26 Jul MLB Weekend Series To Watch: Week 17
By: Lou Landers – @realSportsCrew
These three weekend series feature teams who are either currently in a playoff spot or just on the outside looking in. Check out the MLB Diamond Dash Podcast where we break down these series and a whole lot more. You can listen at 2pm EST on Wednesday, July 26th or at anytime after. The show can be heard right here.
Washington Nationals @ Colorado Rockies
This weekend series is a battle of two ball clubs who appear to be playoff bound in the National League. The Nationals have a healthy lead in the National League East Division and the Rockies appear to have a strangle hold on one of the two NL Wild Cards spots. Neither team has avoided slumps, however.
The Nationals have recently lost SP’s Joe Ross and Stephen Strasburg which means they may be on the prowl to acquire another SP as the non-waiver trade deadline quickly approaches. They have already made a big trade to shore up the back end of their bullpen, acquiring Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson from the Oakland Athletics. This offense has also had it’s fair share of injuires; going all the way back to May when they lost CF Adam Eaton for the year. Since then, they have seen OF Jayson Werth miss time along with young SS Trea Turner. Again, they have found a way to overcome all these injuries because they play in the weak NL East. Come playoff time however, this team may be doomed if they don’t get their players back healthy or make another trade to add depth. This weekend series in Colorado against a playoff caliber team will be a big test for the Nats.
The Rockies started the season as one of the hottest teams in MLB. Since then, they have seen the Dodgers pull ahead of them in the NL West Division and at one time found themselves looking up at the Diamondbacks as well. Their struggles seemed to stem from an all rookie SP staff and lack of production from hitters such as Trevor Story and Carlos Gonzalez. The Rockies now have Jon Gray and Tyler Chatwood back in their SP rotation and have seen Story and Gonzalez pick up their play in the month of July. Although they don’t have much of a chance to catch the Dodgers in this division, they still have to try and fight off the Diamondbacks for the first Wild Card spot as well as the Brewers or Cubs (whichever one of them doesn’t win the NL Central). This will be a tough test for them this weekend against the Nationals, but also provide them with some much needed confidence if they’re able to win this series.
Tampa Bay Rays @ New York Yankees
This is another battle of two teams who are currently in the playoff hunt. Both are within reach of the AL East Division leading Red Sox and are currently Wild Card favorites. The AL East appears to be a 3 team race and this weekend matchup could enable one of them to emerge as the obvious favorite to run down the Red Sox.
The Rays have been a pleasant surprise this season in the American League after finishing dead last in the East in 2016. They have a very strong rotation, quite possibly the deepest in the AL. They have gotten unexpected production in their lineup from Corey Dickerson, Logan Morrison and Steven Souza which has helped them stick around in the playoff hunt. The one weakness on this team, even with Brad Boxburger and Alex Colome, is their bullpen. They have been linked to a number of RP on the trade market and it wouldn’t surprise me if they pulled at least one deal off before the trade deadline. This team is sometimes overlooked due to them being in a small market, however if they get into the playoffs, they may surprise a lot of people.
The Yankees have certainly had their ups and downs this season but are still right in the thick of all the major playoff races. Their bullpen fell apart in June and it carried over into the month of July. That’s a big reason why they went out and made a blockbuster deal with the White Sox last week, brining in former Yankee David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle to shore up the back end of their bullpen. They also acquired 3B Todd Frazier in that deal, and although he has struggled thus far, Frazier is a significant upgrade production wise to what the Yankees have had at 3B over the past 2 season’s. The Yankees are still linked to a number of other players; whether it be a SP and/or 1B. This is a huge series at home for the Yankees. Not only do they play much better in front of their home crowd, but they also know this is an opportunity to put space between them and the Rays.
Chicago Cubs @ Milwaukee Brewers
We have another divisional rivalry on this list between the two top teams in the NL Central. While the Brewers have been one of the biggest surprises in all of MLB this year, I think everyone in the baseball world expected the Cubs to relevant again after winning their first World Series last year in 108 years.
Although the Cubs got off to a horrible start this season, they have really turned it on since the All-Star break. They have the best record in MLB since then and have already pulled off a massive trade; acquiring LHP Jose Quintana from their cross town rival White Sox. Quintana has already looked great in his 2 starts as a Cubbie and should continue to flourish for them now that he is in the NL, on a team with better defense, offense and bullpen. The Cubs may not be done though, they are still linked to SP’s such as Sonny Gray, Yu Darvish and Justin Verlander, any of whom would make them instant favorites to go back to the World Series again. The offense has also started to come alive. Addison Russel and Wilson Contreras have gotten hot at the right time and it has seemed to give a jolt to the rest of the lineup as well. Expect the Cubs to continue playing great baseball from here on out, and even begin to pull away from the Brewers in this division. Sweeping the Brew Crew this weekend would be an excellent start.
The Brewers got off to a very hot start, led by Eric Thames and his ridiculous month of April. Thames has not come close to sustaining that level of play and even with the success that this young and talented lineup has had, they still strike out an awful lot. The offense shouldn’t be the concern for this ball club though. It’s their SP that IMO has been their weak point all season long and it’s finally starting to catch up with them. Outside of Jimmy Nelson, this rotation isn’t reliable at all, doesn’t go deep into games and continues to regress month to month. With the recent skid they have been on, there are even rumors now about them possibly becoming sellers at the deadline rather than buyers. The most obvious name on their sellers list is OF Ryan Braun. They can likely get a very good haul of prospects for him and continue to rebuild this team. Due to their early season success, many people forget that coming into the year, this was a rebuilding team, who was supposed to be 2-3 years away from competing at this level. If they can get hot again and win this series over the Cubs however, they may decide to become buyers and will be in line to acquire a controllable SP.