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MLB Week 18: A Look Ahead at Key Storylines and Matchups

; Chicago White Sox starting pitcher Jake Peavy
; Chicago White Sox starting pitcher Jake Peavy

Jul 25, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago White Sox starting pitcher Jake Peavy (44) pitches against the Detroit Tigers during the first inning at U.S. Cellular Field.  David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

The Major League Baseball trade deadline has been much of the focus of the MLB landscape for the last couple of weeks. Now that it is only days away, that hasn’t changed. But the dreaded Biogenesis scandal has jumped back into the headlines over the last week, and it’s not going away just yet either. In fact, it’s only heating up. Between those two things alone there are enough storylines to last the rest of the summer. But there is still plenty more happening in baseball than just that.

Trade Deadline – At 4:00 p.m. ET on Wednesday, MLB’s non-waiver trade deadline arrives. Expect there to be plenty more rumors between now and then. At this point, there are very few certainties, but the only one seems to be that White Sox starter Jake Peavy will be traded, and he’s even reportedly packed extra luggage for Chicago’s road trip in anticipation of a deal. On Sunday afternoon, ESPN’s Buster Olney thought the Athletics had the edge in negotiations, with the Cardinals, Red Sox, and Orioles involved, as well. However, MLB Network’s Peter Gammons added later Sunday that no team seems eager to meet the White Sox’s asking price. The market seems to be devoid of any available superstars, so beyond Peavy, don’t expect any big names to be on the move, unless the Phillies like an offer on Cliff Lee or the Rangers deal Joe Nathan. More relievers may be traded than anyone else. No matter who goes or doesn’t, the days leading up to the trade deadline are some of the most exciting on the MLB calendar.

Biogenesis Suspensions – Following the 65-game suspension of Ryan Braun last week handed out by MLB, the world waits for the hammer to drop on the rest of the players involved in the Biogenesis scandal. And the New York Post reports those could come all in one fell swoop this week. There are several players on contending teams that could lose the final third of their seasons, including Bartolo Colon, Nelson Cruz, and Jhonny Peralta. The headliner of them all, though, is, of course, Alex Rodriguez. MLB is hoping to keep him out of baseball until at least 2015, which would be his 40-year-old season. A lifetime ban could even be a possibility. Meanwhile, he’s hoping to join the Yankees for the first time this season early next month, while the organization’s every move seems to indicate they want to be rid of him by whatever means necessary. The punishment can’t come soon enough for the team. The question is whether A-Rod and all other punished players will accept the suspensions, try to strike a deal beforehand, or appeal them. That process could begin very soon.

Can the Grandy Man Can? – For the second time this season, Curtis Granderson is getting set to rejoin the Yankees. He is continuing rehab from the broken pinky he suffered at the end of May. That injury came just about a week after he made his season debut, missing the first month-and-a-half of the year with a fractured forearm. New York needs as much offensive help as they can get, so Granderson should be able to provide a boost. In his three full seasons with the Yankees, he averaged 36 home runs and 97 RBI a year. For a team that didn’t hit its first post-All-Star break homer until its 10th game, his bat could be huge. Manager Joe Girardi says he could rejoin the team by the weekend. Paired with the returns of Derek Jeter and Alfonso Soriano, maybe, just maybe, the Yankees could score some runs in the second half.

Resurgent Royals – What do we make of the Royals at this point in the season? They were atop the A.L. Central after the first month of the year, then were in the basement by the end of the following month. By early June they were already 10 games under .500 and were headed toward another disappointing season even after making some promising roster upgrades in the offseason. But they’ve put it into another gear since the All-Star break. Kansas City has won six in a row, and eight of 10, to get back to the .500 mark and five games out of a wild card spot. That’s thanks, in large part, to the pitching staff. During the team’s six-game winning streak, the Royals have allowed just nine runs. This week, they have a great opportunity to make up even more ground with three games against the Twins, then three more against the Mets. The best part about that New York series is that K.C. should avoid having to face Matt Harvey.

Matchups of the Week – Baseball’s biggest matchup this week is a repeat from last. Thanks to a rainout, the Rays will meet the Red Sox for a makeup game on Monday night. And, like in some of their games last week, the A.L. East lead is on the line. After falling behind Tampa for a couple of days, the Red Sox reclaimed first place by a half game on Sunday. Unfortunately for Boston, the rainout has allowed for Tampa to start David Price again, just five days after dominating the Sox on the way to his third complete game of the season. Countering for Boston will be Felix Doubront, who was on the losing end of Price’s dazzler, but still pitched well over 6.2 innings. Among the other series to watch this week are Cardinals-Pirates, Rockies-Braves, Nationals-Tigers, Diamondbacks-Rays, Yankees-Dodgers, Diamondbacks-Red Sox, Cardinals-Reds, and Rangers-Athletics. There are also some great pitching duels on tap, including Stephen Strasburg vs. Anibal Sanchez and Zack Greinke vs. Andy Pettitte on Tuesday. Wednesday features Gio Gonzalez and Justin Verlander, Adam Wainwright and Jeff Locke, Hisashi Iwakuma and John Lackey, and Hiroki Kuroda and Clayton Kershaw. And, on Thursday, Chris Sale will face Justin Masterson. Lastly, if for whatever reason you have any interest in seeing the two most underachieving teams in baseball battle it out, the Angels will host the Blue Jays for four beginning on Thursday.

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