Possible World Series preview among must-attend games of August
August is the last month to take the kids to the ballpark before school starts, and it's a great time to do it with the pennant races heating up. Here are the five series most worth attending in August.
The first-place A's will enter the month with the American League's biggest divisional lead on the Rangers in the AL West, while Texas is right in the thick of the wild-card race. However, the Rangers have a soft schedule in August. After this three-game set this weekend, they don't play another team with a winning record until a rematch with Oakland in early September. If they can make hay against the A's head-to-head -- they are 6-4 against Oakland thus far this season -- they could be in prime position for their fourth straight postseason berth by the time the A's arrive in Arlington on Sept. 2.
Probable pitchers for this series are Alexi Ogando and Tommy Milone Friday night, Matt Garza and Jarrod Parker in the potential series highlight on Saturday afternoon, and Derek Holland and A.J. Griffin on Sunday afternoon.
The AL Central is a far more compelling race than the AL West right now, with the Tigers and Indians separated by just 2 ½ games and the Indians a half-game out of the second wild-card spot. This four-game set next week is the penultimate meeting of the season between these two teams, with the last being a three-game series in Detroit from Aug. 30 to Sept. 1.
The Tigers have dominated the season series, winning nine of 12 games -- a .725 winning percentage -- and outscoring Cleveland 78-48. Detroit is also heating up heading into August, having won four in a row, eight of nine and 17 of 24 games. Then again, the Tigers will likely be without Jhonny Peralta, who has hit .302/.343/.469 over that stretch but is facing a ban related to the Biogenesis scandal. Cleveland, meanwhile, has also played well of late, having won six in a row heading into the final day of July.
The probable pitching matchups in this series are Anibal Sanchez vs. Corey Kluber on Monday, Justin Verlander vs. Justin Masterson on Tuesday, Doug Fister vs. Ubaldo Jimenez on Wednesday and Max Scherzer vs. Zach McAllister on Thursday. All games are 7:05 pm starts.
The Dodgers don't play an intradivision game until the Padres come to town on Aug. 30, and the Rays don't play the Red Sox until Sept. 10. So instead of a battle for their respective divisions, go see the two hottest teams in baseball do battle with one another. The Rays have gone 23-4 (.852) since the last time they lost consecutive games, while the Dodgers have gone 27-6 (.818) since they last time they lost two in a row. The Rays' 23-4 run is the best 27-game stretch by any team in the majors this year, while the last time a Dodgers team went 27-6 at any point in a season was 1953, when the Brooklyn Dodgers won 105 games and the National League pennant.
Both teams have ridden their hot streaks into first place, with the Rays holding a slim half-game lead over the Red Sox in the competitive AL East and the Dodgers pulling away in the weak NL West, now leading the Diamondbacks by 3 ½ games.
Unsurprisingly, the pitching matchups are compelling: Chris Archer vs. Zack Greinke on Friday night, Matt Moore vs. Clayton Kershaw on Saturday afternoon, and David Price vs. Ricky Nolasco in the Sunday night game.
August has been a fateful month for Pittsburgh each of the last two seasons. The team went 19-39 (.328) last year and 36-76 (.321) the last two seasons combined, dashing the promise of brief appearances in first place in July.
This year might be different, however. It seemed ominous when the Pirates lost four in a row to fall out of first place in early July, but they have won eight of their last 11, including a doubleheader sweep of the Cardinals on Tuesday, to climb back into first place. That's the latest they have held that position since 1992, their last winning season and the year of their most recent postseason berth.
Pittsburgh is now 6-2 against St. Louis this season, outscoring them 43-25 in those games. The Cardinals, meanwhile, have suddenly lost six in a row, half of those coming against Pittsburgh. Surely they'll be anxious for this rematch in St. Louis, which concludes with a Thursday afternoon game.
Absent a Rays-Red Sox matchup, this will do for those looking for a series involving two teams currently occupying playoff spots in the very competitive AL East. The Red Sox are 4 ½ games ahead of the Orioles at the moment, but both occupy a wild-card spot and would rather pass the Rays to win the division. A lot could happen between now and this series at the end of the month, but it's worth remembering that the Orioles, not the Red Sox, are the coming off playoff appearance last year. They've been in the mix for two seasons now and don't seem likely to go away. Thus far, Boston has an edge in this season series, but not a big one. They are up 6-4 in games but just 38-34 in run scoring.