MLB Weekend Preview: Yankees vs. Mariners (And More!)

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 24: CC Sabathia #52 of the New York Yankees pitches against the Toronto Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium on May 24, 2011 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Michael Heiman/Getty Images)

Which series should you watch out for this weekend? In an effort to help you set your DVR, here are three of the best baseball has to offer.

There aren't any clashes between first-place teams this weekend, but there are still some series to keep an eye on. Here are three of the best ...

Cleveland Indians vs. Tampa Bay Rays
Remember when the Rays were a surprise team? That was so adorable. Now they're a more familiar, less adorable team that's all entitled and stuff -- the teenager of surprise teams. After a horrific start, the Rays have slipped back in the AL East race, losing five of six. Lost in the Sam Fuld mania of of the early season (he now has a 74 OPS+)  was the fast start by Matthew Joyce, who is hitting like Jose Bautista before he morphed into Jose M.F. Bautista.

Joyce isn't the most surprising player on the team, though. Casey Kotchman is hitting well. Sure, his BABiP is about .100 points over his career average, so it's likely that he'll return to orbit, but Casey Kotchman is hitting well. Add to this that Brandon Wood is starting for the Pirates and Dallas McPherson is in the majors with the White Sox while Howie Kendrick is on the DL, and it's like season six of a crappy MTV reality show: Angels in the Infield.

While the Indians are the new surprise team -- we're still making stupid faces at them and everything -- they've had quite a bit go wrong for a team on a roll. Grady Sizemore, Travis Hafner, Alex White, and Mitch Talbot have all been injured, and the Indians have missed or should miss all of them.

Carlos Carrasco starts on Saturday, and he's been pretty shaky following the promise of seven good starts last year. Justin Masterson and Josh Tomlin aren't going to pitch like Cy Young contenders all year, so a productive Carrasco is probably the in-house reinforcement that Cleveland is hoping for.

Probable starting pitchers:

Friday - Josh Tomlin vs. David Price
Saturday - Carlos Carrasco vs. James Shields
Sunday - Justin Masterson vs. Jeremy Hellickson


Cincinnati Reds vs. Atlanta Braves
It's a third-place grudge match between two teams that were a lot closer to first place last week. The Braves had a rough start to their road trip last week, dropping a two-game set in Arizona, and losing two of the three Cactus League games against the Los Angeles Angels. They rebounded against the Pirates, but then the Pirates really are the backup point guard of the baseball world.

The best hitter for the Braves has been Eric Hinske, David Ross, and Joe Mather -- duct-taped together as if Cerberus married a Swiss Army knife and gave birth to a slow, slow Tony Phillips who could catch. (And yes, I sincerely believe that's the perfect analogy, so I'll just move on ...)

The Reds have been in total free-fall, losing eight of nine to drop four games behind the Cardinals. It's not like they're getting unlucky and dropping a bunch of one-run games because of weird bounces and capricious calls. They've been a sloppy, sloppy baseball team. They probably felt like their fortunes were turning when they took the second game of a four-game set in Philadelphia, but then they ran into the Wilson Valdez buzzsaw. Scary-but-true fact: teams that have lost to Wilson Valdez have never won another game. Look it up.

Probable starting pitchers:

Friday - Mike Leake vs. Tommy Hanson
Saturday - Bronson Arroyo vs. Derek Lowe
Sunday - Johnny Cueto vs. Jair Jurrjens

New York Yankees vs. Seattle Mariners
This series is interesting for two reasons:

  1. The Mariners are a game under .500, and they've won eight of their last 10, and
  2. Any time you can watch Michael Pineda and Felix Hernandez in the same series, that's one of the most interesting series to watch.

The Mariners are still a dreadful offensive team -- Adam Kennedy, Second Most Productive Hitter, isn't something you would have ever expected to read on a business card -- and everyone in their lineup has an OPS+ of yuck or lower.  But come for the pitching, appreciate the emergence of Justin Smoak, and make yourself something to eat while the rest of the games are going on.

After slinking towards .500, the Yankees have been much better lately, pulling back into a first-place tie, this time with the Boston Red Sox. Maybe now the mainstream media will stop ignoring that part of the AL East narrative and focus a little on these two teams.

Jorge Posada, Derek Jeter, and Nick Swisher still aren't hitting and that's still a pretty big story, but obscures the fact that the rest of the lineup is mashing. And the most surprising player in baseball might not be Jose Bautista or Ryan Vogelsong; it might be Russell Martin, who is hitting and fielding better than he ever has, despite a hip that's held together with spackle and toothpicks. Catchers aren't supposed to recover like this -- they're supposed to go gently into the night.

Between Martin, Bartolo Colon, and Freddy Garcia, the Yankees have had more luck with cheap veteran free agents in two months than the Pirates have had in 15 years. Yeah, that's fair.

Probable starting pitchers:

Friday - A.J. Burnett vs. Michael Pineda
Saturday - Ivan Nova vs. Felix Hernandez
Sunday - CC Sabathia vs. Jason Vargas


Mugshots of the week:



A physical entity attracts another with a force proportional to its mass. That's gravity. Now that you're up to speed, notice Matt Harrison's goatee. It's being pulled to the side by a larger entity. Because you are lazy, you're assuming it's attracted to Sean O'Sullivan's gigantic, spherical face. That's the easy answer. What you don't know is that next to O'Sullivan, out of frame, is the late-1990s. That poor thing on Harrison's face just wants to go home.

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