The Mets are in a battle to win the NL East, currently sitting a game back of the division-leading Nationals entering Sunday’s games. The road to first place for the team in Queens is about to get more difficult, with veteran 3B David Wright being placed on the 15-day disabled list with a herniated disk in his neck. He will not participate in any baseball activity for six to eight weeks, likely putting his return in August at the earliest. Although the 33-year-old hasn’t been particularly productive at the plate this season — he’s hitting just .226 with 7 home runs and 55 strikeouts in 137 at-bats — the Mets’ internal replacements at third base aren’t great options for an extended period. Utilityman Wilmer Flores is getting the first chance at filling in for Wright, but he’s hitting .224 in 67 at-bats this season — and that includes him going 5-for-7 in his first two games starting at third, he was hitting below .200 before that. If Flores can’t produce offensively, the Mets may need to look to trade for someone who can handle third-base duties.
Speaking of trades, the White Sox are looking to shake things up after going 12-18 since May 1 to drop from first place in the AL Central to third place. They now sit just two games above .500 and are two games back of the division lead. Outside of SPs Chris Sale and Jose Quintana, the starting rotation has been disappointing so they made a trade this week to acquire SP James Shields from the Padres, but he hasn’t been having a great season himself, particularly in his last start when he gave up 10 earned runs in 2.2 innings at the Mariners. Overall for the year, Shields has a 4.28 ERA and 57 strikeouts in 67.1 innings. He has a 2-7 record in 11 starts so far. The White Sox hope a change of scenery could mean a change in performance for the better for the veteran pitcher, who hasn’t finished a season with a sub-3.00 ERA since 2011, when he was with the Rays. To get Shields, the White Sox sent SP Erik Johnson and minor league 3B Fernando Tatis Jr. to San Diego.
Elsewhere in MLB, the standings atop the six divisions look similar to what they were a week ago, with the Indians sitting in first place of the AL Central the only first-place team that wasn’t at the top of its division last weekend. The Cubs, who have gone 9-1 in their last 10 games, continue to have the best record in the majors with a 39-15 mark entering Sunday’s game with the Diamondbacks. Looking further down in the standings, the Phillies continue their drop, now sitting in fourth place in the NL East, at 27-29, after getting off to a surprisingly strong start to the season. The Blue Jays, who were my preseason pick to win the World Series, have gone 8-2 in the last 10 games to get closer to the AL East lead, now sitting in third place, 3.5 games behind the Red Sox. The Astros have also gone 8-2 in the last week-and-half to get to within three games of .500. In the AL West, though, they still sit seven games back of the division lead.
The Week Ahead
Some series to watch out for this week include a battle of second-place teams looking to move up in their divisions when the Orioles host the Royals Monday through Wednesday. The AL Central-leading Indians travel to Seattle for a four-game series with the Mariners, who sit in second place in the AL West. The AL West-leading Rangers take on their in-state rival Astros at home for four games starting Monday, giving the streaking Astros a chance to get closer to the top of the division. Later in the week, a key four-game series in the AL East gets underway Thursday, with the second- and third-place teams in the division playing each other when Blue Jays host the Orioles. The top two teams in the AL West beginning a series Friday when the Mariners host the Rangers, and it’ll be a similar situation in the NL West when the division-leading Giants host the second-place Dodgers starting Friday.
Some pitching performances of note for the coming week include Indians SP Carlos Carrasco making his second start since coming off the disabled list when he opposes Mariners SP Wade Miley. On Wednesday, Rangers SP Yu Darvish makes his third start since Tommy John surgery and looks to continue the success he’s had in his limited work so far this season; he’ll go against SP Doug Fister, who takes the mound for the Astros and is 1-0 with a 1.53 ERA in his last five starts. Red Sox SP David Price, who has thrown quality starts in his last five outings after a slow start to the season, is scheduled to take the mound in San Francisco on Wednesday against Giants SP Madison Bumgarner, who has posted a 1.91 ERA for the season and a 0.42 ERA in his last three starts.