Earlier edition of Weekend Watch this week. Only three games on a Thursday night? Something seems off with that, I’m currently filling my time with the Women’s College World Series and Scripps National Spelling Bee. Would it kill them to make sure there is a day game every day? Here’s what I’m excited for this weekend.
5) Braves at Nationals
I’ve decided to stop putting the Braves near the top spot in these rankings every week, but this match-up is still too juicy to not include at all. Nationals befuddled the Braves at Turner Field this weekend while Atlanta was in the midst of a 8-game losing streak. Taking two of three from the Cardinals put some spring in their step heading on the road. Brian McCann and Freddie Freeman’s returns were sorely needed for the Braves offense. Almost the same pitching duels as last weekend as we’ll see Mike Minor/Stephen Strasburg and Brandon Beachy/Gio Gonzalez part deux, along with Tommy Hanson/Jordan Zimmermann on Sunday. Gonzalez was the most impressive last Sunday shutting down the Braves to one hit over seven innings with 10 strikeouts. He now leads the NL in strikeouts and K/9. Was that start enough to take my NL Cy Young in the “Too Early MLB Awards”? Answer coming this weekend. Weird but true stat: Michael Bourn already has five home runs this season, he had four in 2010 and 2011 combined.
4) Yankees at Tigers
The Tigers have been the biggest team disappointment in the Majors this season sitting at just 23-27 so far in a weak AL Central. Doug Fister is heading back to the DL to join teammate Austin Jackson. Tigers might be in some trouble with the Yankees coming to town. CC Sabathia is heading to the hill for the opener against Casey Crosby, who has a 4.26 ERA in AAA this season. What does bode well for Tigers fans is the Yankee lineup typically has trouble with pitchers they have never seen before. I’m excited to watch Justin Verlander on Sunday take on the Yankee lineup in a rematch from the 2011 ALDS. Not weird but true stat: CC Sabathia has more losses against the Tigers (12) than any other team.
3) Marlins at Phillies
There is no team hotter in the Majors than the Miami Marlins. Their 21 wins in May set the franchise record for wins in a month. The Phillies were dealt a tough blow with the loss of ace Roy Halladay for 6-8 weeks, but still have enough rotation goodness to survive. Kyle Kendrick has filled in admirably thus far and Vance Worley should be due back shortly. Cole Hamels with his 8-1 record and 2.43 ERA is also in the running for the “Too Early MLB Awards” NL Cy Young. Two plugs for a future blog in this blog? Oops. Weird but true stat: Giancarlo Stanton is 3 for 4 this season with two outs and the bases loaded with two grand slams. He loves the pressure. Please vote for him to go to Kansas City for the All-Star Game.
2) Orioles at Rays
Typically, I would put the battle of teams tied for the division lead in the AL East in the top spot, but A) I don’t want to hear about any East Coast bias and B) there’s a match-up that intrigues me slightly more. Orioles are hitting a rough patch right now, just 2-8 in their last 10 games, but did take two of three from the Rays, three weeks ago. Wei-Yin Chen has been a find for Baltimore and will take on David Price in the Friday opener. I’m also intrigued to see if shutting down a then-hot White Sox offense on Memorial Day is enough for Matt Moore to turn the corner. Would make me feel a lot better about picking him to win AL Rookie of the Year and AL Cy Young in the preseason. Signing a new extension hasn’t slowed down Adam Jones as he’s hitting .385 with two home runs since the press conference before last Sunday’s game. Not weird but true stat: Rays pitcher Jeremy Hellickson has beaten the Orioles more times (4) than any other team in his young career.
1) Rangers at Angels
So why this series over Orioles/Rays? I want to watch how the Rangers respond to getting 20+ runs put up on them by the Mariners. I want to see if Albert Pujols hot streak continues. I want to watch Mark Trumbo demolish pitches. I want to see Mike Trout do everything. (Told you I’d rather have him than Bryce Harper this season.) I want to see Yu Darvish pitch against C.J. Wilson. I want to see if Mike Trout can chase down Yu Darvish for AL Rookie of the Year. I want to see if Dan Haren has really turned things around. I want to see if the Angels can get over the .500 hump and make the AL West interesting. Last but definitely not least, I want to watch Josh Hamilton. Weird but true stat: Yu Darvish has given up 9 ER in 9.2 IP against the Mariners and 13 ER in 50.1 IP against every other team he’s faced. I asked for votes for Giancarlo Stanton before for the All-Star game, now it’s Mark Trumbo’s turn. He’s hitting .348 this season with 10 home runs this season while bouncing around from 3B to 1B to RF, to LF, to DH. If that doesn’t convince you, let my friends at the MLB Fan Cave try and do it.
Mapes Fantasy Special
A great 3-0 week last week as Ivan Nova, Mark Buehrle, and especially R.A. Dickey came through with starts that helped your fantasy team. These are now 15-5 on positive starts on the season. Sadly, Dickey and Buehrle have moved over the 50% owned threshold for Mapes Fantasy Special, so let’s see what I can find for this weekend.
6/1 Wade Miley at Padres (45% owned), Might as well go with our Three Up player on the podcast this week. Miley has been great and you have to like facing the Padres at Petco even with the return of Carlos Quentin.
6/2 Brandon McCarthy at Royals (45% owned), I’m not feeling too strong about this one with McCarthy just coming off the DL. It is a nice spot though against a KC team that is just 5-17 at home this year. McCarthy gave up 2 ER in 6 IP earlier this year against the Royals.
6/3 Barry Zito vs. Cubs (22% owned) I really like Zito here at home coming off a good start against the Diamondbacks. Cubs are 27th in the league in runs scored and are pitching Travis Wood, who hasn’t been great.
Coming soon is my “Too Early MLB Awards” now that June is upon us. Who do you think should be taking the hardware at this point in the season?
-Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes)
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)
Well the first “Five Things I Think I Think” went so well (we got a comment!) that I’ve decided to make this a recurring thing. Going to do it Wednesday and Sunday nights. Here’s what’s gone on in this silly, little brain of mine since we last spoke.
1) There will be more closer turnover this year than ever. Here’s the list of closers that have gotten hurt this season Andrew Bailey, Joakim Soria, Kyle Farnsworth, Drew Storen, and Ryan Madson. The closer situations for those teams look pretty fluid right now, especially in Kansas City where current closer Jonathan Broxton became the 1st pitcher in 46 years to end a game with consecutive hit-by-pitches. Everyone thought it would be Joel Peralta in Tampa Bay, not Fernando Rodney who is now 3 for 3. Who saw Hector Santiago getting the first two saves for the White Sox? Don’t lie and say you did. On the north side of Chicago, Carlos Marmol is being Carlos Marmol and blowing leads in spectacular fashion for the Cubs. There will be plenty of pitchers getting saves this season, I’ve got a feeling.
2) I want to see Dee Gordon race Peter Bourjos. Both of these speedsters are burning up the basepaths. Gordon has an MLB leading five stolen bases (tied with Starlin Castro) and seemingly has a green light any time he’s on base. Bourjos on the other hand had the first inside-the-park home run in the season against the Twins, circling the bases in a ridiculous 14 seconds. The link to that is underneath. Both of these players are in the Los Angeles area. Can’t we set this up for a LA charity. Bonus points to Miami Marlins teammates Emilio Bonifacio vs. Jose Reyes in the undercard.
3) The Tampa Bay Rays won’t go away. If getting one-hit over eight innings by Justin Verlander doesn’t bury them, then nothing will. They came back in the 9th against the reigning AL MVP and then continued the onslaught on “Papa Grande” Jose Valverde. Matt Moore was effective in his first start against a lethal Tigers offense, just another weapon in that rotation. I’ll continue to say that Joe Maddon is the best manager in the game.
4) I wish Erik Bedard could stay healthy. When he is, he’s one of the better starting pitchers in the game. I’m currently watching him pitch effectively the Dodgers on the road. If the Pirates get 25 starts out of him, they will be well on their way to .500 for the first time since 1992. Fantasy owners should have him rostered until he gets hurt. He was the Mapes Fantasy Special today. Shameless plug to follow me on Twitter @Mapes4FanCave or just search #MapesFantasySpecial for a starting pitcher to pick up that’s owned in less than 50% of leagues.
5) Bacon Tuesday is the greatest thing ever. It’s bacon. It’s baseball. Leave it to Oakland fans to come up with something so awesome. They have great fans. Just wish more of them would show up at the ballpark. Jeremy will have more on his Bacon Tuesday experience on the blog soon.