MLB viewing guide: Weekend schedule spotlight

USA TODAY Sports

Battles for first, comeback attempts, and those wacky Astros.

Atlanta Braves at Detroit Tigers

Day

Home SP

Visit. SP

Time

Where

April 26

Anibal Sanchez (2-1), 1.75 ERA, 2.07 FIP

Paul Maholm (3-1), 1.03 ERA, 2.86 FIP

7:05 pm ET

MLB Network, FOX Sports-South, FOX Sports-Detroit

April 27

Rick Porcello (0-2), 11.08 ERA, 6.24 FIP

Kris Medlen (1-2), 2.16 ERA, 3.29 FIP

1:05 pm ET

FOX

April 28

Doug Fister (3-0), 2.00 ERA, 3.56 FIP

Mike Minor (3-1), 1.80 ERA, 2.21 FIP

8:05 pm ET

ESPN

The best team in baseball meets the defending AL champions in Detroit for just its second series ever in the Motor City. All but one of the five previous interleague series between the two teams occurred at Turner Field, and that one was nine years ago. The winning pitchers in that '04 series were Chris Reitsma, Craig Dingman, and Mike Maroth --it's been awhile. The Tigers are looking for some wins after dropping five of their previous six games, but none of those Atlanta pitchers are likely to make it easy, especially for spark plug Austin Jackson. The leadoff hitter is mired in a dreadful 2-for-33 slump.

Pittsburgh Pirates at St. Louis Cardinals

Day

Home SP

Visit. SP

Time

Where

April 26

Lance Lynn (3-0), 3.68 ERA, 3.27 FIP

Jonathan Sanchez (0-2), 11.12 ERA, 6.88 FIP

8:15 pm ET

ROOT Sports, FOX Sports-Midwest

April 27

Jake Westbrook (1-1), 1.25 ERA, 4.34 FIP

A.J. Burnett (1-2), 2.79 ERA, 2.45 FIP

4:15 pm ET

ROOT Sports, FOX Sports-Midwest

April 28

Shelby Miller (3-1), 2.16 ERA, 2.40 FIP

Jeff Locke (2-1), 3.74 ERA, 6.09 FIP

2:15 pm ET

ROOT Sports, FOX Sports-Midwest

The Bucs are on a roll after stumbling out of the gate with an anemic offense.Their fortunes have changed since April 8th, and they've gone 12-4 against some hefty competition in the Diamondbacks, Reds, Braves, Phillies, and Cardinals. One of those wins was a dominant one-hit start by Burnett against the Cards, who will hope to scratch out enough runs so that their pitching staff can lead the way. Miller has transitioned seamlessly into the big-league rotation, but how long will his success last?

Toronto Blue Jays at New York Yankees

Photo credit: Doug Pensinger

Day

Home SP

Visit. SP

Time

Where

April 26

Ivan Nova (1-1), 6.14 ERA, 2.86 FIP

Aaron Laffey (0-0), 7.20 ERA, 4.60 FIP

7:05 pm ET

RSN, YES Network, MLB Network

April 27

CC Sabathia (3-2), 3.34 ERA, 3.60 FIP

J.A. Happ (2-1), 3.68 ERA, 3.82 FIP

4:05 pm ET

RSN, YES Network

April 28

Phil Hughes (0-2), 5.14 ERA, 5.14 FIP

R.A. Dickey (2-3), 4.66 ERA, 4.24 FIP

1:05 pm ET

TBS, RSN, YES Network

Toronto has had about as disappointing an opening month as possible. Their newly-acquired star shortstop (Jose Reyes) is gone for three months, their big off-season pitching acquisitions have all struggled early on (Dickey, Johnson, and Mark Buehrle, who lost to the Yankees Thursday night), and only J.P. Arencibia has an OPS over 760. Johnson has a bad back, and was scratched from Friday's start with triceps tightness, opening the way for new waiver claim Aaron Laffey. With the Yankees pitching their two least effective starters this weekend, the Blue Jays can't miss the opportunity to attack the weak underbelly of the Yanks' rotation, especially with their supposed ace pitching against Hughes on Sunday.

Colorado Rockies at Arizona Diamondbacks

Day

Home SP

Visit. SP

Time

Where

April 26

Brandon McCarthy (0-2), 7.06 ERA, 3.87 FIP

Juan Nicasio (2-0), 5.31 ERA, 6.14 FIP

9:40 pm ET

ROOT Sports, FOX Sports-Arizona

April 27

Wade Miley (2-0), 2.77 ERA, 2.65 FIP

Jeff Francis (1-2), 8.44 ERA, 5.12 FIP

8:10 pm ET

ROOT Sports, FOX Sports-Arizona

April 28

Patrick Corbin (2-0) 1.71 ERA, 2.88 FIP

Jon Garland (2-1), 4.68 ERA, 5.04 FIP

4:10 pm ET

ROOT Sports, FOX Sports-Arizona

Two surprises early this year have been the Diamondbacks and Rockies, who combined for a 27-17 record entering today. The recently-extended Paul Goldschmidt leads the D'backs in most major offensive categories, and young shortstop Didi Gregorious has started his Arizona career with four doubles and two homers in just six games. Corbin appears to be the Miley of 2013, while Miley seems to be cementing himself as Arizona's ace. The D'backs appear more likely to sustain their success according to pre-season projections. The loss of Jhoulys Chacin, Colorado's best starter, hurt their rotation, so the Rockies will rely on Carlos Gonzalez, Troy Tulowitzki, Michael Cuddyer, Wilin Rosario, and Dexter Fowler to continue their scalding-hot starts to the season. Even if their struggling players rebounded while these five slumped, their offensive prowess will drop.

Houston Astros at Boston Red Sox

Day

Home SP

Visit. SP

Time

Where

April 26

Ryan Dempster (0-2), 3.38 ERA, 3.79 FIP

Erik Bedard (0-1), 6.17 ERA, 4.88 FIP

7:10 pm ET

CSN, NESN

April 27

Felix Doubront (2-0), 4.32 ERA, 2.88 FIP

Brad Peacock (1-2), 7.50 ERA, 7.05 FIP

7:10 pm ET

CSN, NESN

April 28

John Lackey (0-1), 4.15 ERA, 3.00 FIP

Bud Norris (3-2), 4.13 ERA, 4.25 FIP

1:35 pm ET

CSN, NESN

Four of the Astros' seven victories thus far were against the struggling Seattle Mariners, who cannot seem to beat Houston. Outside of Mariner games, the Astros are 3-13, a record that stands to only get worse during this four-game series at Fenway. They've struck out 9.9 times per game so far; the all-time strikeout leader, the 2001 Milwaukee Brewers, struck out 8.6 times per game. Clay Buchholz shut them down Thursday night, and the edge again goes to the Red Sox over the next couple games with Dempster and Doubront, though, neither is overpowering. It's difficult to know what to expect from Lackey's return on Sunday after what looked like a gruesome injury in his first start that would keep him out much longer than it did. Will he be the same pitcher who struck out eight Blue Jays in 4-1/3 innings?

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