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MLB Week 21: A Look Ahead at Key Storylines and Matchups

Brewers OF Ryan Braun
Brewers OF Ryan Braun

Jul 21, 2013; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Milwaukee Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun reacts after striking out in the 11th inning against the Miami Marlins at Miller Park. Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Six weeks. That’s all there is left to the Major League baseball regular season. There are no shortage of storylines as teams make their playoff push, or look towards the future. Once again, though, the headline of the week may be an issue that comes off the field.

Braun Apology – When Ryan Braun accepted his suspension for PED usage, he never really admitted to doing anything wrong nor did he apologize for cheating. That may change. USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reports that Braun is soon prepared to admit he took PEDs and apologize for what he did. It would be a major step for Braun who has repeatedly lied and been vague in his public explanations of his history with steroids. If he has any hope of repairing his image, which might be impossible, this is a necessary first step.

The Next Puig? – The Majors have already seen a dynamic future star make an impact this season in Yasiel Puig. Another one may be arriving now. The Red Sox have called up shortstop Xander Bogaerts from AAA. He has been Boston’s prized organizational possession and has been untouchable in any trade talks. He is a large part of what made Jose Iglesias expendable in the Jake Peavy trade. Baseball America ranked him as the #8 prospect in the game, and with good reason. The 20-year-old hit .297/.388/.477 with 23 doubles, 15 home runs, 72 runs, and 67 RBI in 116 games between AA and AAA. The Red Sox, who have lost seven of their last 10, could use a spark like Puig has brought to Los Angeles. Bogaerts will likely get playing time at both shortstop and third base.

Eyes on an Ace – Well, he may not be an ace anymore, but Roy Halladay is trying to turn his career around. After dominating hitters for a decade, he hit a wall last season, managing just a 11-8 record and 4.49 ERA, while making his first trip to the DL in three years. His 2013 season got off to an even worse start. He started just seven games, going 2-4, with a 8.65 ERA before undergoing surgery to remove a bone spur in his shoulder. He hasn’t pitched in the Majors since. He might be getting close now, though. Halladay made a rehab start last week with the Phillies’ Gulf Coast League affiliate. He went six innings, allowing three runs on six hits. Despite the less-than-stellar performance, a scout at the game said his problems were fixed. Halladay’s next step is another rehab start on Tuesday in Single-A. After that game, the Phillies will assess his plans moving forward.

No Dodger Blues – The Dodgers are on an historic run. Before losing to Philadelphia on Sunday, L.A. had won 10 straight and were 42-8 during a 50 game stretch. It was the best such run since the Cardinals had the same 50-game record 71 years ago. Now, the team has a 7.5 game lead in the N.L. West after spending the first half of the season in the division’s basement. At 9/2, oddsmakers have even made them the World Series favorite. Everything seems to be going right now in Chavez Ravine, but the team has an interesting week ahead. They have four very winnable games in Miami, and then will host the Red Sox for a weekend set in a matchup of storied first-place teams.

Matchups of the Week – Compared to recent weeks, there are fewer marquee pitching slates and headlining series this week, but that’s not to say this week is lacking. Some bright young stars will face each other on the mound, and there are several series that will affect pennant races. At this point in the season, each game is huge.

Monday – Hyun-Jin Ryu-Jose Fernandez, David PriceChris Tillman

Tuesday – Patrick CorbinTony Cingrani, Brandon BeachyZack Wheeler

Wednesday – Hisashi IwakumaA.J. Griffin

Thursday – Stephen StrasburgTravis Wood

Friday – Kris MedlenAdam Wainwright

Saturday – Max ScherzerMatt Harvey

Sunday – Ivan Nova-David Price

Series of the Week – Rays-Orioles (Monday-Wednesday), Diamondbacks-Reds (Monday-Thursday), Braves-Cardinals (Thursday-Sunday),  A’s-Orioles (Friday-Sunday) Yankees-Rays (Friday-Sunday), Red Sox-Dodgers (Friday-Sunday)

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