The Rangers are in a fight for the AL West, currently in second place just behind the Mariners. On Saturday, they got SP Yu Darvish back from the disabled list, as he made his first major league start since Aug. 9, 2014. After that start, he experienced elbow inflammation that caused him to miss the rest of that season, then he had to undergo Tommy John surgery during spring training in 2015. In his first start in more than 20 months on Saturday, Darvish pitched well en route to leading the Rangers to a 5-2 victory over the Pirates. Unsurprisingly, he didn’t go deep into the game — throwing just 5 innings — but he made the most of the time he did pitch. He allowed just 3 hits — all singles — along with a walk and an earned run while notching 7 strikeouts. He needed 81 pitches to get through his 5 innings of work. Darvish is expected to make his next start Friday.
While the Rangers got one of their stars back after a lengthy absence on Saturday, the defending World Series champion Royals lost one of their stars for the season this week. 3B Mike Moustakas collided with OF Alex Gordon last Sunday against the White Sox while going for a foul ball. Gordon broke a bone in his right hand that will keep him out for about a month. The news on Moustakas is much worse; it was announced a few days after the collision that he tore his ACL and will miss the remainder of the 2016 season. Moustakas already had 7 home runs on the season, putting him on pace to set a new career high, surpassing the 22 he hit last season. Without Moustakas, the Royals are going to rely on rookies Cheslor Cuthbert and Whit Merrifield to man the hot corner as the team looks to stay in the midst of a competitive AL Central.
Elsewhere in MLB, as June begins in a couple days, we’re getting a clearer picture of which teams are playoff contenders and which aren’t. The Red Sox have overtaken the Orioles for the AL East lead, holding a one-game advantage entering Sunday. The Indians have taken over first place in the AL Central, a half-game ahead of both the Royals and White Sox, who have gone 3-7 in their last 10 games after having the best record in the American League for much of the first few weeks of the season. Don’t be surprised to see the White Sox fall out of contention in the coming weeks. In the AL West, the Mariners are still hanging on to first place, a game better than the Rangers. Over in the National League, the Mets and Nationals are tied for first in the NL East as the Phillies, like the White Sox, have begun their expected regression; they now sit 2.5 games out of the division lead. At 33-14 the Cubs still have the best record in the majors and hold a 5.5-game lead over the Pirates in the NL Central. In the NL West, the Giants maintain their hold on first place, with a 4.5-game lead over the Dodgers after going a MLB-best 8-2 in their last 10 games.
The Week Ahead
The week gets started with a key four-game series between the top two teams in the AL East when the Red Sox travel to Baltimore to take on the Orioles. Two of the best teams in the National League also begin their weeks with four games at Wrigley Field, when the Cubs host the Dodgers. Later in the week, top AL Central teams do battle in Cleveland as the Indians host the Royals for four games starting Thursday. And first place in the AL West will likely be on the line with the Rangers visiting the Mariners beginning Friday.
Those are some series of note, but what about pitching performances to look out for? Struggling Mets SP Matt Harvey looks to get back on track when he takes the mound Monday against White Sox SP Jose Quintana while Giants SP Jeff Samardzija tries to continue his strong start to the season against the Braves and SP Mike Foltynewicz. Tuesday should feature a good pitching matchup in Miami, with Pirates SP Gerrit Cole taking on Marlins SP Jose Fernandez. Cubs SP Jake Arrieta hopes to make his record 10-0 when he gets the start at home against the Dodgers, who are expected to throw SP Scott Kazmir out on the mound. As mentioned, Darvish is expected to make his second start on Friday in an important game against the Mariners.