MLBs moving week Four pivotal matchups you need to be watching


MLBs moving week Four pivotal matchups you need to be watching Just call these next seven days Moving Week in Major League Baseball, a stretch of games that will more clearly define several teams, races and individuals fates for the next two months. Buyer or seller? Division title aspirations or wild card pipe dreamer? Hot seat or sitting pretty? A number of matchups, many beginning Monday night, will give shape to the weeks and months ahead. Theyre huge, Tampa Bay Rays starter Blake Snell says of his teams four games at Yankee Stadium beginning Monday. The Rays begin play six games behind the New York Yankees in the AL East. If we win as much as we know we should, its still going to come down to the wire. In this division, somebodys winning 100 plus games. At least two teams, honestly. A closer look at the defining series in a week where its starting to feel late a little bit early: Funny thing about the unbalanced schedule: It seems division rivals constantly play each other but then you look up, and theyre almost done for the year. So it is with Tampa Bay and New York, who will play just two more games – Sept. 24 25 at Tropicana Field – after this weeks four game set. They played the Yankees virtually to a standstill – a 9 10 mark, 6 4 at Tropicana Field in winning 90 games last year. This year, theyve lost nine of 13, essentially the difference in the standings right now. POWER RANKINGS: SECOND HALF: Most notably, Snell had perhaps the worst start of his career – four walks, six earned runs, just one batter retired – in a 12 1 loss at Yankee Stadium on June 19. Hell get another crack Monday night. I know hes had his struggles in New York, Rays manager Kevin Cash says of Snells 6.34 ERA in 10 career starts in the Bronx, but hes totally equipped to go in there and have really really good outings for us. For the moment, the Phillies hold the second wild card berth, and in a perfect world would use this week to gain ground on both the Atlanta Braves and Washington Nationals, who play four games in Atlanta next weekend. It seems more likely the will only get further exposed. They are just 20 25 against winning teams and now welcome the world beating Dodgers to Citizens Bank Park for four games. L.A. will send three All Stars to the mound – Clayton Kershaw, Walker Buehler and 2018 honoree Ross Stripling – and the Phillies will counter with several question marks. Zach Eflin posted a 2.76 ERA in his first 10 starts, but a 5.45 mark in his last seven. Vince Velasquezs role seems to change with the month. Nick Pivetta has been serviceable – a 4.84 ERA in eight starts – since a six week banishment to Class AAA, but a matchup with the deep, dangerous Dodgers lineup is probably the last thing he needs to remain on firm ground. Aaron Nola will start the finale for the Phillies and hes approaching his 2018 Cy Young form. But an injury ravaged bullpen and a lineup thinned by Andrew McCutchens loss make the Phillies margin for error thin. That goes for their grip on the second wild card, too: A half dozen teams are within 3 ½ games, including the Pirates, who they meet next weekend. The Braves seven game lead in the NL East is the largest in baseball, forged by a 24 8 run in which theyve mostly pounded opponents into submission. Now, another challenge: 13 of their next 15 against winning ballclubs, starting at Miller Park. While the Brewers and Braves tangle, the Nationals will play a pair against the MLB worst Orioles before a four game Braves Nationals clash in Atlanta. Should the Braves somehow pad their lead this week, that will only give GM Alex Anthopoulos further motivation to improve whats clearly a playoff caliber club. In Wednesdays series finale, the Brewers will face Dallas Keuchel, a pitcher who stayed on the market until the Braves added him in June. The Brewers opted for a one year splurge on catcher Yasmani Grandal, and the move has paid off: Grandal is an All Star with 19 home runs and a 126 OPS plus. Yet you wonder if the Brewers would have been better served spending that cash on pitching. Their 4.66 ERA ranks 12th in the NL and their starters are averaging five innings an outing, worst in the NL. Despite his late arrival, Keuchel has a 3.09 ERA in five starts and has pitched into at least the seventh inning in his last three outings. Let us pause momentarily and praise the AL West: Four teams are above .500 and in the black in run differential. The Houston Astros are expected to reign supreme a fourth consecutive year – but their performance this week may frame how some of their pursuers approach the final two months. First up: Four games at Anaheim, where the Angels have played on in the wake of Tyler Skaggs death on July 1. While theyre 11 games behind Houston, the Angels are five games out of a wild card spot and could be swayed to make moderate deadline improvements if a playoff berth remains within reach. Theyre two games behind the Texas Rangers, who finish the week by hosting the Astros for three. A disastrous week for the Astros could open the door for everyone in the West, most notably Oakland, which holds a wild card spot and lurks six games back in the division. It seems likelier theyll push at least one club closer to reality by weeks end. This article originally appeared on USA TODAY:

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