Here's my weekly look ahead, because I didn't get to it in Sunday night's Yankees-Red Sox diary.
SERIES OF THE WEEK
Milwaukee at St. Louis, Tuesday through Thursday
Dayn Perry documents the Brewers' road woes in an ESPN Insider story, although they are coming off a three-game sweep in Houston. OK, that doesn't tell us anything. They are 8-6 in their past 14 road games, though.
Jackson will make his third start for the Cardinals. His outing last week against the Brewers was a disaster, as he allowed 14 hits, 10 runs and four home runs in seven innings. Lohse was 7-2 with a 2.13 ERA through May but has won just two of 11 starts since. He has pitched more than six innings just twice and has posted a 5.25 ERA in 60 innings with just 25 strikeouts in that span. Look for another quick hook on Wednesday.
For the Brewers, Gallardo has lowered his ERA from 4.08 to 3.56 in his past four starts, but two of those came against Houston and one against San Francisco. Ryan Braun has been more aggressive at the plate lately, hitting .373 in his past 16 games with eight doubles and four home runs but only two walks. Let's see whether the Cardinals attack him and whether he'll chase pitches out of the strike zone.
PITCHING MATCHUP OF THE WEEK
It's not a battle of Cy Young contenders but an interesting showdown in the AL Central. The Indians are four games back of the Tigers and could use a sweep of their three-game series in Cleveland. Unfortunately, they'll face Justin Verlander on Thursday, putting pressure on Jimenez and Justin Masterson to pitch well. Porcello has been a little better of late, as he's allowed three runs or fewer in six straight starts, although they've been more of the quality start-variety (six innings, three runs) and include several starts against weak offenses -- two against Kansas City and one each against Oakland, San Francisco, Minnesota and the Angels. Jimenez allowed five runs in five innings in his first start for Cleveland against the Rangers.
1. Tim Lincecum stopped the Phillies' nine-game win streak on Sunday, but what a roll the Phillies have been on. With a 74-40 record, they're on pace for 105 wins, and ESPN Stats & Info reports that AccuScore's simulation of 10,000 seasons gives the Phillies a 22 percent chance of winning 108 games. Why is that significant? Only two NL teams have won 108 games since 1910 -- the legendary 1975 Cincinnati Reds and almost-as-legendary 1986 New York Mets, both of whom won 108. With a 3.06 team ERA, the Phillies have a shot to become the first team since the 1989 Dodgers to finish under 3.00. We'll wait a few weeks before comparing the Phillies to other great clubs, but it's worth noting that the '86 Mets finished first in the NL in runs and second in runs allowed; the '75 Reds were first in runs and third in runs allowed. The Phillies are first in runs allowed but seventh in runs scored.
2. It's great to see Stephen Strasburg back in action in a rehab start in Class A. How about this 2013 lineup for the Nationals?
2B Anthony Rendon
RF Jayson Werth
LF Mike Morse
CF Bryce Harper
OK, I stretched all the position players defensively, but Espinosa should be able to handle shortstop without a hitch (he played there in the minors), and Harper has the speed and tools to handle center field. Prince Fielder? Nats fans can dream, right?
3. Since 1990, only 21 starting pitchers have allowed an on-base percentage of .260 or less. But four pitchers are doing it this season: Justin Verlander (.233), Jered Weaver (.247), Cole Hamels (.253) and Dan Haren (.255). Verlander's total would be the third-best since '90, trailing only Pedro Martinez in 2000 (.213) and Greg Maddux in 1995 (.224). Martinez owns five of the 21 seasons on the list, Maddux four. Johan Santana with three and Curt Schilling with two also appear multiple times.
RANT OF THE WEEK
Cabrera: .289, .832 OPS, plus+1 defensive runs saved, 3.9 WAR (FanGraphs)
Peralta: .314, .873 OPS, minus-10 defensive runs saved, 3.8 WAR (FanGraphs)
Peralta has received about zero media attention for his great year, especially in comparison to Cabrera. Although Cabrera routinely shows up on Web Gems highlights, his overall defense is more league-average than spectacular. Peralta's stick has been slightly more valuable, however, with a .314/.357/.516 line compared to Cabrera's .289/.344/.488. The Tigers are in first place, and Verlander and Miguel Cabrera aren't the only reasons why.
Oh, and the best shortstop in the American League might actually be Yunel Escobar.