The Game Planner – June 26th-July 2nd

The All-Star Break approaches, and many teams on the bubble are going to have to start making decisions about whether they want to buy or sell, and where they might need to improve if they are going to sustain a playoff run. The next couple of weeks will be crucial in determining the direction of some of these more marginal teams, and we’ve got a selection of games featuring a number of those, most of which you’ll be able to watch at least once this week by following the planner. If you’re new to this 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, as per the BT Sport TV Guide. Please be aware that BT’s schedule is also subject to change.

We get started this week in the desert:

Watchable Games

Monday, June 26th
8:40 PM – Phillies @ Diamondbacks (BT) – Arizona is 8-2 over the last ten games, which might make it all the more annoying that the Dodgers have won ten in a row and are threatening to leave the Rockies and Diamondbacks alone on a Wild Card island. Fortunately the Venomous Snakes get to face the team with the worst record in baseball as they try to keep pace with LA, the 24-50 Phillies. Zack Greinke, who has struck out almost 29% of all the batters he has faced, takes on a Phillies lineup that has only out-homered the Giants – which is to say, they have very little power as opposed to none at all.
9:15 PM – Reds @ Cardinals (Free Game)

Tuesday, June 27th

None

Wednesday, June 28th
8:40 PM – Phillies @ Mariners
8:45 PM – Rockies @ Giants (BT) – The Rockies got swept by the Dodgers over the weekend but like the D-Backs, they’ll get a great chance to stay in touch by taking on the only team giving the Phillies a run for their money in the NL basement in San Francisco. Colorado is always worth watching for Nolan Arenado alone, but this could be an offensive treat in general. Antonio Senzatela has a mediocre strikeout rate and a home run problem; Ty Blach will make him look like Pedro Martinez, as his K% barely touches the double digits. The Giants have won just one of 13 and played someone called Ryder Jones at third base on Sunday. When does next season start?

Thursday, June 29th
5:10 PM – Rangers @ Indians (Top Pitching Matchup) (BT) –  I’m not going to lie to you, MLB clubs really screwed us this week. There isn’t a single matchup of undeniable quality, therefore I have selected one of the games featuring a genuine ace, Corey Kluber, and a rookie who is yet to get as thoroughly destroyed as his peripherals might suggest and also has a wonderfully bizarre surname, Austin Bibens-Dirkx. That isn’t the only notable thing about the Rangers starter, for whom this shot at the big leagues has been a long time coming. The 32-year old has spent parts of 12 seasons in the minors, was pitching in the independent Atlantic League last season, and managed to hold the Yankees to one Aaron Judge home run over seven innings in his most recent start. Good luck to Austin, both in his baseball career and in this game; Kluber has a slider that can do this.
6:10 PM – Royals @ Tigers
7:10 PM – Athletics @ Astros (Free Game)
8:40 PM – Cardinals @ Diamondbacks
9:05 PM – Cubs @ Nationals (BT)

Friday, June 30th
None

Saturday, July 1st
6:07 PM – Red Sox @ Blue Jays – This was a tempting option for top pitching matchup just because of the presence of Chris Sale, but when Francisco Liriano is walking almost five batters per nine and has an ERA well north of 5, such a designation seems rather inappropriate. Nonetheless, Sale is still very good and the AL East is heating up, with 5 games separating Boston in joint first place and Toronto in last. Hanley Ramirez‘s shoulder woes are of some concern, but Boston’s young alliterative quartet of Betts, Bogaerts, Bradley, and Benintendi should be good enough to carry this team, and their patience will certainly serve them well against the poor control of Liriano. Well wishes to Blue Jays closer Roberto Osuna, who has been dealing with anxiety issues of late and was held out for a few games as a result.
6:10 PM – Indians @ Tigers (Free Game)
7:10 PM – Rangers @ White Sox
7:15 PM – Twins @ Royals
9:05 PM – Rays @ Orioles
9:05 PM – Braves @ Athletics
9:05 PM – Giants @ Pirates
9:10 PM – Marlins @ Brewers (BT) – The Brewers are still in first place! Eric One and Eric Two have kept Milwaukee ahead of the reigning champions for longer than anyone expected, but Milwaukee still feels like one of the likeliest teams to start selling off assets if the next couple of weeks goes poorly. The Marlins are already well out of it, but they do feature a number of interesting players including monster slugger Giancarlo Stanton; Marcell Ozuna, who is displaying a comparable amount of power to his fellow outfielder; and J.T. Realmuto, a remarkably fast catcher who can also hit.
9:10 PM – Cubs @ Reds
9:10 PM – Phillies @ Mets

Sunday, July 2nd
6:07 PM – Red Sox @ Blue Jays
6:10 PM – Indians @ Tigers
6:10 PM – Cubs @ Reds
6:10 PM – Phillies @ Mets
6:35 PM – Rays @ Orioles (Top Offensive Matchup)The Rays have the second-best offense over the last 30 days by wRC+. Logan Morrison, Steven Souza, and Corey Dickerson have led Tampa Bay’s charge, Morrison with 9 home runs in that span. The Orioles do not look like a playoff team on either side of the ball, but with their staff possessing a horrendous 5.15 ERA, any chances they do have rest on Manny Machado and the offense, which can certainly hit dingers. Machado has improved of late after a surprisingly poor start, while Trey Mancini has carried the team with an .815 slugging percentage and five home runs over the last two weeks.
6:35 PM – Giants @ Pirates (Free Game)
7:10 PM – Rangers @ White Sox
7:10 PM – Marlins @ Brewers
7:10 PM – Yankees @ Astros – This matchup felt almost certain to be the pick for offence as these two have been the top choices most weeks in 2017, but the Yankees actually haven’t been that great lately. Of course, Judge continues to mash, and Gary Sanchez has also been stellar, which everyone is probably missing because of Judge. Despite missing around a month through injury, Sanchez has 13 home runs and a 150 wRC+, at the far more valuable defensive position. Outside of that, New York has been somewhat lacking for contributors over recent weeks, hence their slide that has let Boston back in to a share of first place. This is not a problem the Astros have, as they are still the best lineup this year by wRC+ and they still have above-average production from essentially every lineup slot. They now lead their division by 13 games and it will take an almighty collapse for them to lose the best record in the AL.
7:15 PM – Twins @ Royals
8:37 PM – Mariners @ Angels
9:05 PM – Braves @ Athletics
9:10 PM – Rockies @ Diamondbacks

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