May is motoring along in Major League Baseball, and like the competitors in that famous automobile race that will be run in Indianapolis on Sunday, teams and players in the American and National Leagues are starting to speed ahead from the rest of the pack.Wheels will be rolling all over
May is motoring along in Major League Baseball, and like the competitors in that famous automobile race that will be run in Indianapolis on Sunday, teams and players in the American and National Leagues are starting to speed ahead from the rest of the pack.
Wheels will be rolling all over the sports landscape in the week ahead, and to take a look at what's next over the next seven days on the diamond is to pay close attention to some seriously spectacular streaks.
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The one garnering the most attention is the 27-game hitting tear that Red Sox outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. brings into the week.
Bradley's single to right field off Danny Salazar in the fifth inning during Boston's 5-2 win at home vs. Cleveland on Sunday got him within one game of completing exactly one half of Joe DiMaggio's record of hitting safely in 56 games, accomplished 75 years ago in 1941.
"I focus on having a great at-bat and letting the guys behind me take care of the rest," Bradley said.
The approach has served him well. He's now seven games from the Red Sox-record streak of 34 by Dom DiMaggio, and if he gets a hit Tuesday, he'll tie Wade Boggs (1985) at 28.
Bradley will have to hope that a Monday off-day for his club, which is tied for first place with Baltimore in the AL East, won't make him superstitious or somehow conspire to chill his everyday vibe when Tuesday comes along.
The Red Sox at least get to stay at Fenway Park and host the Rockies for three games before heading north of the border for a three-pack against Toronto over the weekend.
Meanwhile, Bradley isn't the only player whose every inning is worth following these days. Take the duo of Chicago aces, Jake Arrieta of the Cubs and Chris Sale of the White Sox.
Right-hander Arrieta is 8-0 with a 1.29 ERA, and Sale is 9-0 with a 1.58 ERA. That's 17-0 from the two No. 1 starters of the two Windy City teams that are leading their divisions in 2016.
Arrieta is coming off a ho-hum-for-him Friday night victory over the Cardinals, in which he gave up one run in seven innings and struck out eight. He's 24-1 since last June 21 and his team has won in each of his past 22 starts.
Sale is coming off two consecutive complete games, and his opposing batting average of .163 is the second lowest after nine starts to open a season in team history.
"I just try to go out and do my job every fifth day," Sale said. "That's all I'm trying to do."
Sale should get to do that twice this week, both against tough AL Central pursuers. He's slated for a Tuesday night start at home against the Indians and their 2014 AL Cy Young Award winner, Corey Kluber, and he'll face the Royals in Kansas City on Sunday.
Arrieta, meanwhile, is a likely Wednesday starter at St. Louis, where he's expected to face Cardinals right-hander Carlos Martinez.
Elsewhere around the league, there are more marvelous matchups on tap this week.
The Mets and Nationals will hook up again in their ongoing and always-interesting battle for the top spot in the NL East, and they'll do it from Monday to Wednesday in Washington.
Over the course of the next seven days, we'll also take in the intriguing and aforementioned get-togethers of Cubs-Cardinals (Monday-Wednesday), White Sox-Royals (Thursday-Sunday) and Red Sox-Blue Jays (Friday-Sunday).
We'll also be treated to the second rematch of the 2015 NL Division Series between the Dodgers and Mets (this one in New York over the weekend) in recent weeks, and a tasty little three-game set between AL contenders Baltimore and Cleveland from Friday to Sunday in Progressive Field.
A few teams are due to get help from impact players returning from injury in the week ahead, with the possible activation of Devon Travis by the Blue Jays and Alex Rodriguez by the Yankees.
And there's Interleague intrigue for the weekend, too, with the Pirates heading to Texas to play the Rangers, who are expecting to get one of their aces, Yu Darvish, back on the mound Saturday.
Darvish hasn't pitched this year and missed all of last year because of Tommy John surgery, but his rehab has been slow, smooth and successful so far. The Rangers can only hope that his return helps them get past the first-place Mariners and on to their second straight division title.
Darvish topped out at 96 mph in his Sunday rehab finale against Triple-A competition. This week, he should be ready to get back on a big league mound, and he was asked how he believes he'll fare.
"It's kind of hard to tell right now," Darvish said. "I have to pitch against [Major Leaguers] in reality. I feel like I'm good to go."
Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @DougMillerMLB.