12 Jul MLB Weekend Series To Watch
Lou Landers – @realSportsCrew
I hope everyone enjoyed the all-star break and the all-star festivities. Kudos to Aaron Judge for winning the 2017 Home Run Derby. I have 3 weekend series to discuss here today, all of which have playoff implications. These series and a whole lot more baseball talk was discussed this week on the MLB Diamond Dash Podcast which you can listen to right here.
New York Yankees @ Boston Red Sox
This is known as the greatest rivalry in professional sports. It also marks the first time in years that these teams have been 1st and 2nd place in the division, this late into a season. The series is set to take place in Fenway Park starting on Friday night and will be a 4-game set, featuring a double header on Sunday.
There is no secret that the Yankees limped into the all-star break after a horrible June and first half of July. They have reinforcements on the way back though. Starlin Castro and Matt Holiday will be back in the lineup on Friday, which should give a big boost to the Yankees lineup. Pitching has been a serious issue for the Yankees over the past couple of months and the time off that the players are getting might just be exactly what they need to back into the similar form they were in earlier this season. With the trade deadline fast approaching, don’t be surprised if the Yankees add some pitching.
The Red Sox were the favorites in the AL East entering the season, currently sit in 1st place and are still the favorites to win the division. It seems like the David Ortiz retirement hangover has finally worn off as the Red Sox lineup has finally come alive over the past 6 weeks. Of course, their SP and bullpen has played a big role in their surge up the standings. Chris Sale and been phenomenal for them, and with Rick Porcello and David Price starting to turn the corner, this Red Sox ball club is set up for tremendous success in the 2nd half of the season. Their one weakness is at 3B and they could use an additional bullpen piece as well. This series promises to have a playoff atmosphere even though it’s only July and it is time for one of these teams to make a statement. Can the Yankees get out of their funk or will Boston take a strangle hold of them?
Texas Rangers @ Kansas City Royals
Both of these teams began the season struggling to find ways to win. Texas had bullpen issues and their lineup seemed lost without Adrian Beltre. Kansas City wasn’t hitting, had no SP and were already talking about being sellers at this years trade deadline.
Texas is now right back in the thick of the playoff race. Although it is unlikely that they can win the AL West with how well Houston is playing, they currently find themselves just a couple games back of one of the two wild card spots in the American League. Yu Darvish has been healthy, Cole Hamels is back and this Texas ball club is one to look out for in the 2nd half of the season. They have all the talent in the world offensively, have a number of great pieces in their bullpen and could be 1 SP away from getting back to the postseason again in 2017. There is no doubt that they will be buyers at the deadline, it will come down to what they are willing to give up to get a SP.
The Royals, similarly to the Rangers have fought and clawed their way back into the American League playoff hunt. They currently sit right behind Minnesota and Tampa for the 2nd Wild Card spot and are within 3 games of the AL Central leading Indians. They did get swept by the Dodgers in the final series before the break, but I wouldn’t look into that too much. The Dodgers have been beating up on everyone since the end of April. The next 2 weeks will be crucial for the Royals, seeing that they have a number of key players who are set to hit the open market this winter and will have to make a decision on whether to buy, sell or stand pat. Their play over the next 2 weeks may be the determining factor. For now, they have considered themselves to be buyers, and a big series win against Texas this weekend could keep them on that path.
Minnesota Twins @ Houston Astros
In my opinion, this is a battle of teams heading in opposite directions. Although the Twins were one of the bigger surprises of the first half, I don’t expect them to remain relevant in the playoff race in the second half. Houston on the other hand has the best record in the American League and a double digit lead on the next closest team in the AL West division.
Minnesota is a young, up and coming team that still lacks consistency in their lineup and a reliable pitching staff. They have gotten incredible production from veteran Ervin Santana and young fire baller Jose Berrios but both are due to regress in the 2nd half of the season. They are in a tough spot here in Minnesota because although they are currently in the hunt, they aren’t expected to stay there and they have 2 big trade pieces that they could get great return on in a couple weeks. The first is a player I already mentioned in Ervin Santana and the second player is 2B Brian Dozier who was rumored to be on the trade block before the season even began. If they get swept this weekend by the Astros and continue to fall in the standings afterwards, don’t be surprised if they become sellers rather than buyers.
Like Minnesota, Houston is also a very young ball club. The difference is, Houston’s youngsters have all seemed to established themselves as all-star caliber players. Players like Springer and Correa are only getting started now and Jose Altuve has proven time and time again that he is one of the best hitters in MLB. The bullpen is lights out with Giles, Harris and Gregerson, and when they get Keuchel back in their rotation, this team has all the talent they need to cruise in the 2nd half of the year and be playoff bound. The missing link for the Astros would be one more reliable SP to slot in behind Keuchel and McCullers. They may be surviving the season with out one, but come playoff time when they battle the best offenses in the league, having that 3rd big time SP could make all the difference. I expect the Astros to be very active at the trade deadline, knowing that their chances to go all the way are at an all-time high.