All these teams except the Giants and the Dodgers, who play each other, will travel to or receive teams from the Central and East divisions. That means there are nine series to rank on intrigue.
9. Arizona Diamondbacks (13-24) at Chicago White Sox (18-18)
Fri – Brandon McCarthy (1-5, 4.67 ERA) vs. Andre Rienzo (2-0, 4.50)
Sat – Wade Miley (2-3, 5.14) vs. Jose Quintana (1-2, 3.56)
Sun – Chase Anderson (n/a) vs. Hector Noesi (0-2, 8.27)
This series should have plenty of offense, and the White Sox are hanging around the top of the AL Central, so if you’re into offense or the AL Central this Intrigue Ranking isn’t for you. You can find better pitching matchups in every other series, however.
8. Houston Astros (11-24) at Baltimore Orioles (18-14)
Scott Feldman (2-1, 1.69) vs. Wei-Yin Chen (3-2, 4.24)
Collin McHugh (2-1, 2.79) vs. Miguel Gonzalez (1-3, 5.28)
Jarred Cosart (1-3, 4.50) vs. Chris Tillman (3-1, 3.80)
Collin McHugh has not posted to his blog since he was called up to the Astros. What he has deprived internet surfers in prose he has channeled into superb pitching. That’s the only explanation here.
7. Kansas City Royals (16-18) at Seattle Mariners (18-16)
Jason Vargas (2-1, 3.50) vs. Brandon Maurer (1-0, 6.92)
Yordano Ventura (2-1, 2.00) vs. Chris Young (2-1, 3.03)
Jeremy Guthrie (2-2, 3.91) vs. Roenis Elias (3-2, 3.27)
With Danny Duffy in the rotation over the injured Bruce Chen, the Royals don’t have any glaring weaknesses in their starting rotation. The Mariners meanwhile start three pitchers who might collectively be named “Glaring Weakness.” Rookie Roenis Elias has performed admirably thus far but in an ideal world he’s not in the starting rotation, probably not even on the big club; Chris Young is a journeyman waiting for the other shoe to drop; Brandon Maurer is the bottom of Seattle’s barrel.
6. Los Angeles Angels (16-17) at Toronto Blue Jays (18-17)
Garrett Richards (3-0, 2.84) vs. Dustin McGowan (2-1, 4.80)
Tyler Skaggs (2-1, 4.54) vs. J.A. Happ (1-0, 1.93)
Jered Weaver (3-2, 3.48) vs. Drew Hutchison (1-2, 4.17)
The Angels could really take advantage of these matchups. Both the offenses should be going nicely, which gives it a major leg up on the previous series, but the Angels start three good pitchers while the Blue Jays give three starts to question marks.
5. Miami Marlins (20-15) at San Diego Padres (15-21)
Jose Fernandez (4-1, 1.74) vs. Tyson Ross (3-3, 3.30)
Nate Eovaldi (2-1, 2.78) vs. Eric Stults (1-3, 5.40)
Henderson Alvarez (2-2, 2.62) vs. Robbie Erlin (1-4, 4.95)
Fernandez-Ross is a better matchup than anything that came before this. In fact*, the Marlins are starting their three best pitchers against the league’s most ineffective lineup. If you fiend on whiffs and weak contact, come get your fix. The Padres are eight runs away from 100 on the season. Whether they get those runs this series is a toss-up.
4. Colorado Rockies (22-15) at Cincinnati Reds (15-18)
Jhoulys Chacin (0-1, 7.20) vs. Johnny Cueto (3-2, 1.31)
Jordan Lyles (4-0, 2.62) vs. Alfredo Simon (4-1, 1.99)
Juan Nicasio (4-1, 3.89) vs. Homer Bailey (2-2, 5.36)
Of pitchers with at least 500 innings pitched since 2010, Johnny Cueto has the second-lowest ERA (2.79) after Clayton Kershaw (2.34). The pitching matchups in this series are actually quite good, but not in the fashionable strikeouts-and-walks way.
3. Washington Nationals (19-15) at Oakland Athletics (20-15)
Doug Fister (n/a) vs. Tommy Milone (0-3, 5.86)
Tanner Roark (2-1, 4.17) vs. Sonny Gray (4-1, 1.91)
Gio Gonzalez (3-2, 2.91) vs. Scott Kazmir (4-1, 2.64)
Everyone wondered why the Tigers let Doug Fister go for practically nothing, and now we’ll get to see if they knew something we don’t. Rather than letting the market develop on Fister, they may have anticipated a decline based on their own proprietary information and decided to shuttle him out of town ASAP. Fister makes his first start for the Nationals coming off a strained lat in a game where Tommy Milone faces his former team.
2. Boston Red Sox (17-17) at Texas Rangers (18-17)
Clay Buchholz (2-2, 5.63) vs. Yu Darvish (2-1, 2.87)
Jon Lester (3-4, 2.59) vs. Martin Perez (4-2, 3.59)
John Lackey (4-2, 3.72) vs. Robbie Ross (1-3, 4.74)
Washington-Oakland showcases two teams with better records, but this series gets the typical Yu Darvish bump up to No. 2. Both series feature playoff contenders in what figure to be tightly contested games.
1. San Francisco Giants (22-13) at Los Angeles Dodgers (19-17)
Madison Bumgarner (3-3, 3.18) vs. Paul Maholm (1-2, 4.70)
Matt Cain (0-3, 4.35) vs. Zack Greinke (5-1, 2.35)
Tim Hudson (4-2, 1.99) vs. Clayton Kershaw (2-0, 0.66)
The Clayton Kershaw bump is bigger than the Yu Darvish bump or any other bump. Feel free to take that line out of context. The three best pitchers in the NL West pitch here on three consecutive days, you can figure out who. On top of that, Tim Hudson is pitching better than anyone on the Giants at the moment, working with his characteristic groundball efficiency and pounding the strike zone like it owes him money. Not since his rookie year have a higher percentage of his pitches been in the strike zone, and it’s no coincidence that he has walked only three of the 202 batters he has faced so far.