Tagged: Giants

Who Wins Game 7? Cardinals or Giants?

It’s the two most beautiful words not just in baseball, but in all of sports.  Game seven.  One game decides your playoff fate.  Everything you’ve put into the season comes down to one game where one pitch, one swing, one call, one stolen base, one error can be the difference.  The San Francisco Giants brought us to these two words with their 6-1 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals on Sunday night.  Monday night at AT&T Park the Giants will look to come back from two games down for the 2nd straight series and advance.  Let’s try and figure out who will win.

Starting Pitcher: Kyle Lohse vs. Matt Cain

Have to start with the scheduled starters.  Both of these starters have arguably had a career year in 2012 and this game will define how they look back on this season.  Lohse has been great this postseason with a 1.96 ERA including giving up just one earned run over 5.2 innings in a victory over the Giants in game three.  Lohse was erratic though giving up 5 walks.  Lohse has has a history of not coming up big in huge games (see 2011 playoffs), but may have turned a new leaf in 2012.  Cain, on the other hand, has been “Bizarro Lohse.”  He was spectacular in big games previously (see 2010 playoffs), but has given up three runs in each start this postseason.  Cain got the win for San Francisco in game five against the Reds.  This one is close, but give me the previous elimination game winner.

Advantage: Giants

Bullpen

Both bullpens have been spectacular this series.  I’m sure everyone is going to be available for Monday’s game.  Jason Motte has become the big closer everyone thought he would be.  Sergio Romo has taken control of the closer role for the Giants and has the best slider in the game.  I think Mike Matheny left Chris Carpenter in game six through four innings to try and preserve his bullpen for a potential game seven.  St. Louis ended up using Shelby Miller for two innings, Fernando Salas for 1.1 innings, Marc Rzepczynski and Edward Mujica for 1/3 of an inning each.  Not on that list is Trevor Rosenthal and Jason Motte.  The Giants had to use their standard of Jeremy Affeldt (.2 IP), Santiago Casilla (.1 IP), and Romo (1 IP) to lock down a game seven.  I would not be surprised if we see Motte come in for a six-out save in game seven if needed.  This one is tough.

Slight Advantage: Cardinals

Lineup

The big question stemming from game six is will Matt Holliday be ready to play?  He may not be 100%, but if you think he’s missing this game I’ve got a giant bridge in San Francisco to sell you.  Buster Posey has been completely off offensively this series, hitting just .136.  Posey does have a flair for the deciding game dramatic as he hit a grand slam in game five of the NLDS against Cincinnati.  Marco Scutaro has been the hot bat for San Francisco hitting .458.  The other big question for the Cardinals lineup is with Holliday back, is there room for Matt Carpenter?  Carpenter owns Matt Cain it seems and had a home run off him in game three.  I think overall with Holliday, Yadier Molina, Allen Craig, Carlos Beltran, and David Freese this should be good for St. Louis.

Advantage: Cardinals

Manager: Mike Matheny vs. Bruce Bochy

I have nothing against Mike Matheny, but his team almost blew a 2-1 lead in the NLDS against the Nationals.  His team has now blown a 3-1 lead in the NLCS against the Giants.  It’s his first season.  It’s his first playoffs.  Give me the guy with the World Series ring on his hand, even though I’m sure Matheny is making a call to Tony LaRussa tonight.

Advantage: Giants

Random Stats!

The Giants have now won five straight eliminations games in these playoffs, only the 1985 Royals won more elimination games in a single postseason with six.  The Cardinals have won six straight elimination games, dating back to 2002, where they lost to….you guessed it!  The Giants.  Mike Matheny could become the first rookie manager to lead his team to the World Series since Bob Brenly got the Diamondbacks there in 2001.  The Giants have never won a game 7 as a team, they are 0-5, the worst mark in MLB history.  This is the first game seven in the NLCS since 2006, where the Cardinals beat the Mets.

I reached out to my fellow podcasters for their predictions.  Here’s what they have.

Jeremy Dorn: Cardinals 345, Giants 0.  No really, 5-3 St. Louis.  Lohse has been better than Cain this postseason and the Cards have never lost a game 7 right?

Brian Boynton: Giants 6-5

Kurt Peter: Giants 5-2

Angelo Feliccia: Lots of rain to help out my Tigers in the World Series.  I’ll take the Giants 4-0, but I could see Romo blowing this game though late.

Final Mapes Prediction: Buster Posey shows why he’s the MVP and gets another big hit for the Giants.  While Lohse is erratic once again forcing Matheny to go to the bullpen earlier than he’d like and is bailed out by Rosenthal, Mujica, and Motte.  It’ll be too late as Cain gets the job done over seven innings and turns the ball over to Affeldt and then Romo.  Then again, it’s baseball, nothing is EVER that simple.  Giants 4 Cardinals 2, enjoy game seven everybody!

-Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes)

Fantastic Fielding of 2012

Chicks may dig the long ball, but it’s fielding that makes for the most exciting highlights in the game of baseball.  What have been the best displays of defensive excellence this season?  Let’s see if I can only limit Mike Trout to one play.

Let’s start it off with Mike Trout with what I believe is the best play of the year.  Look at the leap.  Look at the extension.  I don’t think there is anyone else that makes this play in the Majors.  Trout has taken away five home runs this season, but this one was the best.

Trout’s catch was given a run for it’s money though by Blue Jays Rajai Davis. He uses the wall to catapult himself up over a 10-foot wall to rob Casey McGahee. This one is a thing of beauty.

This is one of the top infield plays of the season by Diamondbacks do-it-all man Willie Bloomquist. He ranges to the other side of 2nd base and flips the ball backward almost in a somersault position to Aaron Hill for the force out. Bonus points for getting out Emilio Bonifacio, one of the fastest players in MLB.

Speaking of somersaults, here’s Twins Ben Revere making a great catch in the 9th inning and rolling into a somersault. Revere is one of the best in the league at spectacular plays.

I’m impartial to this play because I was at the MLB Fan Cave when it happened. Tigers Quintin Berry gets turned around, goes back and make a leaping catch over his head. I’m still not sure how he got to it. It was a huge save for the Tigers as they kept the lead at one and took the lead in the 9th inning. Without this catch, they lose.

Who has the best right field arm? My answer has been Jeff Francouer since he was an Atlanta Brave. Look at that laser rocket arm throwing out Alexei Ramirez.

Why has Brandon Phillips won two straight Gold Gloves at second base? Plays like this are part of the reason. He makes a behind-the-back flip look easy.

I promised my fellow podcast host Jeremy Dorn that I would get a Dodgers play into this. Check out Justin Sellers going full sprint over the shoulder and going head first into the stands. If you can get Vin Scully to go “Whoa!” and “Gee whiz!” that works for me.

A late addition to this blog. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a pitcher almost end up on the dirt to make a play in no-man’s land going the wrong way like J.P. Howell.

The hands-down Minor League play of the year. Jason Repko robs a grand slam from Kosuke Fukudome for the Pawtucket Red Sox. He even tumbles OVER the wall to complete the play.

Bottom of the 12th, up by one with runners on 1st and 2nd, Roger Bernadina saves the day as he becomes one with Minute Maid Park to win the game for the Nationals.

I’ll close with a double-dip of amazing Giants plays. The first was an amazing, diving catch for Gregor Blanco. This catch was the most important on this list as it preserved Matt Cain’s perfect game. The second is the kookiest play of this list as Pablo Sandoval bobbles a catch in foul territory, dives, tips it up and is caught by a diving Brandon Crawford.

Everyone goes with a top ten list, but I love defense so much that I went with a top thirteen! I can’t resist the urge though, here’s another Mike Trout home run robbery! This one to end the game off the bat of Prince Fielder.

Did I miss anything? What’s your favorite play of the year? Let us know in the comments!

-Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes)

#MapesFantasySpecial for September 20th

Wei-Yin Chen gave us his 2nd consecutive successful #MapesFantasySpecial last night, despite not getting a win.  Mets Matt Harvey had his start pushed back due to rain, so we’ll see how that plays out tonight.  I’m not sure he can get a win against Cole Hamels, but hopefully the peripherals and strikeouts will be there.  Here’s what I like for Thursday, September 20th that’s available in more than half of Yahoo! fantasy leagues.

Royals pitcher Jeremy Guthrie was featured on this week’s podcast as a 3UP player and I really like him at home against the White Sox.  Guthrie shut down the White Sox just a week and a half ago, tossing eight shutout innings.  Even more impressive, Guthrie has had three starts against the White Sox since coming to Kansas City, would you like to guess how many runs he’s given up in 23.2 innings?  That’s right, zero!  I’ll trust him one more time to get solid numbers, he’s owned in just 15% of fantasy leagues.

If You’re Desperate: Cardinals Jaime Garcia (49% owned) takes on the Astros in a solid matchup, but has been so terribly up and down since returning from injury he might no be worth the chance.  Brewers rookie Michael Fiers (45% owned) had 10 strikeouts, last time he faced the Pirates, but has a 5.40 ERA in two starts against Pittsburgh this year.  A’s Tommy Milone (44% owned) hasn’t been good on the road this season and takes on Detroit at Comerica.  No thanks.  Nationals Ross Detwiler (35% owned) has been good this season and could help your WHIP, but don’t expect a ton of strikeouts.  If you need strikeouts and can afford the ERA/WHIP hit, Francisco Liriano (35% owned) could get you some strikeouts, but got lit up last time out against KC.  Lastly, Giants Barry Zito (21% owned) got beat up by Colorado last time at home, 4ER over 5.1 IP, but is 6-2 in his career with a 2.59 ERA and 1.09 WHIP against the Rockies.  The Rockies do have trouble scoring runs on the road, except against Andrew Cashner of course.

If You’re Desperate Rankings: Fiers, Zito, Detwiler, Garcia, Liriano, Milone

-Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes)

Chowin Down’: Battle of the Garlic Fries!

Baseball is full of rivalries.  Yankees vs. Red Sox.  Giants vs. Dodgers.  Cardinals vs. Cubs.  Mapes vs. Jeremy.  Alright, maybe not the last one.  An underrated rivalry though is the battle of garlic fries between AT&T Park in San Francisco and Yankee Stadium in the Bronx.  I’ve broken down the deliciousness that is the Yankees version in a previous Chowin’ Down.  I went to San Francisco for the first time this past weekend and had one objective, garlic fries.  After having had both, let’s see if we can see which ballpark has the greater garlic fries.

Price

Yankee Stadium: Small-$7.00, Large-$9.50 and add cheese for $.50

AT&T Park: $7.50, $11.50 with chicken tenders

Advantage: Push

Where Can I Buy Them?

Yankee Stadium: One stand in each section, behind 108, 205 and 331

AT&T Park: Behind sections 103, 118, 130, 311, 323, 331 and in lower center field

Advantage: AT&T Park

Can I Get a Cheesesteak in the Same Place?

Yankee Stadium: No

AT&T Park: Yes

Advantage: AT&T Park, though always make sure you bring a friend to stand in the cheesesteak line while you’re in the garlic fries line

Do They Make Your Mouth Water?

Yankee Stadium

AT&T Park

Oh come on, they both did: Advantage: Push

Taste

I can assure you both are near the pinnacle of ballpark delciousness.  Giants fries were crispier, but had a little more olive oil.  Yankees fries were soggier, but the garlic meshed better with the fries.  Advantage: Yankee Stadium, slightly

Final Verdict

Both are awesome choices on either coast.  Rejoice Giants fans, I’m giving your fries the edge just based on the the fact that I can get them in more places in the stadium and I don’t have to wait in line for my 2nd favorite ballpark food, the cheesesteak.
Which garlic fries do you prefer?  Is there another ballpark’s that I need to try?  Let us know in the comments!

-Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes)

Recapping EVERY Trade of the Deadline

Wow, what a whirlwind week of baseball wheelin’ and dealin’ we’ve had. I’m exhausted just from trying to keep track of all the trades that went down in the past week or so. Some teams look completely different (helloooooo, Dodgers) and some we thought would get a face lift, look exactly the same (what’s wrong, Rays?).

But this is your home for all things deadline – where you can get every dirty detail of every trade that went down, plus a quick analysis of the deals. For the sake of brevity, only trades from July 24th through the end of the deadline are included. But, I won’t keep you waiting any longer…let’s get it rolling:

7/24 – Pittsburgh Pirates + Houston Astros

Pittsburgh acquires Wandy Rodriguez (SP)

Houston acquires Rudy Owens (SP), Colton Cain (SP) and Robbie Grossman (OF)

The Pirates’ pitching staff has been stellar all year, but they felt they needed more depth. In Rodriguez, they get a veteran who has been pedestrian at times, brilliant at others, overall one of the better catches on the pitching market. And Houston is on the fast track to 100 losses, so any young talent helps. They snagged three guys who were in the top 20 of the Pirates’ very deep minor league system.

Winner: Pirates

Tampa Bay Rays + Arizona Diamondbacks

Tampa Bay acquires Ryan Roberts (3B)

Arizona acquires Tyler Bortnick (IF)

Roberts, otherwise known as Tatman by his legions of fans in Arizona, was designated for assignment before being traded to the Rays. It gives Tampa a much-needed bat with some pop at a position they don’t necessarily need help at when Evan Longoria is healthy. The D’Backs like what they see with Bortnick, but he was sent to Triple-A, so it clearly wasn’t a move they expected to impact the club in 2012.

Winner: Rays

7/25 – Los Angeles Dodgers + Miami Marlins

Los Angeles acquires Randy Choate (RP) and Hanley Ramirez (3B/SS)

Miami acquires Nathan Eovaldi (SP) and Scott McGough (RP)

The dividends of this trade has already paid off for both squads – the Dodgers swept the rival Giants in San Francisco last weekend, largely in part to Ramirez and his clutch hits. Choate has already come in and fended off opposing lefty hitters in a couple of appearances. And Eovaldi made a good first start in Miami. McGough is a bit of a project but has a high ceiling in Single-A. The Dodgers traded long-term guys for immediate help. Read more about this trade HERE.

Winner: Dodgers

7/27 – Los Angeles Angels + Milwaukee Brewers

Los Angeles acquires Zack Greinke (SP)

Milwaukee acquires Juan Segura (SS), Johnny Hellweg (SP), Ariel Pena (SP)

The Angels bolstered an already-scary rotation with the addition of former Cy Young winner Greinke. He joins Dan Haren, C.J. Wilson and Jered Weaver in Anaheim. The Brewers got quite a haul in return, as all three prospects were top ten in the Angels’ system. Pena’s name stands out because he had a 216.00 ERA in his Futures Game appearance this year. Oops! Just for the sheer ridiculousness of the Angels’ new rotation, they win this trade. Read more about this trade HERE.

Winner: Angels

Colorado Rockies + San Francisco Giants

Colorado acquires Charlie Culberson (2B)

San Francisco acquires Marco Scutaro (IF)

Neither team needed to make this move, but it happened anyway. Scutaro gives the Giants a quality, veteran utility player who will definitely not solve their offensive woes. At best, Scutaro will find random ways to be in the lineup as soon as Pablo Sandoval returns from injury. Culberson is a good prospect and has a shot at stardom if he continues to progress. This one is a toss-up.

Winner: Push

7/29 – Chicago White Sox + Minnesota Twins

Chicago acquires Francisco Liriano (SP)

Minnesota acquires Eduardo Escobar (IF) and Pedro Hernandez (SP)

If the Sox think Liriano will be the added depth they need in the rotation to compete down the stretch, they are sorely mistaken. Brilliant occasionally, awful usually, Liriano was let go by the Twins because they just couldn’t take it anymore. They were able to pry a light-hitting, yet slick-fielding top-10 hitting prospect and a left-handed pitcher from Chicago. But the ultimate victory was ridding themselves of Liriano. Read more about this trade HERE.

Winner: Twins

Arizona Diamondbacks + Houston Astros

Arizona acquires Chris Johnson (3B)

Houston acquires Marc Krauss (1B/OF) and Bobby Borchering (3B/OF)

If you’re Houston…why not? You are selling everyone and their mothers anyway, so if a corner infielder is shipped away, bring in two others who are younger and can be molded however you see fit. Johnson hit a huge grand slam yesterday against the division rival Dodgers, so he’s already a D’Back hero. But this trade didn’t really hurt either team. Again, a default winner.

Winner: Diamondbacks

7/30 – Texas Rangers + Chicago Cubs

Texas acquires Geovany Soto (C) and cash

Chicago acquires Jacob Brigham (SP)

Another NL Central team going full fire sale, the Cubs gladly took the Rangers up on their offer to rid the club of a former Rookie of the Year in Soto, who had steadily declined both in health and production. Brigham is a pitcher the Rangers had pretty high hopes for that just wasn’t panning out. It looks like he’ll have to earn his way to the majors as a relief pitcher now. Texas designated Yorvit Torrealba in response to getting Soto.

Winner: Rangers

Atlanta Braves + Chicago Cubs

Atlanta acquires Reed Johnson (OF), Paul Maholm (SP) and cash

Chicago acquires Arodys Vizcaino (RP) and Jaye Chapman (RP)

The Braves got a veteran utility outfielder and an underrated big league starter for two minor league relievers. Sounds like a pretty sweet deal. That being said, Vizcaino has an exceptionally high ceiling. He was the number two prospect in the Braves organization coming into 2012, but was sidelined and needed Tommy John surgery in March. Not yet 22, we could see the hard-throwing right hander closing out games at Wrigley Field by 2014.

Winner: Braves

Pittsburgh Pirates + Toronto Blue Jays

Pittsburgh acquires Travis Snider (OF) 

Toronto acquires Brad Lincoln (RP)

This was a surprising and somewhat strange trade, but the Pirates got another high-potential bat in Snider, in exchange for a pretty solid reliever in Lincoln. Snider has great power potential but hasn’t put it together yet in the Majors. If he does, the Pirates got a steal. Lincoln is no slouch though. His 2.73 ERA in the Pirates’ bullpen this season opened some eyes, and the Blue Jays intend to let him try his hand as a set up man.

Winner: Push

Seattle Mariners + Toronto Blue Jays

Seattle acquires Eric Thames (OF)

Toronto acquires Steve Delabar (RP)

I actually like what the Blue Jays are doing. They know they have the offense, but need to bolster the pitching staff in the rotation and bullpen. So they are trading high-potential, excess bats to bring in some quality bullpen help. Delabar is a good pick-up, and Thames won’t be missed in that lineup. For the Mariners, who are always looking for bats, they are hoping Thames continues to improve and becomes a legit power threat from the right side of the plate.

Winner: Mariners

Seattle Mariners + Los Angeles Dodgers

Seattle acquires Logan Bawcom (RP) and Leon Landry (OF)

Los Angeles acquires Brandon League (RP)

The only reason the Dodgers made this move was because they were planning to move one of their current right handers in the bullpen, Josh Lindblom. League replaces Lindblom and is a slight upgrade, though it’s not a hugely noteworthy trade overall. The M’s pulled in a pretty good pitching prospect who needs a lot of work and a young, fast outfielder who has put up HUGE numbers at Single-A.

Winner: Mariners

7/31 – Los Angeles Dodgers + Philadelphia Phillies

Los Angeles acquires Shane Victorino (OF)

Philadelphia acquires Josh Lindblom (RP), Ethan Martin (SP) and Player To Be Named Later/Cash

A trade between the two biggest movers netted each team a pretty good haul. The Dodgers were in desperate need of an upgrade in the outfield and at the very top of the lineup, and came away with both in one guy. Philly received a good set up man who can become great with some consistency in Lindblom. But Martin may be a steal, considering the solid year he’s having in Double-A. Read more about this trade HERE.

Winner: Dodgers

San Francisco Giants + Philadelphia Phillies

San Francisco acquires Hunter Pence (OF)

Philadelphia acquires Nate Schierholtz (OF), Tommy Joseph (C), Seth Rosin (SP)

The Giants needed to answer their rivals’ big pick ups of Victorino and Ramirez, so they swung a move for a great all-around player in Pence. They lost a back up outfielder with a great arm in Schierholtz and their number two propsect in Joseph, but the immediate returns should more than make up for it. San Francisco is plenty deep at catcher for the foreseeable future, so Joseph was expendable. Great pick up for the Phils there though. Read more about this trade HERE.

Winner: Giants

Miami Marlins + St. Louis Cardinals

Miami acquires Zack Cox (3B)

St. Louis acquires Edward Mujica (RP)

This trade was completely unnecessary for the Redbirds, as their bullpen had been nearly impenetrable as of late. After slow starts, Mitchell Boggs and Mark Rzepczynski had turned it around and that relief corps was hot. Not that Mujica won’t just bolster it further, but did they really want to give up a top-five offensive prospect for a middle reliever? Miami scores again. Fire sale mode has worked wonders for the disappointing new-look Marlins.

Winner: Marlins

Arizona Diamondacks + Boston Red Sox

Arizona acquires Scott Podsednik (OF) and Matt Albers (RP) 

Boston acquires Craig Breslow (RP)

This isn’t much of a trade, despite all three players being Major League level. The Sox and D’Backs essentially swapped pretty good relievers, though Breslow is a lefty, Albers is not. So the Red Sox get the edge there. And while Arizona doesn’t necessarily need any help in the outfield, Podsednik can get on base and provide some speed. It’s the little things that will allow the D’Backs to climb back into the NL West race here.

Winner: Diamondbacks

Pittsburgh Pirates + Miami Marlins

Pittsburgh acquires Gaby Sanchez (1B) and Kyle Kaminska (RP)

Miami acquires Gorkys Hernandez (OF) and 2013 competitive balance draft pick

The Pirates continue to make under-the-radar moves that should help their playoff push in 2012. Sanchez was replaced by Carlos Lee in Miami, despite being mired in a similar slump as El Caballo. Hernandez goes to the Fish in a trade that really helps both sides. Sanchez has put up big numbers in the Majors in years past, while Hernandez has been a top prospect for Pittsburgh for a few years. Time will tell which team comes out on top.

Winner: Push

Cincinnati Reds + Kansas City Royals

Cincinnati acquires Jonathan Broxton (RP)

Kansas City acquires J.C. Sulbaran (SP) and Donnie Joseph (RP)

I understand that the Reds didn’t want to be left out, but this is an embarrasment of riches. They didn’t need bullpen help. That being said, you can never have enough quality bullpen arms. I also understand that the Royals need pitching, but what if Joakim Soria isn’t back to full strength after he returns next season? They better hope Sulbaran, Joseph and Soria pan out, or they let a good closer walk for cheap.

Winner: Reds

New York Yankees + Pittsburgh Pirates

New York acquires Casey McGehee (1B/3B)

Pittsburgh acquires Chad Qualls (RP)

At the last second, the Yanks just had to do something. Anything. And they actually made a pretty shrewd move, getting someone the Pirates felt they didn’t need, in return for a veteran reliever. Qualls is good, he’s always been steady – but the Yankees might be laughing if McGehee can actually step in and fill the shoes of the crippled Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez for them. Pirates get another bullpen arm, Yankees get a power bat. Close call.

Winner: Yankees

Texas Rangers + Chicago Cubs

Texas acquires Ryan Dempster (SP)

Chicago acquires Christian Villanueva (3B) and Kyle Hendricks (SP)

After weeks of drama, the curtain finally fell on the Cubs’ ace Dempster, who wound up in Texas. It makes you wonder if the Rangers already assumed Neftali Feliz was seriously injured (announced earlier today that he would need season-ending Tommy John surgery) before the trade was made. The Cubs stack the minor league system with two more guys who can be molded into very good players a couple of seasons down the road. Read more about this trade HERE.

Winner: Rangers

Boston Red Sox + Cleveland Indians

Boston acquires Steven Wright (SP)

Cleveland acquires Lars Anderson (1B/OF)

Um. Who? I don’ t know. So I did a little research. The last trade before the deadline hit looks on paper as if it favors the Red Sox. Wright is a 27-year-old knuckleballing reliever who had a pretty nifty ERA in Double-A this season. If he comes around late like R.A. Dickey, who knows? And Anderson was formerly thought to be a top prospect, but has struggled in the minors. At only 24 years old, the Tribe is willing to take their chances.

Winner: Red Sox

There you have it folks. A run down of the last week of trading in Major League Baseball, leading up to the crazy finale of the trade deadline. Are you surprised at some of these trades? Anyone still in the same uniforms who you thought would have been moved?

Let us know in the comments below, or Tweet us @3u3d. You can also LIKE Three Up, Three Down on Facebook!

– Jeremy Dorn (@Jamblinman)

Weekend Watch! Interleague Style Part Two!

It’s time for another round of interleague play!  These match-ups aren’t as exotic as the last “Weekend Watch” with interleague play involved, but it doesn’t mean that cross-divisional series aren’t as fun.  Here’s what I’m looking forward to watching this weekend as I sneak the MLB At-Bat app on while tailgating at the Belmont Stakes.

6) Indians at Cardinals

Battle of the two 2nd place teams in the Central where both are trying to get back to the 1st place perch they had just recently.  The injury bug continues to hit St. Louis as Jaime Garcia finds himself joining teammates Jon Jay, Skip Schumaker, and Lance Berkman on the disabled list.  The Indians, on the other hand, seem to be the least talked about “good” team in the Majors.  They keep plugging away without doing anything too special, they sit 8th in the AL in batting average and a dismal 2nd to last in ERA, but there they are at 30-26, just a game out of 1st place.  Jason Kipnis has been great for Cleveland in his sophomore season leading the team in home runs (9) and stolen bases (14).

2D) Blue Jays and Braves

This is a series as a Braves fan that I wish I could go down to Turner Field and attend in person.  Friday night, the Braves are retiring the great John Smoltz’s number (more on that in a blog tomorrow) and on Saturday is the greatest promotion the team has ever done, Sid Bream Slide Bobblehead Day!  Seriously, this thing is awesome and are already being offered on eBay from $55-75.  Both the Jays and Braves are playing in tightly contested races in their East divisions.  As I type this the AL East is separated by just four games.  The NL East is only a game and a half difference between 1st place and 4th place.  Every team in those two divsions is .500 or better except for the Phillies, who saw that coming?   No wonder why FOUR East interleague series make the “Weekend Watch” this week.

2C) Nationals at Red Sox

1st place vs. last place gets 3rd place here, that’s the average.  Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez have been wunderkinds in the National League, but how will they do on the road against a quality offense in Boston.  Gonzalez’s track record against the Sox while he was in Oakland was not very good as he has a 5.79 ERA over 28 innings in his career.  Red Sox Kevin Youkilis also feasts on Gonzalez pitching going 6 for 11 in his career.  I’m also intrigued to see Daisuke Matsuzaka’s return on Saturday to the Red Sox after recovering from Tommy John surgery.  If he can give Boston anything after they had to send down Daniel Bard to AAA it’d be a great plus.

2B) Mets at Yankees

The Subway Series means something!  The Yankees have been on fire winning 10 of their last 13 games going into Thursday night’s game with the Rays.  The Mets are still reveling in the teams first no-hitter by Johan Santana last Friday night and he’ll start the opener against Huroki Kuroda.  The no-hitter has been an extra spring in the step of Mets fans.  I live in Connecticut, where you get a mixture of Yankees, Mets, and Red Sox fans.  I’ve seen more Mets hats and jerseys in the past week than I had the entire season before Santana’s no-no.  Wonder if some will actually try to infiltrate the Bronx this weekend.  Derek Jeter thrives against his cross-town rivals hitting .385, the best batting average he has against any team he has 40 at-bats against.

2A) Rays at Marlins

The Battle for Florida means something!  I don’t expect a lot of runs this weekend between these two as the pitching matchups are pretty solid and Marlins Park has played towards the pitcher so far.  I really want to see if Matt Moore can continue his recent success as he has a 2.55 ERA over his last three starts compared to a 7.20 ERA his three starts before that.  Maybe he can still salvage my AL Rookie of the Year pick.  Mike Trout you say?  Yeah, I’m doomed.  James Shields vs. Anibal Sanchez on Sunday is an underrated pitchers special.

1) Rangers at Giants

Can’t be yelled at for East Coast bias if I put the Rangers and Giants in the top spot!  Despite Tim Lincecum’s worst efforts the Giants are the hottest team in the National League winning 8 of their last 10 games.  The Rangers have only won one game in each series against the Mariners, Angels, and Athletics coming into this series.  Roy Oswalt can’t get up to the Majors fast enough it seems as Derek Holland now joins Neftali Feliz on the DL from the rotation.  Alexi Ogando will come out of the bullpen to make the start in place of Holland.  Even better is that this could be a potential World Series match-up down the road.

Mapes Fantasy Special

Another great week for the Mapes Fantasy Special.  I’m now 10-2 since moving the Mapes Fantasy Special over to the Weekend Watch.  I’ll slow clap for myself.  Here are this weeks picks, remember these pitchers must be available in 50% or more of Yahoo! fantasy baseball leagues.

6/8 Gavin Floyd (32% owned) vs. Astros, Floyd has been absolutely terrible lately, but if he can’t do it at home against the Astros I have no hope for him.  I wish I could just quit you Gavin.

6/9 Scott Diamond (22% owned) vs. Cubs, Diamond has been a find in the rough for the Twins, sorry I couldn’t resist, he’s been stellar going 4-1 with a 1.89 ERA and a 1.19 WHIP.  Even better are his 4 walks in 38.2 innings this season.  Diamond faces the Cubs who have drawn the 4th least walks in the Majors this season, bodes well for him if they put in in play at Target Field.

6/10 Andy Pettitte (49% owned) vs. Mets, I have no explanation for what Pettitte is doing right now, so I’m just gonna enjoy the ride before he gets over 50% owned.

What are you looking forward to this weekend?  Who do you like in fantasy?  Tweet me using #MapesFantasySpecial

-Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes)

Weekend Watch!

Hope everyone enjoyed their first taste of interleague play last weekend.  I know I did with the Braves taking two out of three from the AL East leading Rays.  Now that we’re back in traditional league play let’s see what this week has in store.  I’ll try to not put the Braves match-up with the Nationals in the top spot, but before I look at everything else, it’s a fair warning it’s going to end up there.

5) Padres at Mets

This match-up would never crack the top five usually, but it makes it for one reason, Banner Day.  What is Banner Day, you ask?  It used to be a Mets tradition that fans would make giant banners and after the game would walk in a parade around the stadium.  Living in Connecticut, I get SNY which airs Mets games.  They’ll occasionally show “Mets Yearbook” chronicling a past season and my favorite part to randomly watch is Banner Day footage.  The puns are always hilarious.  I’m setting the over/under at “We Like Ike” or “He’s got the Wright stuff” at 24.5.  Might go under with the way Ike Davis and played this year. Watch this and enjoy!

4) Giants at Marlins

Might have to make the four spot the “Marlins” spot as they’ve now been here each of the last two weeks.  The series started Thursday night with a Giants 14-7 victory.  Two struggling starters take the hill on Friday in Tim Lincecum and Josh Johnson.  The other two pitching battles are solid though as well with Madison Bumgarner and Mark Buehrle on Saturday and Matt Cain taking on Ricky Nolasco on Sunday.  I really would like to take this time to make sure you endorse Giancarlo Stanton for the 2012 Home Run Derby.  First, he breaks the scoreboard on a grand slam off of Jamie Moyer.

Then follows it up Thursday night with a bomb over the Clevelander nightclub into the Budweiser Balcony in left field.

I’ve said it from the start of the new Marlins Park. Stanton will put one off the glass in left field at some point.

3) Phillies at Cardinals

Another series that started Thursday with a high-scoring affair 10-9 in favor of the Phillies.  This series also features two solid pitching duels with Cliff Lee and Kyle Lohse on Friday and Roy Halladay/Adam Wainwright on Sunday.  As we discussed on Kelsey’s Kardinals Injury Korner the Cardinals offense is in shambles and add Matt Carpenter to the disabled list.  Halladay and Lee should be able to pick apart the depleted Redbirds lineup.  This series also features two of the best catchers in the National League in Carlos Ruiz and Yadier Molina.  National League catcher might not the deepest, but also the most difficult position to choose for the 2012 All-Star Game.  Who do you send home from Molina, Ruiz, Brian McCann, Buster Posey, and I’m being serious with these last two, Jonathan Lucroy and A.J. Ellis.  There are going to be a lot of disappointed backstops.

2) Blue Jays at Rangers

Here’s a chance for the Jays to make a statement and show the rest of the American League that they are for real and can contend for the playoffs.  Brandon Morrow goes in game one for Toronto after becoming the 1st pitcher in MLB to have two shutouts this season.  Yu Darvish should be in line for a good start on Sunday for Texas, seeing as he’s dominated every team not named the Mariners in his short career.  No home runs in the past 11 games for Josh Hamilton, ugh what’s wrong with that guy.  Please note sarcasm.

1) Nationals at Braves

The battle for NL East lead.  I tried to promise not making it number one, but it’s the only series that will decide who is leading a division come Monday.  I’ll keep it short, but the Sunday match-up of Gio Gonzalez and Brandon Beachy may decide the winner of the NL Cy Young in my “Too Early MLB Awards” coming at the start of June.  This is my favorite game of the weekend, no bias I promise.

Mapes Fantasy Special

I hit a rough patch going 1-2 last week with Henderson Alvarez and Jarrod Parker getting crushed at home, while John Danks through 6 shutout, go figure.  Naturally, Parker’s next start was fantastic.  Here’s what I have for this weekend, remember they must be 50% owned or less.  12-5 record on the season.

5/25 Ivan Nova (48% owned) at Athletics, 2-0 in his career against Oakland, the ERA isn’t great, but Nova is coming off the best strikeout performance of his career.  He should be solid in that ballpark.

5/26 Mark Buehrle (47% owned) vs. Giants, Going back to the well with Buehrle who performed admirably for me at home in a Mapes Fantasy Special two weeks ago.  Hard to expect a win against Madison Bumgarner or a ton of K’s, but good peripherals will carry the day.

5/27 R.A. Dickey (49% owned) vs. Padres, I might be copping out a little bit taking three guys really close to the 50% threshold, but I didn’t think Dickey would be available.  He never gets enough credit and is a quality start machine.  Plus, it’s Banner Day!  Kudos to any Mets fans to can sneak in a Dickey pun on the field.

What would your Mets banner say?  Let me know in the comments.  Have a happy and safe Memorial Day weekend and take some time to thank a soldier for their service to our country.

-Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes)