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We’re getting ready to wrap up the month of August in this zany, 2014 Major League Baseball season. As always, we will use Felipe’s Ultimate Baseball Advanced Rankings (or FUBAR for short) to summarize the penultimate month of the regular season. But until then, we will use FUBAR to help us seek out the more intriguing match-ups in the upcoming weekend games. To reiterate, we are looking to spotlight the most evenly-matched clubs in these series.
TANK SO HARD
- 29 Texas Rangers vs 28 Houston Astros: Why is this series worth watching? Because while we focus on all the teams racing to the top, we should stop and appreciate the non-race to the bottom as teams try not to win by not making it too obvious. Plus, you have some of the more promising young players on both of these teams: Rougned Odor for the Rangers and Jon Singleton for Houston. Both players are fittingly struggling at the plate this season.
SOMETHING HAS TO GIVE
- 24 Minnesota Twins vs 22 Baltimore Orioles: As we warned last weekend, the O’s are a vulnerable, top-rated team and the Twins have an underrated offense (just ask the Detroit Tigers). The Twins have a chance to feast on a weak pitching staff, but they will be facing a really good defense (something the Tigers are not) so this could prove to be a very competitive series with the Orioles continuing their winning ways at home.
A STEEP CLIMB
- 19 Cincinnati Reds vs 16 Pittsburgh Pirates: As the Reds attempt to get a few “cheap” wins against the Chicago Cubs, the Pirates were able to help themselves immensely, taking two of three from St. Louis this week as they make a final push for the top of the NL Central. We’ve mentioned before how the Pirates’ offense is elite, but the Reds have a pretty good starting rotation with a really good defense to back them up, most notably, as mentioned before, shortstop Zack Cozart. Will good pitching beat league-leading hitting?
SO CAL BEACH PARTY
- 4 Los Angeles Dodgers vs 5 San Diego Padres: Outside of the Monday game against the Milwaukee Brewers, the Padres were able to constrict one of the more explosive lineups in the league and win their series against Milwaukee. They will look to do the same against the third best offense in baseball. Unlike the Brew Crew, the Dodgers actually have a starting rotation that equalizes the Padres’ rotation. Where things get interesting is in the bullpen where the Dodgers don’t rate as well as San Diego. But the same problems that plagued the Padres’ offense all season long, should continue against L.A. as the Dodgers should overcome a tough pitching staff to take the series on the road.
TRICK OR TREAT?
- 13 Milwaukee Brewers vs 15 San Francisco Giants: This match-up is all about the Brewers offense against the Giants’ starting rotation as these teams are evenly matched in all other areas. The Brewers’ batters should be able to hold their own in the first two games, but will run into a wall in Madison Bumgarner in the finale. Bumgarner recently flirted with a perfect game this week. It’s worth noting that both teams are tied for the sixth best bullpen in baseball at the moment so Milwaukee’s lineup is in for another battle as it doesn’t get any easier for them in San Francisco.
- 7 Cleveland Indians vs 9 Kansas City Royals: After not living up to the hype against the New York Yankees, the Royals took care of the Twins and will be hosting another divisional foe. Cleveland’s offense is much more potent than the Royals and their starting rotation also rates among the top five. However, Cleveland has the worst defense in all of baseball and despite having all the peripherals to be an elite ball club, they are not a playoff team if the season were to end today. Meanwhile, the Royals have found success mostly because of their superb defense. It’s very hard to gauge this series, but Kansas City, playing at home, might have enough to steal the three-game set.
- 1 Oakland Athletics vs 8 Los Angeles Angels: Here we go again! Our spotlight series last weekend changes venues, but remains just as critical. Coming into Thursday night’s game in Anaheim, Oakland was only a game back of the Angels for first place in the AL West. The first game had Sonny Gray against C.J. Wilson. The second game will pit Jon Lester vs Jered Weaver, and the finale, on Sunday, will have Scott Kazmir and the surprising Matt Shoemaker going toe-to-toe for West Coast supremacy. This series will be dominated by these pitching match-ups where both teams are pretty evenly matched in the rotation and the bullpen. The A’s, however, are superior at the plate and on the field. But the game will have a different fervor in Southern California and therefore, it would be no surprise if the teams split the series this weekend.
BONUS GAMES TO WATCH
- 17 Miami Marlins vs 14 Atlanta Braves: The Braves look to pad their four game-lead in the Wild Card standings over their divisional foe as Atlanta looks to get closer to a playoff berth. For the Marlins, it’s do-or-die as this might be their last hope of being playoff contenders for the 2014 season. The Braves’ bullpen and defense should help the Marlins start packing in the season early.
- 13 New York Yankees vs 16 Toronto Blue Jays: The Yanks have a two-and-a-half game lead over the Jays in the Wild Card standings as the Yankees look to continue to chase a playoff berth. The Blue Jays’ offense is dangerous and against a “bend-but-don’t-break” pitching staff like the Yankees, the Jays’ might find ways to out-slug the Bronx Bombers. Also, these are two of the worst defenses in baseball. All this leads one to conclude that the Jays should be able to inch a bit closer to that second Wild Card berth after this series is done.