Five Big Things is Big League Stew's look at the week ahead in MLB action, examining storylines and matchups you should keep an eye on.
CAN THE YANKEES OVERTAKE THE BLUE JAYS?
The Toronto Blue Jays start a three-game series with the New York Yankees on Monday in a precarious position. Toronto's lead in the AL East is down to a game and a half, and the Jays lost Jose Bautista and Brett Lawrie to injury Sunday.
Lawrie is headed to the DL with a fractured finger, while Bautista isn't in the lineup because of a mild hamstring strain that will keep him out for a couple of days. The Yankees (39-35) could very well take advantage of this and move into first place.
But let's also consider that the Yankees have lost two straight, scoring just one run in those two games and they won't be sending ace/savior Masahiro Tanaka to the mound in the series. Instead, the Jays (42-35) face Chase Whitley, David Phelps and Hiroki Kuroda. That's a list that doesn't exactly strike fear in an opponent.
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ARMS DOWN! ARMS DOWN! CARDINALS NEED HELP
The St. Louis Cardinals sent two-fifths of their starting rotation to the disabled list Sunday, as Michael Wacha and Jaime Garcia left the team with shoulder issues. The Cardinals haven't patched the rotation gap yet (or, at the very least, they haven't announced it), but they'll at least count on reliever Carlos Martinez as a starter a little longer. He's been a spot starter the past couple weeks, particularly when Adam Wainwright was out with elbow tendonitis.
The Cardinals (41-35) are on a West Coast swing this week, visiting the Colorado Rockies (34-41) and Los Angeles Dodgers (42-35). Lance Lynn will pitch Monday for St. Louis, followed by Shelby Miller on Tuesday. Wednesday's starter is still to be decided, and Wainwright will start the series in L.A. Thursday. Another St. Louis starter, Joe Kelly, is on the disabled list, but is getting ready to start a minor-league rehab assignment. He could be back next week if all goes well.
We've heard a lot about the Cardinals' pitching depth the past two seasons, now they need it.
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CLAYTON KERSHAW'S NEXT ACT?
Coming off his no-hitter against the Colorado Rockies last week, Clayton Kershaw next gets to face the Kansas City Royals on Tuesday night. The Royals (39-36), who enjoyed a taste of first place in the AL Central last week, have returned to the No. 2 spot in the standings. Their offense has been a lot better lately, but they're a team that's never faced Kershaw before, so there's a chance he could be baffling again.
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THE TIGERS MIGHT GET TO FEAST ON THE AL WEST
As referenced above, the Detroit Tigers (40-32) are back in first place in the AL Central after winning four in a row. Their week ahead looks like a chance to widen their lead over the Royals, which stands at two and a half games heading into Monday's action.
The Tigers travel to Arlington to play three against the Texas Rangers (35-40) starting Tuesday, then head over to Minute Maid Park to play the last-place Houston Astros (33-44) over the weekend. The Tigers-Rangers series would have been a bigger deal at season's start, considering their offseason trade and all that was expected from the Rangers. But since they're in fourth place and totally beat up, it's more of a dud. The Rangers have lost five straight games coming into the series.
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PADRES VS GIANTS: WHO GETS RE-ENERGIZED?
Someone has to win between the San Francisco Giants and San Diego Padres this week, as the teams play a three-game series. The Giants (45-30) are still in first in the NL West, but they've been struggling the past two weeks, going 3-9. Though, the Giants did win their last two games in Arizona. The Padres (32-44) fired their GM on Sunday. If you like narratives, you have to figure the Padres are either going to rebound and get it together, or the Giants will take advantage of San Diego's recent troubles and get back on track.
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