Though the baseball season is roughly one-third over, there's still plenty of time to get out to the ballpark and see the game at its best, and with the school year coming to an end, it's even easier to bring the whole family. Here, then, are the five series most worth attending in June.
The Yankees-Red Sox rivalry went dormant last year when Boston slumped to 93 losses. That makes this the first series between the two teams to really matter since August of 2011, when Terry Francona was still the Boston manager. That series also marked the last time that the Red Sox were in first place in the American League East until this season. Yes, these two met in this season's opening series at Yankee Stadium, but expectations were low for both teams at the time.
Now, we're one-third of the way through the season and the Red Sox and Yankees are still one and two in the AL East with the second- and third-best records in the AL, respectively. The Yankees will get longtime Boston dirt dog Kevin Youkilis and first baseman Mark Teixeira back from the disabled list for this series, with Teixeira scheduled to make his season debut in Friday's game, which features a matchup of lefties Jon Lester and CC Sabathia. Sunday's game pits Cy Young contenders Clay Buchholz and Hiroki Kuroda against one another.
The Cardinals were red-hot in May, going 20-7 (.741) in the month's first 30 days and boast the best record in the major leagues heading into June. The Reds have been nearly as hot, going 18-8 (.692) on the month and will be looking to avenge a pair of series losses to the Cardinals in St. Louis earlier in the year by finally getting their rivals on their home turf.
The Reds will avoid Adam Wainwright and Shelby Miller in this series as the Cardinals will bookend the set with rookies Tyler Lyons and Michael Wacha, with Lance Lynn pitching the middle game. Cincinnati will counter with Mike Leake, Mat Latos and Bronson Arroyo. Note: St. Louis hasn't lost consecutive games since April 28 and 29.
The slumping Giants will try to keep pace with the streaking Diamondbacks in this series and will look to their three-game sweep of Arizona at Chase Field as April turned to May for inspiration. Overall, the season series between these two teams has been very close, with two games going into extra innings and none being decided by more than three runs. San Francisco has outscored Arizona by a mere four runs, 28-24, overall despite leading the series four games to two.
The Giants will start Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner in the first two games of this series, though the identity of their starter in Sunday's finale likely depends on how well Chad Gaudin pitches against the Cardinals this Sunday. The Diamondbacks will counter with Patrick Corbin, Trevor Cahill and Brandon McCarthy.
This is a series most fans had circled on their calendar coming into the season. A rematch of the outstanding 2011 World Series, this matchup could very well prove to be a worthy encore. The two teams haven't met since St. Louis won Game 7 two years ago, but they enter June with the best records in their respective leagues. This series will also bring World Series hero Lance Berkman back to St. Louis, though he's not guaranteed to get a start in the series given that he has made just one start in the field all season (what do you think about the designated hitter rule now, Lance?). Texas should have Ian Kinsler back from injury and could have Alexi Ogando and Colby Lewis in their rotation by the time this series rolls around, though it's too soon to say with any accuracy who will pitch in this series.
In contrast to the Rangers-Cardinals series, this interleague matchup looks less compelling than it did in March given the Dodgers' struggles. Still, it marks Los Angeles' first return to the Bronx since the 1981 World Series, something many fans have waited a long time to see given the franchise's history not only as a former New York team but as a longtime rival of the Yankees via 11 World Series matchups from 1941 to 1981. The Dodgers should have Hanley Ramirez back in the lineup by the time of this series.