As the season winds down and the stakes increase, the Stew will take time each Mon./Tues. and also each Friday to look at baseball's key series and the storylines within.
1. Dodgers at Phillies
I'd call this a playoff preview, but you usually should have a good sense that each team is actually going to make the playoffs to do so. The Dodgers won all four games the other week in Chavez Ravine and Jimmy Rollins is 1-for-12 since returning to Philly from The Best Damn Sports Show studio, so we're in for a fun weekend at CBP. Philly's frontrunners — as well as the frontrunners at Shea and Chase Field — are sure to also be watching this one closely.
2. Rays at White Sox
It's Elvis Night tonight at The Cell, which is actually one of the most anticipated South Side promotions all year. They do it up right — good-to-great impersonators, skydiving Elvii and plenty of alcohol. I've been to a few Elvis Nights in my day and I seem to remember a few of them being scheduled against the Rays as a way to guarantee a big gate even in spit of a poor opponent. This year it's a different story; the game would've sold out anyway.
(Let's be honest, though. A little Elvis never made anything worse.)
Pitching matchup to watch: Scott Kazmir (9-6, 3.21) gets the Saturday start on FOX against Javier "Most Maddening/Middling Pitcher In The World" Vazquez (10-10, 4.34).
3. Twins at Angels
After being able to watch the clash in Chicago, the Twins and Angels will meet out on the West Coast. The Twins have won 11 of their last 14 games and while their main focus is battling the White Sox, they can start following those Boston box scores a little more closely. That 12-inning win over the Angels in Thursday's series opener moved 'em even with the BoSox in the wild card standings. No one ever said two teams from the AL East making the playoffs was a lock, did they?
Pitching matchup to watch: Kevin "Don't Call Me Nick" Slowey (10-8, 3.78) and Ervin Santana (13-5, 3.39) will close out the series on Sunday afternoon.
4. Marlins vs. D'Backs
At six games behind the Mets in the NL East and eight behind the Brewers in the wild card, it's nearing the time to dig the hook out of the Marlins' mouth and throw them back out of the playoff boat. If we don't want to be standing around on Monday and remembering the long time they stayed on the line, they'll snap out of the funk that saw them drop two straight in San Francisco.
Pitching matchup to watch: Anibal Sanchez (2-2, 3.52) and Randy Johnson (10-9, 4.16) get the party started tonight out at Chase Field. The Big Unit is six wins away from the Big Total. Anibal Sanchez has a decent career record against Arizona ... he no-hit them in his only start against the Snakes.
5. Red Sox at Blue Jays
Most people are interested in watching this series to see if the Red Sox can gain any ground on the Rays. I'm more excited to see if the Blue Jays can overtake the Yankees for third place. Right now they're only a game behind that rapidly sinking ship. (Any Jays fans out there still have wild card dreams? They're only seven games behind Boston and Minnesota.)
Pitching matchup to watch: Shaun Marcum (8-5, 3.36) dons the powder blues tonight while Paul Byrd (7-11, 4.55) interestingly makes his third consecutive start against the same team. He's 1-1 against the Jays over the last two weeks with a complete game thrown in there.