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MLB Week 14: A Look Ahead at Key Storylines and Matchups

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MLB

Jun 25, 2013; Woodbridge, VA, USA; Bryce Harper (32) motions for the runner to slide in the third inning against the Myrtle Beach Pelicans at Pfitzner Stadium. Harper played for Potomac in a rehab assignment. Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

The NBA Finals are over. The Stanley Cup Playoffs have ended. It’s baseball season now. MLB takes center stage as it has the major professional sports landscape all to itself. And what a great time this is. It’s now July (how did that happen?) and we’re right at the midway point of the season. The All-Star Game will be played in a matter of days, the trade deadline is just around the corner, and it’s really time to start keeping an eye on the standings. It is a wonderful time to be a baseball fan. This week highlights the reasons why.

All-Star Voting Revealed – The All-Star Game will be held at Citi Field in New York on July 16th, and the American League and National League rosters will be announced this week. They will be unveiled on FOX on Saturday night. There will undoubtedly be surprises and snubs, but that is the nature of the process when every team has to be represented and managers strategically have to add their reserves as “this time it counts”. We’ll get one more update on how the balloting for the starters’ positions is shaping up with latest on the A.L. voting on Monday and the standings in the N.L. on Tuesday.

All-Stars Returning – While neither will likely be named to this year’s All-Star Game, two of baseball’s best will be returning from extended stints on the disabled list. The Washington Nationals will be getting the much-needed return of outfielder Bryce Harper on Monday. He has been out since late May recovering from a left knee injury, and his Nationals have struggled. They are only 40-40 on the season and just 14-16 since Harper last played. Before his injury, he was hitting .287/.386/.587 with 12 home runs. During his minor league rehab, he went 4-for-11 with a home run in four games. The Nationals actually own one of the league’s worst offenses, so Harper’s return can’t come soon enough.

Meanwhile, in the American League, the Tampa Bay Rays will welcome back the ace of their staff on Tuesday as David Price will get the start. The reigning Cy Young Award winner hasn’t much pitched like it this year, posting a 1-4 record and 5.24 ERA in nine starts. It is the worst season of his career, but he says his problems were due, in large part, to an allergy problem that he has since treated. His bigger problem recently has been his strained left triceps that has kept him out since mid-May. That injury seems to be behind him now. He threw five innings in a single-A game on Wednesday, allowing two hits, one walk, and no runs while striking out eight. He said he felt great, which is great news for Tampa, which is right in the thick of the playoff race, only three games back of a wild card spot, and struggling to get good starting pitching.

Trading Season Begins? – The non-waiver trading deadline isn’t until the end of July, but we probably won’t have to wait that long for the ice to be broken. It may happen as soon as this week. It is no secret that the Marlins are looking to move Ricky Nolasco, and it’s possibly he has already made his last start in a Miami uniform. Nolasco, with a 3.93 ERA and nine quality starts, is likely to be one of the better pitchers on the market this summer. He’s been heavily suited by several teams in need of another starter, including the Padres, Dodgers, and Orioles. He could be moved as soon as this week.

July Fourth Festivities – What’s more American than baseball? Maybe hot dogs, apple pie, and Chuck Norris, but not much else. That’s why the national pastime on America’s birthday is so perfect. This year, that will occur on Thursday. There is a full slate of games, with first pitch set in the afternoon for most of them. Every team will wear special Stars & Stripes hats, and there will be celebrations at ballparks around the league. In the nation’s capital, the Nationals will also be hosting Neil Diamond, who will perform his new single Freedom Song (They’ll Never Take Us Down) during the July 4th game. Diamond wrote it following the Boston Marathon bombings in support of the country.

Series of the Week – Among the many intriguing series this week are a couple with very interesting storylines. The Angels will host the Cardinals for three from Tuesday through Thursday, which will mark Albert Pujols’s first time facing his former team. Meanwhile, Detroit will head to Toronto for four beginning on Monday, with all eyes on Max Scherzer, who gets the nod on Wednesday and tries to remain unbeaten. In his last start, he became the first pitcher since Roger Clemens in 1986 to go 12-0. He will keep pace with Clemens if he’s able to beat the Blue Jays. Other series of note this week include Giants/Reds, Phillies/Pirates, Padres/Red Sox, Indians/Royals, Dodgers/Rockies, Braves/Phillies, Orioles/Yankees, Tigers/Indians, Athletics/Royals, Rockies/Diamondbacks, Red Sox/Angels, and Dodgers/Giants.

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