The Game Planner, June 5th-11th

It’s Monday again, and that means it’s time for the Game Planner, a trusty guide for the British fan to each week’s reasonably-scheduled games. If you’re new to the feature, welcome, and please read the original post if you’re looking for a full explanation of what the planner aims to do.

The quick notes for those wanting to get right to the games: every game that is likely to end before about midnight UK time is counted as a ‘Watchable Game’. 9:10 PM is usually the latest start time I will include, unless there is a slightly later game of particular note. Each day I will pick out at least one watchable game of interest (identified in bold) and note some reasons why you might want to tune in, such as a particularly exciting player, a key divisional matchup, or a team on a hot streak. A disclaimer: the schedule, both in terms of game times and projected starters, is extremely subject to change as a result of weather conditions, injuries, and the simple fact that teams sometimes change their minds about how they want to line up their starters, so please be aware that the information below is not set in stone.

The colour coded aspects of the planner are as follows:

Top Pitching Matchup – this week’s most interesting pitching duel, featuring two pitchers of either high quality or of note in some other way, such as a recent run of good form or an unusual pitching motion.
Top Offensive Matchup – a game featuring two of the league’s most productive lineups in recent weeks.
Free Game – MLB.tv’s Free Game of the Day, accessible via the MLB.tv schedule.
BT – A game being shown live on BT Sport’s ESPN channel, as per the BT Sport TV Guide. Please be aware that BT’s schedule is also subject to change.

On to the games.

Watchable Games

Monday, June 5th

None

Tuesday, June 6th

None

Wednesday, June 7th

8:10 PM – Nationals @ Dodgers (Top Pitching Matchup) (BT) – an 80-grade pitching matchup as Stephen Strasburg takes on Clayton Kershaw to round off what could very well be a preview of a postseason series. Strasburg’s main issue throughout his career has been staying healthy, but as long as he is he’s one of the very best pitchers in the game, sitting at 95-96 with his fastball, which sets up his three secondary pitches, especially a changeup that can be almost unhittable. One of the few ahead of him is Kershaw, who is ‘only’ striking out 8 times as many hitters as he walks, as opposed to last year’s otherworldly, record-setting 15. In other words, he’s the best pitcher in the game.
8:10 PM – Indians @ Rockies
8:35 PM – Blue Jays @ Athletics (Free Game)

Thursday, June 8th
5:35 PM – Cardinals @ Reds – Coming off his worst start of the season, Mike Leake faces his old team in Cincinnati. While the Reds have the elite bat of Joey Votto and some significant power threats in Adam Duvall, Scott Schebler and even the surprising Eugenio Suarez, the most interesting battle here might be between the battery of Leake & Yadier Molina and the two Reds speed demons, Billy Hamilton and Jose Peraza. The Reds have also been the best defensive team in the majors so far, which is good news for starter Scott Feldman and the rest of the Reds pitching staff, a unit that has essentially been replacement level.
6:10 PM – Angels @ Tigers
7:10 PM – Giants @ Brewers (BT)
8:40 PM – Padres @ Diamondbacks

Friday, June 9th
7:20 PM – Rockies @ Cubs (BT) Back to Wrigley Field for another Friday date with the Cubs, this time against the NL West-leading Rockies. Chicago has shown some signs of life lately in the defence of their title, while the Rockies continue to stall what feels like the inevitable ascension of the Dodgers to first place. Tyler Chatwood has performed better in recent starts but his walk rate of 11.8% does not suggest future success, especially against a Cubs team with exceptional patience.

Saturday, June 10th
5:05 PM – Rangers @ Nationals
6:00 PM – Mets @ Braves (BT – maybe) – The Mets and Braves are listed as being live on BT from 9pm. The issue is that the original 9:10pm start time no longer exists as a result of a doubleheader, so the first will start three hours before this window, and the second is scheduled to start at 11pm UK time. Whether that means another game, highlights, or another sport entirely will be shown during most of this slot, I have no idea. Ben’s best guess is that one of the other games starting at the same time will be selected instead. In any event, the Braves are the closest team to the division-leading Nationals right now, which is to say that the Mets have had an awful season so far and the Nats have a very, very large lead. New York needs to start sweeping series like these to get back into the wild card hunt.
6:10 PM – Athletics @ Rays
7:15 PM – Phillies @ Cardinals
7:20 PM – Rockies @ Cubs
9:05 PM – Marlins @ Pirates
9:05 PM – Twins @ Giants
9:10 PM – Angels @ Astros (Free Game) – If you can cope with the distressing sight of an Angels team without MVP Mike Trout, currently on the DL after thumb ligament surgery, take advantage of the free game to watch what is baseball’s best team right now. Houston has both the second-lowest strikeout rate and the most home runs, which is a formidable prospect for any pitcher, let alone Angels starter Ricky Nolasco. The Angels should have a chance to create some offence of their own in this one, as Astros starter Mike Fiers has somehow given up 18 home runs in just 52 2/3 innings.
9:10 PM – Royals @ Padres

Sunday, June 11th
6:05 PM – Orioles @ Yankees (BT)
6:10 PM – White Sox @ IndiansJose Quintana is lined up to start against Trevor Bauer in this AL Central battle. Quintana was expected to be a top trade chip for the rebuilding Sox after being one of the league’s most consistent pitchers over the past four seasons, but a run of terrible form has left him with a 5.60 ERA at exactly the wrong time. Bauer has dazzled and frustrated in equal measure over the course of his career. His latest flash of upside was a 14-strikeout gem against the Athletics last week, in which he used his curveball almost half the time. Whether this is a sign of sustained long-term success or just another false dawn for the 26-year-old remains to be seen.
6:10 PM – Athletics @ Rays
6:35 PM – Mets @ Braves (Free Game)
6:35 PM – Marlins @ Pirates
7:10 PM – Angels @ Astros
7:15 PM – Phillies @ Cardinals
7:20 PM – Rockies @ Cubs
9:05 PM – Rangers @ Nationals (BT)
9:05 PM – Twins @ Giants
9:10 PM – Blue Jays @ Mariners (Top Offensive Matchup) – The return of Josh Donaldson seems to have brought several other Toronto bats to life, particularly Kendrys Morales, who is slugging .750 over the past two weeks. Russell Martin and Devon Travis have also got going after slow starts and injuries, and Justin Smoak‘s hot start is looking less like a mirage every day, as he holds a .379 wOBA with 14 home runs through 56 games. The Mariners’ recent resurgence seems to be built on more shaky foundations – the red-hot Mike Zunino also has a 45% strikeout rate since his return to the majors, for instance – but they are batting .303 over the past fortnight and the excellent recent production of Nelson Cruz is more sustainable than the likes of Zunino’s.
9:10 PM – Reds @ Dodgers
9:10 PM – Brewers @ Diamondbacks

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