Tuesday, June 20

Early Series: Week of 6/19/06

...even though the post is a day late. Still, it's the first time I've even updated in forever.

It's interleague week, which means both new matchups that aren't terribly common and horrible matchups that should never have happened in the first place. In other words, it's like any given week. There's a clear-cut "best" series, in my opinion, with a bunch of second and third-level series in terms of interest. Your mileage may vary on them.

#5: Cincinnati Reds (38-32, W1, 2-8 in last 10) @ New York Mets (43-26, L1, 7-3 in last 10)

Pitching Matchups:
6/20: Ramirez vs Trachsel
6/21: Mays vs Soler
6/22: Milton vs Martinez

There was a game on Monday as well - the Reds won that one (the current streaks reflect that). Anyway, this is your classic tale of two teams headed in opposite directions, with not much of anything going right for the Reds after their blistering start to the season, while the Mets are cruising, hammering everyone else in the NL East.

For the Reds:
Starting pitching and bullpen support are going to be the keys for them. Unfortunately, they haven't gotten either of those in the last few weeks. If they get them, they should be able to win one of the last 3 games in the series (realistically, either the 6/20 or 6/21 games).

For the Mets:
It's tough to give recommendations for what to do to win when that's what you've been doing. Offense shouldn't be a huge deal the rest of the series; Milton is the best pitcher out of the ones remaining, and I'm on record as to how much I think he sucks. I'd be surprised if they win less than 2 of the last 3 games.

#4: San Diego Padres (36-33, W1, 5-5 in last 10) @ Texas Rangers (38-32, W3, 6-4 in last 10)

Pitching Matchups:
6/20: Thompson vs Padilla
6/21: Young vs Rheinecker
6/22: Hensley vs Millwood

Fun sideplots here, as Chris Young goes back to Texas. Oddly enough, he's also the only starter from last year's Rangers rotation that's actually pitching in this series. In terms of major plots, it's the only battle between division-leading teams this part of the week.

For the Padres:
They should score, but Young will actually be hurt, as he's a flyball pitcher. Then again, he knows the park. However, these guys can't hit. This means they'll probably struggle to do much of anything in this series.

For the Rangers:
Homefield advantage and a bad hitting ballclub puts the Rangers almost entirely in the driver's seat here. They're on a minor roll, and I wouldn't be surprised if that continues as the Rangers take 2 out of 3 from the Pads.

#3: Florida Marlins (27-39, W8, 9-1 in last 10) @ Baltimore Orioles (32-39, L1, 4-6 in last 10)

Pitching Matchups:
6/20: Willis vs Cabrera
6/21: Nolasco vs Bedard
6/22: Olsen vs Benson

I'll admit it - I'm really intrigued about this 9-1 record the Marlins have put up. That's why they're on here; the kids are playing, but they're playing well. Who would've thought?

For the Marlins:
The fun part for the Fish is that any win's gravy for them. Nobody expected anything of them whatsoever, and they're at least able to sniff second place in this division, which would've gotten you sent to a mental institution if you had said that before. Still, though, why could they not take 2 out of 3 against a struggling Orioles team that, for all the changes they've made, looks like every other O's team from the last 6 years?

For the Orioles:
Homefield advantage will help (yay DH), and they should get their shots in against a bunch of young pitchers. Not to mention the Florida bullpen is horrible. The key for the O's is to have their starters not give up the game early. Look for a bunch of 6-5 games, with the O's taking two.

#2: New York Yankees (38-30, L3, 3-7 in last 10) @ Philadelphia Phillies (35-35, W2, 3-7 in last 10)

Pitching Matchups:
6/20: Mussina vs Lidle
6/21: Wright vs Hamels

Yeah, I know their records in the last 10 games are horrid. But this series is an excellent opportunity for both teams, as well as a pretty important challenge. That's a little more true for the Phils, who rose to the occasion last night with a 4-2 victory.

For the Yankees:
They need wins here after blowing leads in 3 straight games. It's probably just as important to them to get innings from their starters, which is something that's been at least somewhat lacking. Wang's complete game loss and Johnson's 7 innings were an important moment. Basically, any semblance of momentum will be viewed as a good thing.

For the Phillies:
The Mets are running away with the division, but there's not a clear challenger for second place yet, which means the Phils have a good lockdown on it. They've already won once in the series, so if they can keep that up, they should be fine to walk out of here with a series victory.

#1: St. Louis Cardinals (42-26, W4, 7-3 in last 10) @ Chicago White Sox (44-25, W4, 8-2)

Pitching Matchups:
6/20: Mulder vs Vazquez
6/21: Marquis vs Buehrle
6/22: Reyes vs Garcia

Yup, this is the big one, almost unquestionably. No teams with better records are facing off against each other, no bigger win streaks are colliding. This is the big one.

For the White Sox:
You would've thought that by this point the Tigers had faded, right? Not so much - the White Sox are still in second place in the AL Central, although they have a deathgrip on the Wild Card. We know these guys actually are this good - after all, they're the defending World Series champions. These should be good games, and the Sox should walk out with at least 2 of them. Homefield advantage, better starting pitching, and no Pujols effect give the Sox a clear advantage.

For the Cards:
When your closest competitor in the division is not only imploding, but going up against a hot team, that doesn't put you in a very stressful position. Again, they could obviously use the wins, but they're not necessary. What's important for them is hoping that Anthony Reyes puts in a good start on Thursday. He's their young gun, the wave of the future. What's also important for them is getting a healthy Pujols as quick as possible. That should happen soonish, though.