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2 big rivalries, phenom highlight weekend slate

June 15, 2018

Before you rush out to buy that last-minute bottle of cologne or striped tie or Bartolo Colon shirsey for the special dad in your life, here are five topics to track on this Father's Day weekend in Major League Baseball.1. Soto act: Juan Soto has only played 20 Major League

Before you rush out to buy that last-minute bottle of cologne or striped tie or Bartolo Colon shirsey for the special dad in your life, here are five topics to track on this Father's Day weekend in Major League Baseball.
1. Soto act: Juan Soto has only played 20 Major League games. And for that matter, Juan Soto is not yet 20 years old. But that hasn't stopped him from already logging his first multi-homer game. He became the fifth-youngest player in history to achieve the feat with his two-homer night at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday.
"Solo" is one of the biggest movies at the box office, and Soto is one of the hottest hitters in the batter's box. He takes the show to Canadian soil this weekend, as the Nationals open a weekend set with the Blue Jays at 7:07 p.m. ET tonight at Rogers Centre.
In 76 trips to the plate, Soto has a .344/.447/.641 slash with five homers and four doubles. Perhaps most impressively, he's drawn more walks (12) than strikeouts (11). Shohei Ohtani's injury only casts more light on what a rookie sensation this kid has become. He began the year at Class A, but his game definitely translates to the bigs. And this weekend, we'll see how it translates north of the border.

Listen: Morning Lineup Podcast on Soto shining for Nationals
2. Wacha Wacha: As rivalries go, the Cubs and Cardinals is pretty high up there. And as current pitching matchups go, Jonathan Lester and Michael Wacha is pretty high up there, too. That's what we get in tonight's MLB Network Showcase -- the 8:15 p.m. ET opener of a three-game set at Busch Stadium.
We've long known Lester is special, and the veteran is on pace for one of the best seasons of his stellar career. He hasn't allowed a run in his last two starts, both of which covered seven innings. And his 2.22 ERA and 187 ERA+ are on pace to be the best marks of his career.
Wacha has been the bigger revelation. His role as a rising rookie during the Cards' 2013 run to the World Series feels so long ago, because shoulder issues hampered his promising career. But Wacha is finally healthy and consistent enough to have the kind of elite season we felt he was capable of back then. He's won his last eight decisions, taking a 2.47 ERA and 157 ERA+ into this one.

The Cubs and Cards are both trying to run down the Brewers in the National League Central for what figures to be a fascinating race the rest of the way. They'll wrap up this weekend set on ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball.
3. Emerald City intrigue: Out at Safeco Field, the Red Sox and Mariners continue their four-game set that began Thursday and could, for all we know, function as an October preview. The season is long, of course, but it's becoming increasingly difficult to doubt this Seattle club that has been so good in one-run games (21-10) and in clutch situations (.838 team OPS in what Baseball Reference defines as "high leverage" moments). The Mariners might be baseball's most fascinating team at the moment, trying to end North American professional sports' longest postseason drought with a club that is surviving injury and suspension adversity with unique late-inning exploits.
Series like this allow the M's to test their mettle against some of the toughest competition the league has to offer. And right now, the toughest pitcher to face might actually be knuckleballer Steven Wright. He takes a 22 2/3 consecutive scoreless-innings streak into Saturday's 8:15 p.m. ET start opposite Wade LeBlanc, who has been terrific since moving from the Seattle bullpen to the rotation (2.45 ERA in eight starts). Tune in to see if Wright can blank -- or, perhaps we should say "LeBlanc" -- another opponent.

  1. Giant opportunity: The Dodgers' ups, downs and injuries have created what many would call an unexpected opportunity in the NL West this season. Unexpected performances from the likes of Matt Kemp, Player Page for Max Muncy and Thomas Stripling have ensured the Dodgers remain relevant. But continued depth-testers like the loss of Walker Buehler -- the rookie starter who had done so much to stabilize a Clayton Kershaw-less rotation in recent weeks -- to a small fracture in his rib, continues to leave the Dodgers a bit more vulnerable than they've been in some time.

Alas, the Giants have had trouble seizing the moment this year. Just when their season trajectory appeared to be pointing distinctly up, with Madison Bumgarner returning to the rotation, they dropped three games in Miami this week and lost Evan Longoria to a broken hand. And that's part of a trend in which they've gone just 15-24 on the road, versus a 19-11 mark at home. A 10-game homestand against the Marlins, Padres and Rockies beckons, but first the Giants will arrive to Dodger Stadium tonight for a three-game set against their longtime foes. Right now, the D-backs are on top of the division, but, in the compact NL West, these division tussles take on added prominence.
The series begins at 10:10 p.m. ET with Derek Holland opposing Stripling, who has inserted himself into the All-Star conversation. Bumgarner goes Saturday at 8:15 p.m. opposite Alex Wood.
5. Our Fathers: Hey, what do you call a Baltimore baseball player who has a child?
"Daddy O."
Well, that joke was absolutely terrible, but what MLB does to help the fight against prostate cancer every year is great. Once again this Father's Day, players, managers and coaches will be wearing specially designed blue caps that will be available to purchase at and at the ballparks, with 100 percent of the proceeds going to support the Prostate Cancer Foundation and Stand Up To Cancer.
It is a particularly good day to watch, say, Clay Bellinger's son, Cody, play at Dodger Stadium or Tom Gordon's son, Dee, face the Red Sox at Safeco Field or Mickey Brantley's son, Michael, suit up for the Indians against the Twins at Progressive Field or Lance McCullers pitch for the Astros against the Royals at Kauffman Stadium. But whatever you watch, try to keep the dad jokes to a minimum.

Anthony Castrovince has been a reporter for since 2004. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince.