It's Memorial Day weekend, which means it's time for folks to start freaking out if their team is underperforming. Or is it? That question, plus a look ahead to the weekend's best matchups in Friday's Triple Play.
1. The series everyone should be watching this weekend is ______?
David Schoenfield (@dschoenfield), SweetSpot
Rays-Red Sox is interesting, especially after seeing that lineup the Rays threw out on Wednesday that featured Elliot Johnson, Will Rhymes, Chris Gimenez and Rich Thompson, with Drew Sutton batting cleanup. With the Rays a little beat up, it's a good chance for the Red Sox to take advantage -- except they're rolling out guys like Scott Podsednik, Daniel Nava and a right fielder named Gonzalez.
Jason Wojciechowski (@jlwoj), Beaneball
The two Eastern divisions are baseball's Lake Wobegon, where every team is above average. If you can only watch one all-East matchup, I'd go with the Nationals visiting the Braves, as it's a fight for first place. The nationally televised Gio Gonzalez (fourth in the National League in ERA) versus Brandon Beachy (first) matchup on Sunday should be particularly compelling.
Kevin Orris (@kevinorris), Capitol Avenue Club
Atlanta versus Washington. Not only are these teams already battling for first place in the NL East, Gio Gonzalez and Brandon Beachy will face off on "Sunday Night Baseball." Both pitchers have been dominant this year and rank among the top four in ERA.
2. The weekend pitching matchup you're most excited about is _______?
Schoenfield: Tim Lincecum versus Josh Johnson on Friday. These guys have been Cy Young winners or Cy Young contenders, but Lincecum has a 6.04 ERA and Johnson a 4.82 ERA. Johnson has allowed just four runs his past three starts over 21 innings, but Lincecum isn't showing signs of getting on track despite averaging more than 10 strikeouts per nine innings.
Wojciechowski: The aforementioned Gonzalez-Beachy game should be competitive, and Lincecum against Johnson on Friday would have been a lot more exciting two years ago. My (perhaps biased) pick, though, on a pure "Would ya look at that!" basis, is C.C. Sabathia pitching in Oakland against Bartolo Colon. The mound might not be the regulation 10 inches high after these two are through.
Orris: Roy Halladay versus Adam Wainwright on Sunday afternoon. Neither of these guys have been their normal selves this season but both have some of the best stuff in the league. With the Cardinals trailing the Reds by a half-game for the NL Central lead and the Phillies four games behind Washington in the NL East, both pitchers will be hungry for the win.
3. True or false: Memorial Day is when fans can start freaking out?
Schoenfield: Absolutely. I'm tired of hearing "It's early!" Of course, there is a big saving grace this year: the second wild card. This should reduce everyone's panic level as parity in both leagues suggests 86 or 87 wins may be enough to get you in, but you also don't want to expose your team to a one-game playoff if you can avoid it
Wojciechowski: On Memorial Day, you break out your white shoes, not your white flag: The fifth playoff slot in each league brings almost everyone hope. Even a terribly underperforming team such as the Los Angeles Angels can see a path to sneaking past the third-place American League East squad into the one-game wild-card gootenanny. It's growing late for the Arizona Diamondbacks, though. Freak out, Phoenix!
Orris: True. Braves GM Frank Wren once said he likes to wait 40 games into the season to get a large enough sample size to evaluate his team. Come Memorial Day, most teams will be just one or two games shy of 50 games. Sooner or later, you need to start worrying about your team, especially in Detroit and Milwaukee.