Our week begins with America's first baseman -- Paul Goldschmidt, one of the hottest hitters on the planet -- leading the D-backs into a big series, and it ends with a pair of rivalries that are more than a century old.We've got other important division matchups on the calendar this
Our week begins with America's first baseman -- Paul Goldschmidt, one of the hottest hitters on the planet -- leading the D-backs into a big series, and it ends with a pair of rivalries that are more than a century old.
We've got other important division matchups on the calendar this week and a Nationals-Yankees series we're calling "Our Latest World Series Preview" and "This Time We Mean It." Or to put it another way: This is a great week to be a baseball fan.
Let's run through it and find our favorite game each day:
MONDAY: Pirates at D-backs (9:40 p.m. ET, MLB.TV)
In terms of the standings, the best game tonight is probably Cubs-Brewers, with Chicago currently a half-game behind Milwaukee in the NL Central standings as the two teams begin a three-game set. But let's take a minute to marvel at Goldschmidt, the perennial All-Star turning his season around.
Goldschmidt was hitting .198 three weeks ago. Hey, every player goes through tough times. Only thing is, Goldschmidt has had very few of them since he made the first of five consecutive All-Star Games five years ago. The D-backs figured it was just a matter of time, and it was. Goldschmidt is hitting .417 with seven doubles and seven home runs in his last 15 games. Arizona has won nine of 12 behind Goldschmidt's surge.
TUESDAY: Nationals at Yankees (7:05 p.m. ET, MLB.TV)
Sure, we've set up about four other series as possible World Series previews, but this time we really mean it. Perhaps more interesting than what happens on the field is that the Nationals and Yankees have suffered injuries to their rotations and could be competing for the same starting pitchers in the trade market. That means you, Cole Hamels.
WEDNESDAY: Angels at Mariners (4:10 p.m. ET, MLB Live on Facebook Watch)
These two teams could easily end up fighting for one available American League postseason berth, that is, if you buy into the projections that the Astros will win the AL West and that the AL East runner-up will get one of the two Wild Card spots. The Angels and Mariners have ridden solid starting pitching into contention, and this game features two of their best: Angels ace Garrett Richards against Mariners lefty Marco Gonzales, who is healthy and pitching the way the M's believed he could when they sent outfield prospect Tyler O'Neill to the Cardinals for him.
THURSDAY: Rockies at Phillies (1:05 p.m. ET, MLB.TV)
These two teams are bunched in such tight division races that a series like this could end up having huge postseason implications, either by impacting the National League East or NL West races and helping determine the two NL Wild Card teams. Neither Colorado nor Philadelphia have played well this month, which cranks up the pressure on both.
FRIDAY: Giants at Dodgers (10:10 p.m. ET, MLB.TV)
These teams have a history. OK, you probably are aware of that. You're probably aware that the Dodgers and Giants have won the NL West seven times in the last eight seasons, including a string of five in a row by the Dodgers. While Los Angeles is a solid favorite to make it six in a row despite a long injury list, San Francisco has worked its way back into the middle of the postseason conversation.
SATURDAY: Cubs at Cardinals (8:15 p.m. ET, MLB.TV)
The Cubs have been baseball's best teams over the past five weeks, but they enter play on Monday trailing the first-place Brewers by a half-game. That's partly because the North Siders started slowly, and partly because the Cardinals and Brewers appear to be plenty good enough to make the postseason, if not make a run at the NL Central. Few things in baseball are better than a summer in which both the Cubs and Cardinals are competitive.
SUNDAY: Twins at Indians (1:10 p.m. ET, MLB.TV)
The Indians are going to win the AL Central by a wide margin. Aren't they? I mean, it's what everyone has said since the first day of Spring Training. How can a team with all that starting pitching and offense not win? For one thing, the Twins are in a win-now mode. For another, the Indians have some bullpen issues to sort out. As long as the Indians allow the Twins to stay within shouting distance, their confidence that they're good enough to finish the deal will continue to grow.
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.