December 6, 2023

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Week 4 September 2023

Week 4 September 2023

It’s the first full week of September, and that means there’s going to be a lot of good baseball. With less than a month left until the end of the regular season, the battle for the playoffs is shaping up as competing teams begin their final push toward the postseason.

This week’s action includes two games between two American League rivals, one in the Central and the other in the hotly contested West. Two more MLS teams vying to win their divisions will meet in a four-game series this weekend. On the National League side, one of the top clubs in the old circuit travels to face a Wild Card contender, while two other teams with Wild Card aspirations face each other in what should be a deciding series.

Here are five series you won’t want to miss this week.

Astros vs. Rangers
Three matches (Monday to Wednesday)

Special confrontation: The AL West rivals will meet for the last time in 2023. In 10 games this year, the Astros are 6-4 against the Rangers, winning three of a four-game series from June 30 to July 3 and taking two of three. From 24 to 26 July.

Story to follow: In a way, it’s the new guard versus the old guard in this series. The Rangers haven’t finished a season above .500 or made the playoffs since 2016, but they’re sure to do both this year. For their part, the Astros have reached four World Series since then, winning them all in 2017 and 2022. Texas fell from first place in the division on Wednesday, but remains deep in contention for the division, where there has historically been a close battle between the Rangers, Astros and Mariners. And if either Texans hope to make gains in September, there’s no better way to do so than head-to-head.

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Attention to: Veteran Astros outfielder Michael Brantley made his long-awaited 2023 debut Tuesday in Boston after recovering from shoulder surgery. On Wednesday, in his second game after a 14-month absence, Brantley went 2-for-4 with a double and two RBIs. He hit a home run on Saturday in his first game of 2023 at Minute Maid Park. Brantley is a key part of the Astros lineup, and his return will add more depth to manager Dusty Baker’s lineup.

Giants vs. Puppies
Three matches (Monday to Wednesday)

face to face: These two National League teams met in June in a three-game series at Oracle Park, with the Cubs taking the first two games.

Story to follow: What better series to highlight than a September series between two of the National League’s top Wild Card contenders? The Cubs hold the second Wild Card, with the Giants in a three-way tie with the Marlins and D-backs for the third and final spot (and the Reds in a virtual tie as well). The Giants won two of three games against the Reds before losing three of four in San Diego, while the Cubs have been on a roll for months: their .646 winning percentage since the All-Star break is fourth-best in MLB.

Attention to: Cubs outfielder Ian Happ has scored in 17 of 19 games since Aug. 15. Happ is batting .385 with a .769 slugging percentage since August 28, and leads a Cubs offense that ranks fifth in batting average (.266) and seventh in OPS (.795) since the All-American break. Happ and rookie Cody Bellinger make a formidable duo in the middle of a strong Chicago lineup.

Twins Vs. Guardians
Three matches (Monday to Wednesday)

Story to follow: This series is the Guardian’s last chance to make up for their lead in the AL Central race, at 66-71, and Cleveland is five games behind Minnesota, a manageable distance with a month before the end of the season. Although the Guardians’ sub-.500 record means a Wild Card spot is highly unlikely, their 6-4 record against the team they are chasing is reason for optimism. The Twins could clinch the second seed in the AL (and thus a first-round bye) in a great September, but to do so, they will have to play nearly flawless baseball this month, and they can’t afford to stumble in this series. Against a division rival.

Attention to: Twins outfielder Sonny Gray is coming off two straight seven-game shutouts, including a shutout on Wednesday against the same Guardians he will face on Tuesday. Gray has allowed just one run in his other appearance — against the Rangers on August 25 — and his ERA now stands at 2.92, third-best in MLB.

Dodgers vs. Marlins
Three matches (Tuesday to Thursday)

Special confrontation: Just two weeks ago, at Dodger Stadium, these two teams played their only other series of 2023. The Marlins dominated Game 1 before the Dodgers swept a doubleheader on August 19 to take two of three games.

Story to follow: The Dodgers have already captured the National League West, but are still in contention for the best record in the National League. Los Angeles will likely finish in first or second place and therefore go straight to the NL Division Series, although losing three of four games over the weekend to the Braves, who have a better record, didn’t help. The stakes are likely higher for the Marlins, who are part of a three-way tie for the third Wild Card after a four-game sweep against the Nationals. Their 17-28 record since the All-Star break is tied for fourth-worst in MLB, but the Marlins still have a good shot at making the postseason and eliminating the Dodgers at home would be a big step.

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Attention to: Marlins third baseman Jake Burger hit a pair of home runs Saturday against the Nationals to hit his 30th home run of the season. After being traded by the White Sox at the deadline, Burger excelled for his new team, hitting .313/.366/.509 with the Marlins, becoming a key piece in Miami’s lineup, which also added Josh Bell at the deadline.

Sailors Vs. rays
Four matches (Thursday to Sunday)

Special confrontation: The Mariners and Rays met in three games from June 30 to July 2 in Seattle, with the home team taking the final two games after Tampa Bay won the first.

Story to follow: This series is crucial for both teams. For one thing, a tiebreaker remains up in the air, which could determine who gets a higher seed, who gets home-field advantage, or even who gets a spot in the playoffs and who loses. Naturally, both teams hope to win their respective league. The Mariners lead the Astros in the West by a half-game. The Rays are just 2.5 games back of the Orioles in the AL East. Even if neither team wins their division, this series has major Wild Card implications.

Attention to: Who if not the Dominican Julio Rodriguez? The American League Player of the Month had a red-hot August, hitting .429/.474/.724 and breaking the record over a four-game span. Rodriguez has helped the Mariners to a 32-15 record since the All-Star break, the second-best mark in MLB, and he has yet to show any signs of cooling off.