Watchability Rankings: Cole takes on Wacha in week's must-see matchup
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. 10.
All stats are through Sunday, Aug. 9.
Some of the game's best pitching will be on display this week in Los Angeles as the Dodgers play host to the Nationals. Both teams have been struggling of late—the Dodgers were swept in a weekend series against the Pirates, while the Nationals dropped two of three to the lowly Rockies—but both are still in the playoff hunt. Los Angeles is in good shape, holding onto a three-game lead in the National League West, but the Nationals need some help, as they trail the Mets by 1 1/2 games in the NL East and the Cubs by five games for the second wild card. A good series for Washington is almost a must if the team wants to stay in contention.
Others To Watch
Pirates vs. Cardinals, Aug. 11–13: Pittsburgh's sweep of the Dodgers has the team comfortably in the lead for the first wild card, but the Pirates will have a golden shot to aim even higher and take a chunk out of the Cardinals' NL Central lead.
Cubs vs. White Sox, Aug. 14–16: It's the second meeting this season of these crosstown rivals. The Cubs are hot, having swept the Giants in a four-game series over the weekend, while the slumping White Sox are seeing their postseason hopes fade.
Angels vs. Royals, Aug. 13–16: The AL's best team hosts an Angels squad that is clinging to the second wild card spot and is trying to claw its way back into the AL West race (where they trail the Astros by half a game).
Rays vs. Rangers, Aug. 14–16: Tampa Bay and Texas are both on the outside looking in for the wild card, with each currently sitting four games out of the second spot, making this a crucial series for their playoff hopes.
Pitching Matchup To Watch: Gerrit Cole vs. Michael Wacha, Aug. 12
Two of the NL's best young pitchers meet in a big division battle this week, with Cole facing Wacha in St. Louis. The Pirates' righthander is putting together a breakout year; he leads the league in wins (14) and his team in ERA (2.39) and ERA+ (155), and his 143 strikeouts are just one behind Francisco Liriano for No. 1 on the squad. At 24, you could argue he's the best under-25 starter in the NL Central. One of his top competitors for that title? The 24-year-old Wacha, who has a 2.92 ERA, 131 ERA+ and 112 whiffs in 132 1/3 innings. Both are coming off solid outings: Wacha blanked the Reds over seven innings, while Cole turned in a quality start against the Dodgers, giving up three runs over six innings.
Player To Watch: Andrew McCutchen
The 2013 NL MVP is showing off his award-winning form, as McCutchen has blitzed opposing pitchers to the tune of nine hits in his last 16 at-bats, including two homers and eight RBIs. His hot hitting helped the Pirates win four of five last week, boosting their NL wild-card race advantage, and he'll have a shot to help Pittsburgh draw closer to St. Louis in the division to start this week before a weekend series in New York against the NL East-leading Mets.