The Game Planner, August 21st-27th

After a few weeks of the a disappointingly light Saturday schedule – unfortunately a regular feature of summer baseball – we’re back to a wider choice of five games over the upcoming weekend, which makes up for the fact that there’s not a lot on during the week, especially if you’re looking to watch teams at the top end of the standings. There is an abundance of MLB.tv free games at UK-friendly times this week, which makes up for BT’s continued focus on football & Little League.

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. I’ll usually avoid picking the same team twice in a week if at all possible, to add some variety to the slate.

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, August 21st
None

Tuesday, August 22nd
9:05 PM – Marlins @ Phillies (Free Game) – Despite the power binge that has put Giancarlo Stanton a long way clear at the top of the home run leaderboard, the Marlins have still been a below-average lineup overall recently, which is quite remarkable in an unfortunate way. Still, there are other fun things to watch for on the Marlins in addition to Stanton trying to homer against Phillies rookie Nick Pivetta. That includes fellow outfielder Marcell Ozuna, who is having a terrific season of his own with a .906 OPS, 25 doubles and 27 homers. There’s also some great speed on this team, from the familiar source of Dee Gordon (43 steals) to unusually fast backstop J.T. Realmuto. The Phillies are on course for the number one pick in next year’s draft and may well be a 100-loss team, but don’t overlook Odubel Herrera, who makes some exceptional plays in centre field and has turned his season around after a terrible first half, or premium power prospect Rhys Hoskins, who has blasted five homers in his first 11 major league games.

Wednesday, August 23rd
8:05 PM – Athletics @ Orioles (Free Game)
8:45 PM – Brewers @ Giants – Milwaukee is still in the divisional race at two games behind the Cubs and with both Colorado and Arizona going 3-7 over their last 10, a wild card spot also looks within reach. Taking the mound for the Brew Crew will be 12-year veteran Matt Garza, who looked to be on a decent run until he gave up 18 earned runs over his last three starts. He should get an easier time of it in a very pitcher-friendly park against the Giants, who have been the league’s worst lineup this season, even if they have been simply poor rather than terrible of late. Facing Garza is the maddening Matt Moore, who struck out nine Nationals in a terrific seven-inning effort two starts ago, but also has a 5.54 ERA and 1.38 HR/9 despite pitching in AT&T Park half the time.

Thursday, August 24th
5:10 PM – Diamondbacks @ Mets (Free Game) (BT)
6:05 PM – Marlins @ Phillies
6:10 PM – Yankees @ Tigers
6:10 PM – Blue Jays @ Rays
7:15 PM – Rockies @ Royals
9:05 PM – Dodgers @ Pirates – The Dodgers are an incredible 13 games ahead of the Nationals, look set to blow well past 100 wins, and just acquired Curtis Granderson to replace arguably the most questionable part of their lineup, Joc Pederson. To make matters worse for their opponents, they have got outstanding pitching contributions of late from the likes of Kenta Maeda and this game’s starter, Hyun-Jin Ryu, who at this point probably represent the fifth and sixth options in their rotation. Ryu has a strikeout per inning and a 1.55 ERA since the break. Pittsburgh’s starter Chad Kuhl is prone to lapses in control but has demonstrated a surprising velocity bump and has been experimenting with a new curveball that has produced promising results: 10 strikeouts and just two hits allowed in 21 at-bats ending with the pitch.

Friday, August 25th
None

Saturday, August 26th
6:05 PM – Mariners @ Yankees
6:07 PM – Twins @ Blue Jays (Free Game)
9:05 PM – Orioles @ Red Sox
9:05 PM – Rangers @ Athletics (Top Offensive Matchup) – As often seems to be the case, the weather is heating up in Texas and the Rangers are mashing. They’re batting .303/.412/.523 as a team over the past two weeks, and have hit 50 homers in the last 30 days. The only regular who doesn’t seem to be on fire is Elvis Andrus, who is just hitting like regular Elvis Andrus. Rougned Odor and Adrian Beltre are both hitting over .390 with three homers in the past fortnight, Delino DeShields has five steals in his past eight games, and Robinson Chirinos is making it abundantly clear that he is currently a much better option behind the plate than the recently-departed Jonathan Lucroy, batting .440 and slugging .800 in that time. Unfortunately three true outcomes king Joey Gallo just broke his nose in a collision with Matt Bush, but if he does make it back onto the field for this game, walks, strikeouts, and home runs are bound to follow. Khris Davis produces similar results for Oakland, but the team has been led lately by scourge of right-handers Matt Joyce, who has a 1.060 OPS in August.
9:05 PM – Mets @ Nationals

Sunday, August 27th
6:05 PM – Mariners @ Yankees
6:07 PM – Twins @ Blue Jays
6:10 PM – Royals @ Indians (Top Pitching Matchup) – This might be the worst decision in the world – picking a Sunday game between two starters who have been rather inconsistent – but assuming that both Danny Duffy and Carlos Carrasco do start and have their best stuff, this would actually be a great watch in addition to being a key divisional contest. Both are comfortably inside the top 20 starters by WAR, with Carrasco striking out almost 28% of hitters this season, while Duffy has eight punchouts in each of his last three starts. Also, the rest of the week is just dire for great pitching matchup options. I mean, if you really want to gamble on Kevin Gausman vs Eduardo Rodriguez on Saturday night, there’s a chance you could get a cracking display. Similarly, Jimmy Nelson might take on Yu Darvish later on Sunday, assuming Darvish actually comes off the DL for that start and Nelson still lines up for it.
6:10 PM – Pirates @ Reds
6:10 PM – Padres @ Marlins
6:35 PM – Orioles @ Red Sox
6:35 PM – Rockies @ Braves (Free Game)
6:35 PM – Cubs @ Phillies
6:35 PM – Mets @ Nationals
7:10 PM – Tigers @ White Sox
7:15 PM – Rays @ Cardinals
8:37 PM – Astros @ Angels
9:05 PM – Rangers @ Athletics
9:10 PM – Brewers @ Dodgers
9:10 PM – Giants @ Diamondbacks

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