When the Mets and Nationals played each other eight days ago, it was the first indication that the National League East might end up being a far different race than it was projected to be.Is it time to recast the whole thing, given what we've seen of the Mets and
When the Mets and Nationals played each other eight days ago, it was the first indication that the National League East might end up being a far different race than it was projected to be.
Is it time to recast the whole thing, given what we've seen of the Mets and Nationals as well as the Phillies and Braves? OK, let's not get too far out in front of ourselves. Instead, we'll just say that the Nationals-Mets series beginning tonight at Citi Field is going to be a litmus test for both clubs.
That's the beauty of a sport in which the story unfolds in layers, a day, a week and a month at a time. Some managers have schedules mapped out in chunks, setting goals for each.
We prefer small plates. So with that approach, let's look at the most intriguing matchup every day this week. (Note: All times Eastern, national broadcast listed where applicable. The rest are available on MLB.TV.).
MONDAY: Nationals at Mets (7:10 p.m., MLB.TV)
Well, now. Who saw this coming? The Mets are a team without a weakness -- bullpen, rotation, offense -- as the Nationals have stumbled out of the gate, including getting swept at home against New York in the first series of the season against their division rivals. The Nats' injury list is long, their offense spotty.
While it would be silly to paint this series as critical, two dynamics make it interesting: (1) The Nationals were such huge preseason NL East favorites that the pressure on them to take control ratchets up day by day. (2) Meanwhile, the Mets are gaining confidence day by day, and already have a seven-game edge on Washington in the loss column, with Jacob deGrom lined up for Monday
TUESDAY: Red Sox at Angels (10:07 p.m., MLB Network, MLB.TV)
Here we have a matchup of the American League's two best records as well as baseball's most intriguing player (Shohei Ohtani), and it does not get any better than this. Ohtani will be making his third start on the mound after winning his first two in dominant fashion, striking out 18 in 13 innings while allowing just three earned runs. Did we mention that he hits, too? Ohtani has three home runs and a .367 batting average in 33 plate appearances as the Angels' DH. The Halos have led the Majors in runs scored most of the season and should get a good test from Red Sox lefty David Price, who has a 1.00 WHIP, but left his last start with numbness in his hand.
WEDNESDAY: Indians-Twins in San Juan, P.R. (7 p.m., ESPN)
Twins right-hander Jose Berrios will get the start back in his homeland in what surely will be one of the most memorable moments of his young career. This trip home is filled with meaning, one of them being pitching in 18,000-seat Hiram Bithorn Stadium, where his hero, Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente, also played. Beyond that, Berrios is hoping the trip will be another building block in helping Puerto Rico get back on its feet after the devastation suffered by Hurricane Maria.
THURSDAY: Astros at Mariners (3:40 p.m., MLB.TV)
The Astros won 14 of 19 games against the Mariners last season, including seven of nine at Safeco Field. But Seattle is off to its best start since 2009, and this matchup will offer a sort of early indicator about its ability to make the AL West a three-team race with the Angels and Astros.
FRIDAY: Nationals at Dodgers (10:10 p.m., MLB.TV)
The Dodgers have won 12 of 18 regular-season games against the Nationals the last three seasons and won a deciding Game 5 in the 2017 NL Division Series. Both teams are expected to be back in the postseason, but each club has started slowly thanks to a combination of injuries and slumps. This is one of the series that gives both teams a chance to right the ship, and Max Scherzer is lined up to face Rich Hill in this one.
SATURDAY: Blue Jays at Yankees (1:05 p.m., MLB Network, MLB.TV)
The Blue Jays are the better team at the moment -- better bullpen, better rotation. That's not how the AL East is expected to play out, with three teams -- Red Sox, Yankees, Blue Jays -- possibly headed to the postseason. But it's an AL East series in April at Yankee Stadium, and what's better than that?
SUNDAY: Pirates at Phillies (1:35 p.m., MLB.TV)
These are two of baseball's most pleasant surprises in 2018. The Pirates have ridden a hot offense and solid starting rotation into contention. Outfielder Corey Dickerson has been one of the smartest pickups of the offseason. The Phillies have been one of baseball's hottest teams since shaking off a 2-4 start. Left fielder Rhys Hoskins is building on his strong finish to '17.
Richard Justice has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2011. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @RichardJustice.