One of baseball's best rivalries and a matchup between the game's two best lefthanded pitchers lead this week's Watchability Rankings.
Want to know which series, pitchers and players you should try to get tickets to see this week? SI.com's Watchability Rankings will give you the lowdown on the must-see games for the week ahead, including the best pitching matchup and the hottest hitter. Here are our picks for the week of May 18.
One of baseball's best rivalries is renewed this week, as the red-hot Dodgers head to San Francisco to battle the Giants in a National League West showdown. Los Angeles has been the best-hitting team this season so far, with an offense led by Adrian Gonzalez (.356/.429/.681 in 154 plate appearances), Joc Pederson (a team-high 10 homers on the year) and super-subs Alex Guerrero and Justin Turner, who have combined for 11 home runs in 131 at-bats. The Giants have big bats of their own, though, with Buster Posey, Brandon Belt and the newly returned Hunter Pence all riding hot streaks. The teams will clash in two night games to start the series before a Thursday matinee to finish it.
Others To Watch
Cardinals vs. Mets, May 18–21: Two division leaders meet in New York for a four-game set, with both teams trying to shake off recent slumps. Monday night's game promises to be a tight one, with John Lackey going up against Matt Harvey, while Wednesday will feature a battle of youth against experience, with 23-year-old Carlos Martinez matching up against 41-year-old Bartolo Colon.
Yankees vs. Nationals, May 19–20: Washington is finally looking like the World Series favorite everyone expected them to be this season, while New York has been a surprising contender thanks to the unexpected resurgence of Alex Rodriguez. A-Rod has bashed 10 homers on the year, but that's no match for Bryce Harper, who has slugged 14 home runs already and is hitting a scalding .338/.476/.729 so far. This will be a brief series of just two games, but Rodriguez and Harper should make it worth your while to watch or attend.
Cubs vs. Padres, May 19–21: Chicago's lineup blasted its way through last week, scoring 33 runs and winning six of seven games. Leading the way: Super rookie Kris Bryant, who hit .455/.567/.955 with three homers in the Cubs' homestand. This early week series will be a homecoming of sorts for Bryant, who attended the University of San Diego, but Padres pitchers won't be happy to see him or the rest of the Cubs' offense, especially former Padre Anthony Rizzo, who has a ridiculous .344/.470/.603 line so far this year.
Astros vs. Tigers, May 21–24: The surprising Astros are kings of the AL West so far, holding a 5 1/2-game lead over the Angels in the division and currently riding a five-game win streak. Houston will get a serious test over the weekend, however, when it heads to Detroit for a four-game series against the Tigers. There, Astros pitching will have to contend with Miguel Cabrera, who joined the 400 Home Run Club on Saturday and has 10 round-trippers on the season to go with a .333/.436/.601 line to date.
Cardinals vs. Royals, May 22–24: The I-70 Series comes to Kansas City this weekend, with a three-game set between these long-time Midwest rivals. The Royals are showing that last year's AL pennant was no fluke, sitting at 10 games above .500 heading into Monday's action. Most encouraging is a breakout season from former top prospect Eric Hosmer, who's hitting a scorching .324/.402/.554 with seven homers for Kansas City. If he and Mike Moustakas (.853 OPS so far) can play up to their prospect pedigree, the Royals will be a dangerous team this season.
The premier lefthanders in the game square off on Thursday in San Francisco as Kershaw and Bumgarner meet for the third time this season. Round one on April 22 featured a no-decision for each starter, with Kershaw (6 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 9 K) just barely outpitching Bumgarner (6 1/3 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 6 K). But the Giants' southpaw got the better of his Southern California counterpart in their second meeting a week later, throwing eight brilliant innings and giving up just one run while striking out nine against Kershaw's seven innings of two-run ball with eight punchouts. Who will come out on top this week? Bumgarner has been better of late, having allowed just six runs in his last 27 1/3, while Kershaw has struggled, with 11 runs allowed in his last 19 2/3 frames. Regardless, expect a tightly-fought pitchers duel for Thursday's series finale.
Player To Watch: Kris Bryant
As noted above, Bryant has started to deliver on his incredible promise, bashing four homers in his last week-plus of play. The 23-year-old third baseman has picked up a hit in seven straight games and is showing off both his prodigious power and his plate discipline: His 24 walks are second only to Pederson among all major league rookies. Bryant will take his show on the road this week, with a three-game trip to San Diego followed by a weekend stint in Arizona against the Diamondbacks.