Two AL Cy Young contenders meet this week as Chris Archer faces Chris Sale on Tuesday. What other series and matchups should you not miss this week?
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 Aug. 3.
All stats are through Sunday, Aug. 2.
Two long-time rivals meet this week as the Cubs and Pirates clash in Pittsburgh in a meeting of National League contenders. Despite being 5 1/2 games back of the Cardinals in the NL Central, the Pirates have a comfortable four-game lead on the Cubs for the first wild-card spot. Chicago, meanwhile, is trying to fend off the Giants and whoever of the Nationals or Mets falls behind in the NL East for the second wild-card. A series win for the Cubs would not only give them much-needed breathing room in that race, but also cut into the Pirates' lead. They'll roll out their top two pitchers, Jon Lester and Jake Arrieta, to start this three-game set, with new addition Dan Haren pitching the finale on Wednesday night, opposite Francisco Liriano, J.A. Happ and Jeff Locke.
Others To Watch
Red Sox vs. Yankees, Aug. 4–6: Boston's disappointing season takes some of the heat out of the latest meeting of these bitter rivals, but the debuts of top pitching prospects Henry Owens (on Tuesday for the Red Sox) and Luis Severino (on Wednesday for the Yankees) should give fans enough reason to tune in.
Royals vs. Tigers, Aug. 4–6: Detroit's playoff hopes are dead and buried with the team now 11 1/2 games back in the AL Central and stuck behind six teams in the wild card, but the Tigers can still play spoiler in this three-game series against the division-leading Royals.
Dodgers vs. Pirates, Aug. 7–9: Clayton Kershaw will put his 37-inning scoreless streak on the line against Gerrit Cole and Pittsburgh to open this weekend series as the Dodgers try to create some more space in the NL West at the Pirates' expense.
Blue Jays vs. Yankees, Aug. 7–9: David Price's first start as a Blue Jay was a roaring success, as he held the Twins to one run over eight innings, striking out 11. He'll get a chance to help Toronto take a chunk out of New York's AL East lead in this weekend set.
Orioles vs. Angels, Aug. 7–9: Slumping Los Angeles has a slim lead on the first wild card in the AL, and Baltimore is just one in a pile of teams fighting for that spot. The O's will get a good chance to make up some ground in L.A. this weekend.
Two of the AL's top contenders for the Cy Young, Archer and Sale share first names and a predilection for strikeouts. Archer has been untouchable this season, with a 2.54 ERA, 151 ERA+ and a career-best 11.0 strikeout-per-nine ratio. But as good as the Rays' 26-year-old ace has been, his numbers can't hold a candle to Sale in terms of whiffs: The lefty leads the AL with an 11.6 K/9 ratio and 177 strikeouts. Sale was hit hard in his last start, giving up seven runs in five innings against the Red Sox, though he did strike out seven; he's punched out six or more hitters in every one of his starts since May 6.
Player To Watch: Lucas Duda
Chances are that, if Duda made contact with a ball over the last week, he sent it into low Earth orbit. Since July 25, Duda has gone deep nine times in eight games, giving him a scalding .393/.452/1.393 line in his last 31 plate appearances. Of his 11 hits, 10 have gone for extra-bases, and in the last week, he's had two multi-homer games, including three round-trippers against the Padres on July 29. You'll get a chance to snag a ball off Duda's bat this week in Miami and Tampa as the Mets take on the Marlins from Aug. 4 to 5 and the Rays from Aug. 7 to 9.