MLB Week 24: A Look Ahead at Key Storylines and Matchups

Marlins SP Jose Fernandez
Marlins SP Jose Fernandez
Sep 6 2013 Miami FL USA Miami Marlins starting pitcher Jose Fernandez 16 delivers a pitch during the first inning against the Washington Nationals at Marlins Park Steve Mitchell USA TODAY Sports

Fall is in the air. And so is the Major League Baseball stretch run. At this point in the season, most of the MLB storylines revolve around the pennant race. And that is pretty much the case for this week. But a star rookie on one of the worst teams in baseball also deserves your attention, at least for one night. Here is what you should be watching for in the next few days.

Magic Number Watch – With less than two dozen games left for each team in the season, contenders may start to clinch playoff spots this week. The Braves’ magic number to clinch the N.L. East division is nine. The Dodgers have the next-lowest magic number for a division title at 10.  The Red Sox have a magic number of 10 to sew up a spot in October and 12 for the A.L. East. Three N.L. Central teams are also getting close to wrapping up playoff spots. St. Louis has a magic number of 11, Cincinnati’s is 12, and Pittsburgh’s is 13. The division, though, is still within reach for all of them as they are all within 1.5 games of each other. For all the other contenders and playoff hopefuls, it’s going to be at least another week before they can start thinking about locking up a trip to the postseason.

Ace in the Hole – After more than three months, the Red Sox are getting back arguably their best pitcher as they get ready for October. Clay Buchholz has been sidelined since June 8th with a neck strain and will get the start for Boston on Tuesday in Tampa. Buchholz was the early American League Cy Young Award favorite, owning a 9-0 record and 1.71 ERA when he went down. It is a great time for him to return to the Boston staff as he can still get in a few starts to regain his form and prepare himself for the postseason. He is coming off of three rehab starts in the minors, the last of which came on Thursday with Triple-A Pawtucket. He went 3.2 innings, allowing two runs on four hits and two walks, while striking out five. For the time being, Buchholz will replace Felix Doubront in the rotation. Doubront has struggled lately and will be skipped this time through.

An All-Star Finale – If you haven’t watched Marlins phenom Jose Fernandez pitch yet this season, you’ll need to do so this week. Due to innings limits, Fernandez will be making his last start of the season on Wednesday against the Braves. The 21-year-old (yes, he’s only 21) has been sensational this year and should take home the N.L. Rookie of the Year Award and will also get his share of Cy Young votes. In 27 games, he has posted an 11-6 record, 2.23 ERA, and 182 strikeouts over 165.2 innings. His ERA trails only Clayton Kershaw, his 0.97 WHIP is third-best in the N.L., and his .181 BAA is the best in all of baseball. He has topped 10 strikeouts four times this year, and picked up 14 against the Indians on August 2nd. It may seem weird to go out of your way to watch the Marlins, but at 7:10 on Wednesday night, you should make an exception to watch Fernandez yourself.

Matchups of the Week – The biggest intra-division series of the week will be between the Athletics and Rangers who are both fighting for the A.L. West crown in a race that could go down to the wire. But, this week will also be extremely important for teams in the wild card hunt. Most of the teams that either hold a spot or are fighting for one have difficult matchups this week. Some could gain ground directly on the teams they play, while each will be in danger of falling further back, and possibly out of contention. This week will surely all but eliminate at least a team or two.

Series Worth Watching:

Royals-Indians (Monday-Wednesday), Pirates-Rangers (Monday-Wednesday), Yankees-Orioles (Monday-Thursday), Red Sox-Rays (Tuesday-Thursday), Royals-Tigers (Friday-Sunday), Yankees-Red Sox (Friday-Sunday), Athletics-Rangers (Friday-Sunday)

Pitching Matchups Worth Watching:

MondayC.C. SabathiaChris Tillman, Gerrit ColeYu Darvish, Max ScherzerChris Sale

TuesdayClay BuchholzDavid Price, Francisco LirianoMartin Perez

WednesdayJeff SamardzijaMike Leake, A.J. BurnettMatt Garza, Mike MinorJose Fernandez, Ryan DempsterAlex Cobb, Patrick CorbinHyun-Jin Ryu

ThursdayJake PeavyJeremy Hellickson, Matt CainZack Greinke

FridayDanny SalazarHector Santiago, Hiroki KurodaJohn Lackey, Hisashi IwakumaAdam Wainwright

SaturdayC.C. SabathiaJon Lester, Bartolo ColonYu Darvish, Cole HamelsGio Gonzalez

SundayErvin SantanaMax Scherzer, Ivan NovaClay Buchholz

author avatar
Tony Consiglio
Tony Consiglio is a lifelong baseball fan and has worked for television and radio stations throughout New England. !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0],p=/^http:/.test(d.location)?'http':'https';if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);;js.src=p+'://';fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document, 'script', 'twitter-wjs');