The Game Planner, July 17th-23rd

This week, the Game Planner breaks the shocking news of BT’s pro-Cubs bias, with the World Series champions shown live in prime UK baseball-watching time on no less than three separate occasions this week. Whether Theo Epstein has hatched a devious plan to promote his team aggressively ahead of an upcoming Cubs game in the UK, or Chicago simply plays at UK-friendly times more often, remains to be seen.  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.

Watchable Games

Monday, July 17th
5:35 PM – Nationals @ Reds (Free Game) (BT) – The presumptive NL East champs get us rolling with a nice early game in Cincinnati, with Stephen Strasburg taking the mound against veteran Scott Feldman. The Reds have continued to impress defensively but not so much elsewhere, with much of their firepower over the past month unsurprisingly limited to Joey Votto and Adam Duvall, with a very surprising boost from Scooter Gennett. Their pitching staff has given up 156 homers already, 15 more than any other team, but Feldman has at least been respectable in that department, and downright elite when compared to the rest of the Reds staff.

Tuesday, July 18th
None

Wednesday, July 19th
5:10 PM – Cubs @ Braves (BT)
5:10 PM – Phillies @ Marlins
6:10 PM – Yankees @ Twins
7:10 PM – Mariners @ Astros
8:10 PM – Padres @ Rockies
8:35 PM – Rays @ Athletics (Top Pitching Matchup) (Free Game) – The Rays have plenty of highly-rated pitching prospects in the minors like Brent Honeywell and Jose de Leon, so naturally it’s the relatively unheralded Jacob Faria who has come up and made an impact. The 23-year-old has gone at least six innings in each of his first seven major league starts, struck out almost four times as many batters as he has walked, and only given up more than a single run in two of those seven. He’ll take his 2.00 ERA into Oakland to face top trade candidate Sonny Gray, who has been similarly excellent over his last four starts, giving up just 11 hits and four runs over 27 innings, boosting his value at exactly the right time for Billy Beane. The question now seems to be when, not if, the A’s will trade Gray.
8:45 PM – Indians @ Giants (BT)

Thursday, July 20th
5:10 PM – Cardinals @ Mets
5:35 PM – Diamondbacks @ Reds
5:35 PM – Brewers @ Pirates (Free Game)Is Jimmy Nelson an ace now? The jury is still out, but the 28-year-old is strengthening his case with almost every start, punching out nine more batters in his latest start to help the Brewers to another win, albeit against the Phillies. Nelson now has a 9.9 K/9 and the peripherals to match his 3.27 ERA. Pittsburgh doesn’t strike out that much, but they also don’t have a particularly deep lineup, as it gets decidedly average after Andrew McCutchen and Josh Harrison. It is about to get a little deeper, however, as All-Star outfielder Starling Marte will return from his 80-game suspension on Tuesday night.
6:35 PM – Blue Jays @ Red Sox (BT)

Friday, July 21st
7:20 PM – Cardinals @ Cubs (BT) – The Cubs are streaking out of the All-Star Break with three straight wins, including a stellar first start from recent acquisition Jose Quintana. If ever there was an opportunity this season to shake off their old rivals and put some actual pressure on Milwaukee, this weekend’s series is it, with Quintana, Jon Lester, and this game’s starter, Jake Arrieta, getting the home starts against St. Louis. The Cards get to count on their ace Carlos Martinez in this one, but their position looks ever more precarious and they don’t have the depth or the high-end quality of their divisional rivals, despite the efforts of Tommy Pham, currently batting .308/.390/.514 with 11 homers and 12 steals in just 62 games.

Saturday, July 22nd
9:05 PM – Cardinals @ Cubs (BT)
9:05 PM – Padres @ Giants – Look, I’m only picking this because I talked about the Cards-Cubs series already, alright? Both of these teams are terrible, especially offensively, so maybe this will be a low-scoring pitcher’s duel. On the other hand, Luis Perdomo and Matt Moore are starting, so perhaps not. Perdomo is interesting in the sense that he’s a Rule 5 pick who moved straight from High-A to the majors at the age of 22 so that the Padres could retain him, and he also has a hard sinker that generates a ton of grounders, which is why he has an impressive 67.1% ground ball rate this year. That sinker also has a .332 batting average against this season, so there’s still some work to be done. Moore was once ranked up with Bryce Harper and Mike Trout as one of the three best prospects in baseball, which is a fact I’ve probably used far too many times, but I’ll continue to use it in lieu of the much less pleasant things that could be said about his 6.04 ERA or the 125 hits he’s already allowed in 98 1/3 innings this year.

Sunday, July 23rd
6:10 PM – Blue Jays @ Indians (BT)
6:10 PM – Marlins @ Reds
6:10 PM – Athletics @ Mets (Free Game)
6:10 PM – Rangers @ Rays
6:35 PM – Astros @ Orioles (Top Offensive Matchup) – There really wasn’t a great combination of teams available for top offensive matchup this week, so you know what that means: we have to default to the Astros. If you think your team has the best lineup in the league and you are not an Astros fan, you are wrong. They have collectively been 29% better than league average in 2017, and over the last 30 days, they’re hitting .322/.386/.581. That’s the whole team hitting like Carlos Correa has done this year, and Correa could be a seven or eight win player. Also, Lance McCullers is wonderful to watch, especially his curveball. The Orioles aren’t that good, but they hit a ton of homers sometimes, and Manny Machado should get better.
6:35 PM – Brewers @ Phillies
7:10 PM – Tigers @ Twins
7:15 PM – White Sox @ Royals
8:10 PM – Pirates @ Rockies
8:37 PM – Red Sox @ Angels
9:05 PM – Padres @ Giants
9:10 PM – Yankees or Mets @ Mariners
9:10 PM – Braves @ Dodgers
9:10 PM – Nationals @ Diamondbacks (BT)

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