One of the National League's best rivalries is renewed, two aces clash in Washington and J.D. Martinez takes his red-hot bat on the road in 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 July 6.
All stats are through Sunday, July 5.
Baseball's best team faces its bitter division rival as the Cardinals and Pirates clash in Pittsburgh to end the first half of the season. There's been no slowing down St. Louis this year: The Cardinals are the only team in baseball with 50-or-more wins, and the team has a six-game lead on the Bucs in the National League Central. But the Cards have stumbled of late, losing four in a row last week, while the Pirates have ripped off seven wins in their last 10. Pittsburgh could make the division race a lot tighter and a lot more interesting if it can catch St. Louis unawares in this four-game weekend set.
Others To Watch
White Sox vs. Cubs, July 10–12: History is renewed as these crosstown rivals meet for the first time this season. History will also be on full display in this three-game series, as the teams will pay tribute to legendary Cub Ernie Banks and longtime White Sox star Minnie Minoso by wearing 1950s throwbacks in Sunday's game.
Nationals vs. Orioles, July 10–12: The Beltway Series returns this weekend at Camden Yards, where the Nationals and Orioles will meet for the first time this season. Washington holds a comfortable 4 1/2-game lead in the NL East, while Baltimore is just a game behind the Yankees in the AL East.
Yankees vs. Red Sox, July 10–12: Speaking of historic rivalries, the Yankees and Red Sox will write the latest chapter of their feud this weekend when the Bronx Bombers visit Boston. The Red Sox have been hot of late as they try to get back into the playoff race, but a series loss to New York could put an end to their contention hopes.
Pitching Matchup To Watch: Johnny Cueto vs. Max Scherzer, July 7
Two of the NL's top Cy Young contenders will duel in Washington when Cueto takes on Scherzer at Nationals Park. For Cueto, Tuesday's start could be one of his last in a Reds uniform, as the ace is likely to be dealt by the July 31 trade deadline by a Cincinnati team whose playoff chances are all but gone. He's had a brilliant season so far, with a 2.84 ERA, 136 ERA+ and 8.6 strikeouts per nine. But he's got nothing on Scherzer, who has dominated the NL. On the year, the Nationals' ace has a ridiculous 1.82 ERA, has a majors-best three complete games and two shutouts and leads the NL in innings with 118 2/3 while striking out 10.5 per nine.
Player To Watch: J.D. Martinez
Miguel Cabrera is down and out with a calf injury, but Martinez has done his best to fill the void left by the two-time MVP. Over the last week, Martinez hit a blistering .458/.500/1.000 with four homers and 10 RBIs, and since the start of June, he's bashed 14 homers in just 28 games, driving in 34. He'll need to keep up that hot pace for the Cabrera-less Tigers, starting with three games in Seattle before a crucial four-game set against the Twins in Minnesota.