the Royals' turn. And as Ohtani brings his act to Missouri this weekend, it's time to put the "Sho" in "Show Me State."
3. Touch of Goldy
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the D-backs' 9-3 start is that they banked the majority of those wins without much impact from their perennial NL MVP Award candidate, Paul Goldschmidt. And now Goldy's getting hot. He went 5-for-12 with two homers, a double and a triple in a series win over San Francisco this week, just in time for what already rates as an interesting weekend set at Dodger Stadium.
The Dodgers, clear favorites in the NL West, have had some stumbles with Justin Turner out of their lineup, and the D-backs' scorching start has allowed Arizona to obtain an early advantage in a daunting division. As Goldschmidt begins to find his level -- closing the gap between his current .799 OPS and his career .929 OPS -- the D-backs could be all the more dangerous. It's Zack Greinke opposite Kenta Maeda in the series opener tonight (10:10 p.m.), and of course Dodger Stadium will be at the center of the Jackie Robinson Day festivities on Sunday.
4. Tai one on
Fan angst in the Steel City was understandable when the Pirates parted with Gerrit Cole and Andrew McCutchen this offseason, but a surprisingly strong start has at least brought some good baseball vibes back to the Burgh. Whether the Bucs can turn early-April awesomeness into something stable is something only the 162-game schedule can decide, but a weekend set in Miami affords them a good opportunity to put a couple more Ws in the bank and affords us an opportunity to watch their burgeoning ace in action.
Jameson Taillon -- a survivor not just of Tommy John surgery but testicular cancer -- came into this season determined to display the strength he's gained from adversity. He comes into his third start of the season Saturday (7:10 p.m. ET) at Marlins Park with a 2-0 record, 1.26 ERA and dazzling 0.49 WHIP through his first 14 1/3 innings. Time will determine whether the Pirates are legit, but Taillon's advanced command makes him the real deal.
5. Legends never die
Bartolo Colon and Justin Verlander scoff at the pitcher attrition rate that has claimed so many others in their line of work. These are indefatigable arms doing awesome things well past their perceived primes, and they'll oppose each other on ESPN's "Sunday Night Baseball" when the Rangers and Astros wrap up their weekend set at 8:08 p.m. ET Sunday night at Minute Maid Park.
Verlander seemed to be experiencing an age- and innings-related fade back in his age-31 season in 2014, but he's rebounded in a big way and been especially invigorated by joining the Astros, padding what is looking more and more like a Hall of Fame résumé.
And Colon? Heck, people thought he was done as far back as Verlander's rookie year in 2006. But Big Sexy keeps on keeping on, and after he pitched three solid innings of relief for the Rangers on the day Texas placed Doug Fister on the disabled list, the team announced Colon will be rejoining its rotation with Sunday's start.
The 44-year-old Colon and the 35-year-old Verlander own a combined 5,890 regular-season innings in the bigs. Here's to many more.
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.