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.
1. CANO RETURNS TO THE BRONX
What kind of response will Robinson Cano get when he returns to the Bronx? Do you even have to ask? Expect boos (and probably worse) to rain down uptown Cano starting Tuesday, as his Seattle Mariners play the New York Yankees in a three-game series. Cano, of course, bolted from the Bronx for a 10-year, $240 million free-agent contract this past winter and Yankees fans were none too pleased. They have plenty of fodder to make signs, though: The Yanks are 15-10 heading into the series, perching them atop the AL East. Meanwhile, the Mariners are 10-14 and fourth in the AL West. Cano is hitting .301, but has only hit one homer this season.
One programming note: Cano will be a guest on "The Tonight Show" with Jimmy Fallon on Monday, his first official act upon his return to New York. You think Jay-Z will be there too?
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2. MUST-SEE MATCHUP — ALEX WOOD VS. JOSE FERNANDEZ, THE SEQUEL
Last Tuesday, Alex Wood of the Atlanta Braves faced Jose Fernandez of the Miami Marlins and the result was something at which to marvel — they combined to strike out 25 hitters without a single walk. The Marlins won the game 1-0, as Fernandez struck out 14 and allowed just three hits. Both young pitchers — Fernandez is 21, Wood is 23 — enter their rematch this Tuesday with sub-2.00 ERAs. It seems improbable that they'll give us something better than last week's duel, but we can hope.
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3. WILL THE BREWERS COME BACK TO EARTH THIS WEEK?
The Milwaukee Brewers still own MLB's best record at 18-7, one win better than the 17-7 Braves. The Brewers were 4-2 last week against the Cubs and Padres, but this week, they're facing stiffer competition. The Brew Crew goes on the road to play two division rivals, the two teams chasing them in the standings, in fact — the St. Louis Cardinals (14-12) and the Cincinnati Reds (11-14). The Brewers play three games with the Cards starting Monday, then four in Cincinnati.
It's not just stiff competition the Brewers are up against, but stiff bodies too. Ryan Braun is out for 3-5 days with a rib-cage strain and shortstop Jean Segura is out after getting hit in the head by one of Braun's warm-up swings Saturday. He wants to play this week, but there's no exact timetable for his return.
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4. JOSE ABREU, WHAT MORE DO YOU HAVE LEFT FOR US IN APRIL?
Chicago White Sox slugger Jose Abreu is on fire right now. He launched his league-leading 10th homer Sunday and added four more RBIs to make him No. 1 there too, with 31. Both marks are already rookie records for April, but Abreu has a few more days left in the month to see what else he can do. It doesn't become May until Thursday and the White Sox have three games before then. They play the Rays on Monday, then the Tigers on Tuesday and Wednesday. Abreu was named the American League's co-player of the week Monday, the first of what oughta be a number of awards, should he keep this up.
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5. THE A'S LOOK FOR REVENGE AGAINST THE RANGERS
The Texas Rangers swept the Oakland Athletics last week, taking three games and, in the process, first place in the AL West. After splitting a four-game series with the Astros, the A's now head to Arlington for three more games with the Rangers. After losing two of three against the Mariners, the Rangers find themselves tied with the A's atop the standings. Three games against each other is a good way to break that tie.
The series starts Monday, with a great pitching matchup — Sonny Gray (3-1, 2.25 ERA) vs. Yu Darvish (1-0, 1.61 ERA). The others aren't too bad either: Scott Kazmir (3-0, 1.62 ERA) faces the surprising Martín Perez (4-0, 1.42 ERA) on Tuesday, and then Jesse Chavez (1-0, 2.32 ERA) vs. Robbie Ross Jr. (1-1, 2.45 ERA) to close the series Wednesday.
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